Little later than I would have liked, but just squeezing in, here we are with part three, this time touching on two complex topics previously mentioned – the Harbingers and the Xakkath Demon War.
Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Three
The mysterious and enigmatic Harbingers are the earliest known civilisation in the galaxy. Their earliest located and dated remains date to about two to three million years ago and the Harbingers appear to have reached their apex about one million years ago. Sometime after that, they disappeared. While several candidates for the descendants have been postulated, none have been conclusive.
Dating the Harbingers precisely is difficult, since that technology which has survived to make the attempt on is often sufficiently advanced in material composition it is near-impossible to date via conventional means and so old and alien even unconventional ones (such as psychometry) cannot provide more insight.
“Harbingers” is even a modern appellation, by some consensus only, and even then there are regional variations and various suffixes applied; and that is just the powers who speak Galactic English. The Royal Elven Kingdom labels them “Syenetheti,” (lit. “precursors”) the Shardan call them “Lartensar” (lit. “Ancient Ones who were First”) and even the Cybertanks have been known to discuss “Species 000”. It is certain that the elenthnar powers also have their own name too, though contact is too scant for that to have been revealed.
It is unclear as to whether the Harbingers were one civilisation or a succession of civilisations, but they were at the time, the only known activate sapient/sentient power. At the height, the Harbingers had a command of technology that has been unrivalled until modern times and the absolute tip of the most advanced modern powers and in some ways, not even then. The Harbingers seemed to have a preoccupation with particularly esoteric fields of study, though magic does not appear to have been among them, notably, almost, by its absence. Rather, it was the sciences of hyperspace, temporal and probability manipulation, dimensional compression and creation, teleportation and other, even stranger fields.
Their remnants are scattered throughout the known galaxy, and possibly even beyond. Most are located on planets, in tucked-away places, often seemingly at random. A few more are located in space and not a few in the void of intersystem space between stars where ships don’t generally travel in real-space. That there are working facilities at all speaks to the extreme durability of the Harbinger technology. These remnants, however, are usually extremely dangerous places. Aside from the dangers presented by tens of thousands to millions of years old exotic technology, sometimes in a dangerous state of decay, the facilities are often guarded by robots of various sorts, all of which are armed with exotic weaponry and a shocking propensity for violence to intruders.
These robotic defenders have been encountered enough that their most common form, that of a gravitic cylinder-shaped combat unit, which was so prevalent and successful across so many millennia, it has been echoed in derivative form by powers as far apart as the Herosine Empire’s Psiloi Gravitic Orb Scout and the Phystyulon’s TAV-98 Armed Robot Scout.
It is possible that the facilities that did survive were not “civilian” in origin, with the more degradable such places having simply been lost to time, but that is far from a certainty.
Despite the condition of the facilities, actually getting data on the Harbingers themselves is extraordinarily difficult. Even with the heights of Harbinger technology, data is lost or corrupted after countless millennia. This is further compounded by an extraordinarily complicated language and an even more complex computer language (and perhaps more than one, intermingled so thoroughly as to be indistinguishable). That any data can be gleaned at all is based on the collaborative work in creating translation algorithms by numerous modern powers. Even the Aotrs have occasionally contributed, as have the likes of the Shardan Marauders, at the top of the technology scale.
Very little, then, is known of the Harbingers themselves. They pre-date the existence of all contactable divinities. Their facilities are almost all metal and technology, and purely decorative organic material long since having past, leaving no clues. They were as post-scarcity society, so there is little clutter and artefacts to be found and what might have once been there is likely to have been cleaned away by the robot maintenance drones – many now long-deteriorated themselves.
We know from inference that they were approximately humanoid, and shared a preference for a terrestrial oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. (In fact, from the later discoveries, it may be more appropriate to say that humanoids are approximately Harbingeroid and often share the Harbingers’ atmospheric preferences.) Beyond that, no data of what a Harbinger actually looked like has ever been recovered – to the point some scholars suspect the Harbingers had some form of racial paranoia about storing such data without an now-impossible-to-break encryption cypher, if digitally at all.
Their mind-set is similarly alien. The facilities that remain often perform odd functions, such as collecting and storing examples of life over thousands of years (sentient, sapient or otherwise), running strange devices, doing things that are not understood. If one can avoid the robots, many Harbinger facilities display further oddities, like the lighting changing colours seemingly at random, changes in gravity. It is unknown whether this is by intention or merely effects caused by the extreme age of the sites – or perhaps some combination of both.
Some Harbinger sites that have been discovered are hidden away behind enormous stasis fields, keeping whatever is within sealed away beneath an opaque silvery dome of energy in a state of temporal suspension. Not even the most advanced of the modern powers have ever been able to crack on of these places before their allotted time is up. What might lie beyond such fields is open to conjecture – Harbingers themselves, hordes of robot soldiers, or perhaps even things the Harbingers themselves sought to seal away. The vanishingly few occasions where a facility has unsealed or something has garnered a response to too much probing have all almost invariably lead to disaster. It has become near-unilateral policy for any power to monitor these places, but leave well alone.
It has long been questioned why the Harbingers were the first civilisation. Surely, it has been said, in a universe as old as ours, why are there not remnants, clues, fragments of older civilisations? The leading theory was that it simply took that long since the creation of the universe for a civilisation to develop intelligent life, but to many, this was a hollow theory, backed only by the lack of any evidence.
It was only in 2329, not even two decades ago, that finally a breakthrough discovered was made, that not only shed a little dim light on some of the mysteries of the Harbingers, but on several other pervading mysteries of the galaxy. But, like much of the discoveries of the Harbingers, it raised more questions than it answered.
Due to pure chance, a group of adventurers discovered a late-era Harbinger facility with a functional teleporter pad, leading to a chain of events that lead to the discovery of a deep-space station designated the Omicron. (This, too, was an appellation, rather than the Harbinger’s name for it.) The Omicron was built about a million years ago. It was a vast machine, several miles wide and tall. Initial information seemed to suggest it was able to bend space and time to allow instant travel throughout the universe, at any point in the past, present and future. It was also supposed to be capable of manipulating space and time in other, less obvious ways, the recovered information suggesting being able to create planets and solar systems at the drop of a hat, or turn one into a floating pile of gases.
It was apparently lost in deep space, either due to some suggestion of internal struggle – this was roughly the point at which Harbinger civilisation began to decline – or perhaps AI malfunction or decision. It reportedly could cloak itself, but it was implied that the temporal systems were heavily damaged when it left.
The actual recovery of the Omicron was conducted by the most elite of the most advanced good-aligned powers, due to the extreme dangers, both on the personal and technological level. During the recovery operation, it was necessary to permanently destroy and disable the most dangerous systems to avoid such small problems of the universe being inverted – and further to ensure that no-one who might use that power again would be able to get their hands on it.
Nevertheless, a great deal of information was recovered, and this was freely shared around the galactic community. How much of the truly dangerous science was retained by these powers is a matter for conjecture, but considering the enormous potential for damage – if, for example, the Strayvians or the Cybertanks got hold of it – some things are perhaps left buried.
This was reinforced by the discovered of exactly the kind of power the Harbingers truly had – the discovery of Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering.
Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering
At its heart, retro causal probability engineering is the process of making everything be the way it always was. It allows the manipulation of past probabilities at the sub-quarkic level across possibly the entire universe, to create the present. It is not revision of history, because it always would have happened, but it is effect before cause. Unlike the comparatively “simple” changes in time-mutable areas that can create alternate timelines, the effect of probability engineering is completely impossible to detect, since it literally always existed in the timeline. One could not activate the device to effect a change to history, then, since it would mean that reality would always have been that way. This may sound at first useless until one realised that the universe we exist in has already been manipulated by this engineering. There is no “before” this engineering, because it always was; if “before” was possible, it would not merely have been wiped from existence, it never would have existed at all.
A power such as that is truly frightening to comprehend, more so when it is clear that Harbingers apparently freely used it. It has caused not a small degree of concern in some of the deities of the galaxy, to realise that, even if they created their worlds, they perhaps choose to do so at the behest of probability manipulation that nudged them to make specific choice.
(It is unclear if the Omicron was the device used to effect this power, whether it extended predominantly beyond our galaxy or whether the technology still existed at the time it was recovered. What it certain is that if the technology did, it was absolutely destroyed by the recovering parties (who are beyond reproach on such matters) and put beyond use as impossibly dangerous.)
The Harbingers seem to have used this power to manipulate life – or at least the formation of intelligent life – to roughly synergise to come to fruition across the galaxy in the same geological time period – at least, after they had emerged. This explains likely why there are no prior civilisations before the Harbingers – they essentially secured their own dominancy retrocausally. Whether this was a facet of their apparent paranoia or whether they intended to allow other species as experiments or future servitors is one more riddle posed to us. Nor was this even the most alarming extent of their power.
The discovery of retro causal probability engineering finally explained some of the biggest mysteries – why so many worlds were so alike in habitability, right down to the same set of repeated species. It even, perhaps, offers an explanation to other mysteries, such as the Cybertanks. And it also posed answer to the Mirror Sector phenomena for the first time since its discovery.
The Mirror Sector phenomena was one of the most frighteningly sobering revelations to the space-faring human powers of the previous century, more world-shaking than the discovery of magic when human ships first met the Royal Elven Kingdoms: there was more than one Earth.
The phenomenon is centred around whole sectors of space, varying from a radius of a few light years to the largest pair, nearly three hundred light-years in diameter. At the centre of each mirror sector is the Sol solar system, or rather a copy of it, and the local stars around it. Each Earth has a differing history from a certain point, as if cut-and-pasted from an alternate Reality. Otherwise, in at least the broadest recorded details, they are identical. Deep, in-depth studies have found differences in the minutiae of history, but all the major events are the same to the branching point.
These alternate sectors are quite far apart, which is why the phenomenon was discovered only quite recently. Currently only three of these Earths are known to be at an FTL-capable level. Only the three FTL-capable Earths, two occupying the largest discovered mirrored space sectors, are close enough to have met by the FTL speeds of the majority of the galactic community.
It is impossible to know whether any of the Earths are “original” or “copies,” since by the very nature of probability engineering, they were all created at exactly the same time and none is less “real” than the others.
This, then, is the most potent observed power of Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering. They reached back in time, to the point where the stars were still fluid and altered probabilities, altering the random chances for matter to coalesce into the desired (and existent) patterns. There appears to have been an “end point” in mind for each of these patterns, wherein the histories start to diverge in very obvious ways. It is not clear why the breaks appear where they do, as they appear to be different for each mirror sector and the Earth it contains.
We do not know how many of these mirror sectors the Harbingers created, given the distances between them. It is likely not a co-incidence that the largest two we know of are close enough to discover each other eventually (if the Harbingers wanted to observe what the Earths would do when they met).
The complexity of creating probabilities so close and tapping into the power to historical inertia so that it produced results such that objects, places and even as far as can be determined, people, were mirrored to the point of being all but identical to the molecular level is terrifying. In a very real sense, none of the mirror sectors are “copies” as such: while they may have been created to a pattern, and historical inertia had its sway, the results are as real as they can be and the choices the peoples made were their own – albeit ones they would have always chosen based on who they were.
For some time, it was believed that Earth was the only planet subjected to the Mirror Sector phenomena (which did not help the most humanocentric human’s viewpoints), but very recently, information has been discovered that the elenthnars also have discovered Haron/Urrot-centric mirror sectors as well. This leads to the possibility – even probability – that there are more than two worlds subjected to this apparent grand experiment by the Harbingers.
Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering is also now known to be the root cause why there are so many planets which share near-identical habitability – same oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres, the same day length, nearly the same year length, the same gravity. It is believed that the creation of such worlds might even be “spill-over” from the main thrust of the probability engineering, whether accidental or deliberate. It explained why there were so many “fantasy” planets which shared so much in common in species, magic, flora and fauna – and perhaps why places such as Earth had myths and legends to term “fantasy” in the first place. It explained why some languages were identical across the galaxy, even for places that it would not make sense.
In the decade following the Omicron’s discovery, a concerted study was made to categorise the worlds by the level of Harbinger probability engineering.
The broad umbrella of HPE covers all the worlds that have that same habitability. Beyond that, there are several paradigms.
HPE: HPE worlds without a further designation are ones which share the habitability and some of the flora and fauna, but which are geographically diverse, and typically only have one intelligent species (later artificial life notwithstanding).
HPE-L: Lellantisiroloth paradigm. This covers the “fantasy” planets; all the worlds which are geographically diverse, but have much of the same flora, fauna and intelligent species in common, and as well as a high background magic level. Variances occur, but in the grand scheme of all probabilities of what a planet COULD be, these are comparatively minor.
This paradigm was named for the Royal Elven Kingdom’s homeworld, where the study was first conducted, Lellantisiroloth being the easiest and safest HPE-L world to perform such a study on. Some of these worlds are cosmologically linked to “local” planar realms, despite their real-space distances, and there are several such cosmologies. The HPE-L worlds are intrinsically linked to the Xakkath Demon Wars. This is by far the most common discovered paradigm. The Royal Elven Kingdoms, the Aotrs, the Orc Fearcrushy and the Zirakthargûm Divinity all started on and contain several HPE-L worlds.
Some of these worlds are Tech-Locked , another poorly understood phenomena. A Tech-Locked world is in a state of technological stasis – in all recorded cases, pre-industrial – and existing technology of beyond that period brought in simply fails. While often said to be the work of a pantheon, ensuring a world is protected, many scholars now believe that it may be one more facet of the probability engineering and that the deities local to that world (usually having no contact outside their own cosmology) would never realise their decision to do so was prompted by something else.
HPE-E: Earth paradigm. This covers the five known Earths. They, and the Mirror Sectors they reside in, are functionally (though not quite completely at the finest level of detail) identical in geography, flora and fauna and, until their “branch” point, even history. Only two of the five have anything more than a minimal background magic – one in which this manifests in a limited psionic fashion (Earth-I) and another than manifests with a high proportion of metahumans (Earth-M). The most prominent of the known Earths is the one from which most of the human space-faring powers originate (designated Earth-N). Earth-U and Earth-I are both parts of small interstellar alliances or federations in the local sectors, and due to distances, fairly minor powers. Earth-U is approximately at the same level of development as the wider community, with Earth-I lagging behind a century. Both Earth-M and Earth-E are approximately at the level of the early 21st century; Earth-E is has minimal background magic and has not made official contact with any other powers. It is entirely possible that there are further Earths even further apart.
HPE-B: Borderline paradigm. This category covers worlds which have a very similar (and compatible), but not necessarily identical, habitability index, and possess unique indigenous flora and fauna and sometimes intelligent species. The homeworlds of many other species, such as the Vivrathk, the Shardan or the Jalyrkieons fall into this category. They may be products of probability engineering, or they may simply be “natural” rolls of the dice.
“HPE-HU: Haron/Urrot Paradigm.” This category is more broadly nominal, as there has thus far been little official contact between the local galactic community and the elenthnars. The United Concorde of Divine Realms, while itself based from HPE-L worlds, is sufficiently “alien” to that quarter of the galaxy (there are very few HPE-L in that portion) and has only recently in contact with our local galactic community and thus have only just received this information. Thus they are only just assimilating these discoveries themselves and thus have not yet made the scholarly contacts with their elenthnar neighbours. In principle, it would apply to all pairs of the Haron and Urrot double planet system on which the elenthnars arose. Without the knowledge of more than one of these pairs, Haron (the primary planet) would have been assumed to be an HPE-B. (It is currently not known whether an equivalent of an HPE-L world exists for Haron/Urrot – the rarity of such double-planets would suggest this is probably unlikely, however.)
Despite the discovery of an explanation to the phenomena, we are still left with yet more questions. The biggest question of all is now simply: why? What prompted the Harbingers to embark on a retro causal moulding of the galaxy, perhaps even the universe, in such a fashion? Was it just a grand experiment in quite literal social engineering? If so, did the Harbingers disappearance after so long interrupt it? We may never discover the answer.
But it may yet be out there, in a yet undiscovered Harbinger facility lying in silent space or on some forgotten world, awaiting discovery, or lurking behind the walls of frozen time.
Perhaps the most important question, though, given the power and apparent capriciousness of the Harbingers – do we want – do we dare – to know?
The Xakkath Demon War
Approximately ten thousand years ago, using a mighty artefact called the Demon Orb, the Demon Lord Xakkath united all the fiends and waged a war on the material plane. He fought against the gods, their servitors, and the primitive peoples of the time. Xakkath was destroyed finally by the hero Drispnul on the planet of Voth and his Demon Orb shattered.
Far from being contained to a single world, Xakkath created what was called the Xakkath Pathways. In essence, the pathways linked worlds by sympathetic magic and allowed standard teleportation magics to reach from one to the other. The key factor is now finally properly understood – the worlds created by the Harbinger Probability Engineering, and more specifically, the HPE-L paradigm worlds.
The Xakkath Pathways linked first worlds in the “local” cosmology, through sympathetic magic. As Xakkath become more proficient, this allowed him to extend his reach to worlds outside that cosmology, using, as the basis, the similarity lent by the probability engineering.
The Xakkath Demon Wars were thus fought over uncounted HPE-L worlds. It was a galactic-scale war, all fought without any FTL transit, world-to-world, between the fiends, the gods and the primitive peoples of the age. The signs of the Xakkath Demon War can be found all over the galaxy, from Lellantisiroloth to Kalanoth to Grotfang and beyond.
With Xakkath’s death and the shattering of the Demon Orb, the Pathways decayed and almost all knowledge of them faded in the ensuing centuries.
Given the primitive state of the civilisation of the galaxy – synergised, it would seem, by the Harbingers – records are few and far between. While some societies, since fallen, had written records, most of them were still in the Stone Age, still in the stages of hunter-gathering or only in the earliest stages of farming. This problem is further compounded by planets in the war being Tech-Locked and unreachable by modern scholars (though the magically-inclined Royal Elven Kingdoms have made some in-roads via that method). And even the few beings that were alive at the time have difficulty with precise details from so long ago, so even a handful of eyewitness accounts can be somewhat vague.
A full study of the history of the war, then, is likely almost as impossible as a study of the Harbingers. The scope of the war and number of HPE-L worlds involved may never be fully known, especially as not all of the worlds that existed then still do (catastrophes are known to have claimed more than one), and those that do may have no records, or be known by an entirely different name to the scraps that exist – and some simply cannot be accessed to even look.
By the best dating methods available from worlds where it can be actually used, it has been determined that the Xakkath Demon Wars lasted for about two hundred years from start to finish, though its duration on any given world varied considerably. The world of Voth, known to be the epicentre of the war and the place where Xakkath first emerged into the material plane, is Tech-Locked. Voth is known to currently house a small Aotrs garrison (having access via suitable magic), but no particular efforts have been made by the Aotrs specifically into historical research.
However, from the broad history of the world, it is surmised that that the then-gods of the world were killed, and the relative few that reside in the “local” divine realms moved in following the conclusion of the Demon Wars, in part, it is assumed, ostensibly as guardians.
Xakkath never managed to completely conquer any world. Eventually, the fiends were displaced, though in some cases, it was not until after his death that they were finally expelled. Scholars attribute this in part to the continuous opening of new fronts, rather than consolidation of forces. It is clear that while Xakkath was skilled in warfare, he was by no means a prodigy. He was, however, a master politician and it seem almost certain that the continuous expansion was one way of controlling the unruly hordes of fiends (many of which were antithetical in outlook to each other) and concentrating them on fighting an enemy and not each other. With no room for establishing a long-term power-base, and offered a fresh supply of souls to take, in this fashion Xakkath was able to keep the war effort rolling, especially as it took a long time for any kind of organised resistance beyond that on a planetary scale.
It also served his second purpose. One of Xakkath’s most important goals in the war was to move to increasingly disparate worlds on the edge of the similarity, and thus extended further and further the type and variety of worlds he could reach. He never succeeded in getting outside the HPE-L paradigm to HPE, HPE-B or HPE-E worlds, though he was starting to come close before the end. Most notably was the legendary world of Syalin, right on the very edge of the HPE-L paradigm. Syalin had elves and humans, but they were they only native intelligent species and vast majority of its other flora and fauna was not terrestrial outside one single continent. Syalin could only be accessed at all due to an extremely high level of background magic.
Editor’s Note: Access via to United Concorde of Divine Realms historical data suggests a very strong probability that their homeworld of Nurathose could well be Syalin. This would likely be a certainty, but for the simple fact that identical or near-identical worlds are something the Harbingers created, so until historians have chance to reach a definitive conclusion, it remains merely extremely likely.
Had Xakkath taken Syalin, he could have expended much further and the history of the galaxy would have been greatly different. It is not hard to imagine what a rampaging army of demons could have done to a magic-less Earth in the Neolithic period; and it would have been a scene repeated on the homeworlds of almost all the galaxy’s other terrestrial species.
Persistent rumours in the Aotrs indicate that the establishment of a top-secret facility significantly across the galaxy in the past couple of years, followed by the rapid transfer to unspecified placements of the Aotrs most skilled xenoarcheolists and xenoengineers, is related to the Harbingers. It is further suspected to be related to the emergency chain-jumping of the 2nd fleet last year (2345) to locations unknown, prior to the surprise emergence of the Grand Terran Sovereign Republic, with some sharp minds suggesting the sheer dumb luck which the GTSR kept its powers-wide conspiracy secret may not have been natural after all.
Though even more unsubstantiated, it is also rumoured that the facility location is a ruin which pre-dates the Harbingers.
Ships of the Aotrs Navy, Part Three
(Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)
Traitor Recon Destroyer
The Traitor Recon Destroyer is the Aotrs’ primary sensor ship. As part of a fleet, it functions as an electronics warfare vessel, providing sensor support and electronic counter-measures and serves as a communications hub.
But as often as not, the Traitor will operate independently of a fleet. Equipped with the Aotrs’ best stealth technology, the Traitor can slip quietly into system, hiding near asteroids or moons and keeping watch on nearby conflicts without ever being spotted. Traitors are also known to lurk in interstellar space, listening in on interstellar communications and monitoring those FTL transit routes that the Aotrs’ superior sensor technology can track. In this role, the Traitors are responsible for gathering a significant proportion of Aotrs intelligence. They are considered one of the most invaluable ships in the entire fleet.
In combat, the Traitor is not a soft target. It carries a small but respectable battery of coldbeams, both anti-capital and anti-fighter. It is the only 10th generation Aotrs fleet vessel currently fitted with torpedo tubes (rather than warhead launcher that can use both missiles and torpedoes), slung either side of the ship. Though it might seem as though the tubes were intended to be turreted, in reality, their position allows them to do double duty as additional sensor and communication masts, like the rear bone-like spires. The torpedoes give it a considerable reach that foes might not expect from a recon vessel and enabling it to contribute firepower during a fleet battle.
Given its major role as a long-range stealth observation unit, the precise numbers of Traitors the Aotrs possess is unknown – even on the rare occasions when an individual Traitor is actually detected, identifying it as a single unit for a count is difficult.
Midnight D Drain Dreadnought
The Midnight D Drain Dreadnought was a test-bed for the Aotrs experimental Drain Cannon, work on which started in 2325. The Drain Cannon is a hybrid technological/magic weapon that drains all forms energy from a target. This includes electrical, thermal, life-force and even the energy within atomic bonds. A target struck by a Drain Cannon eventually reaches the point its atoms and molecules cease to hold together and the structure physically decoheres – though typically it (and the unfortunate crew) will have ceased to be combat effective long before that point. Like many of the Aotrs more exotic weapons, the Drain Cannon is an extension of similar function spells at low level.
At this stage, the new technology is currently best suited for a support role against larger vessels or specialised targets, debilitating a target, though not in the same way an ionising weapon would. While an ionising weapon can disable a vessel for capture, a Drain Cannon deals too much damage for use for that purpose in its current form.
At first the Midnight D was confined to a single vessel, the LSS Shadowdrain, which completely replacing the coldbeam armament with drain cannon batteries. After over a decade of testing, the Drain Cannon was been deemed to be at an operational status, and several more Midnight Ds have been constructed. Once at operational status, the refinements to the drain cannon reduced the original mass of the systems. Because of the greater cost of producing the Drain Cannons, the excess mass and power was added to the Midnight D’s shield generators, increasing them by over 30%. All Midnight D Dreadnoughts produced aside from the Shadowdrain itself have been to the 2345 Midnight Upgrade standard, only coming online in the past eighteen months; the Shadowdrain has itself only just completed its own refit in the past six months.
The small number of Midnight D Dreadnoughts will allow the weapon to be appraised more thoroughly in deployment, and if the proves to be viable, further research will be conducted. Such would include scaling back the weapon to fighter, ground and personal weapon scales over the next few decades or perhaps fine-tuning of the energy drain type which would eventually allow it to supplant ionising weapons by doing that job while also retaining a use as a direct weapon. It is likely that, given the prior progression of Aotrs technology, than in a generation or two’s time, if it does prove valuable enough, the system will become an entirely technological one. If it does not prove valuable enough in the field the Drain Cannon is likely to be confined to very specialist usages and eventually mothballed until needed, added to the Aotrs’ bag of tricks accumulated over the centuries, joining such not-quite-failed weapons as the Negative Energy Burst cannons and the Flensing Beam.
Blackhole Drone Carrier
First carrier vessel of the 10th generation, Blackhole Drone Carrier is little more than a pocket carrier designed to transport a single fighter squadron, most often of twelve Foul Wings or six Craters. Given the advances of 10th generation technology, it is both much faster and better protected than similar designs from prior generations, but that merely means its agility is average and its shield-strength above average for its size. The Blackhole sports an unusual ventral drop-launch hangar bay, which in theory makes it less vulnerable to attacks aimed at the hangar.
Its distinctive shield-plates are just that, though not quite in the same sense – they are a holdover from the 9th generation shield technology, where these structures were the primary emitters. Similar devices can be observed on the early 10th generation Howling Void, Bloodsteel and Havoc. Early 10th generational advances rendered further use of these structures unnecessary, and later ship classes ceased using them. (The dismal failure of the first Dark Fear prototype was attributed in part to problems imparted by that system.)
The Blackhole’s main role is to operate in small groups or even independently, carrying its squadron of fighters to perform policing and security operations, particularly with an eye towards stemming small pirate attacks. Early versions had a mix of light coldbeam and small anti-capital ship weapons, but the latter was quickly replaced by additional light coldbeams. This renders the Blackhole capable of dealing with small groups of pirate fighters quite respectably, even without its fighters, but against modern military heavy starfighters, it requires assistance.
On the larger battlefield, the Blackhole falls into the escort role, using its point-defence systems to support larger capital ships (which in turn, tends to mean the Blackhole itself suffers less fire).
The Blackhole A configuration replaces half of the hangar space with troop quarters, and hold typically six Fallen Soul multirole AFVs (most commonly in their ship-side role as boarding pod) or a single Murder Fighter Cruiser and a pair of Dirge War Droid Transports. Half of the coldbeam weapons are also replaced by fighter-scale ion pulsars for disabling enemy vessels. Blackhole A vessels are almost exclusively used in the policing operations and are not common in a fleet battle unless capturing an enemy ship is a specific objective.
Even more rarely seen – in both a figurative and literal sense – are the Blackhole –S configurations. The –S is a Blackhole or Blackhole A fitted with stealth systems, used by covert operations units. Not as effective as a full cloak, the stealth system only protects the ship from passive sensors, but this is often the edge it needs to sneak a team in. Blackhole AS are the more common of the two versions. The actual number of Blackhole –S that exist is a matter for debate. Given how rarely they are spotted suggests the number is small – but the counter-argument is the Aotrs preference for surgical, small-unit operations and a successful operation conducted by a Blackhole S or AS means the ship is not spotted to be counted. Some quarters even suggest the name itself (and the way it is a single word, not two), may be a clue to the vessel’s true purpose, referencing not the spacial phenomenon, but a rumoured type of Aotrs covert operation. Lending some credence to the theory is that the –S configuration appears no externally different to observation than the regular Blackhole, so in truth, the regular Blackhole may simply be a derivative of the stealth version.
The Crater looks as though it should lumber through space, but the reality is very different. While it is not as agile as the Murder fightercruiser or Apparition fighter, it is the equal of many fighters half its size and more than most bombers.
The fightercruiser is dominated by the two huge warhead bays that sit to port and starboard. Each one contains a pair of warhead launchers. The Crater’s cavernous bays are highly modular, capable of accommodating all sorts of munitions. Furthermore, its well-concealed and armoured ventral loading doors do double duty for a variety of other tasks, from gravity-bombing ground targets to holding small vehicles or even boarding parties.
The Crater’s normal load-out gives it mix of anti-fighter and anti-capital ship warheads, allowing it to deal with a wide range of targets. By simply changing the composition of the warhead loud, the Crater can perform any mission. Strike, Superiority, Strike Support, Capture and Interdiction missions are common enough to each their own default load-out and many commanders will customise their loads to their own liking, if given the opportunity before a mission.
In addition to the warhead load, the Crater is well-armed with energy weapons as well. It had a dorsal quad pulse-fire coldbeam cannon – an enlarged version of the one carried by the Vampire Lord IFV. Two side-mounted plasma-pulse cannons can rotate 360º in the vertical arcs, which allows it to easily conduct surface strafing runs (on either ground targets or across the hull of an enemy starship). A pair of coldbeams under the nose are supplemented by a pair of heavy coldbeam cannons, one under each warhead bay.
The Crater has a crew of three. The pilot controls the fixed guns, the gunner the turret and the commander typically the warhead launcher, though with the standard Aotrs computer interfaces, each one can do the job of another if necessary.
The Crater is very reliable, easy to maintain and durable. It has fair sensors for its size, and these can be enhanced by a Probe load which has both sensor pods and probes on board. But the Crater’s greatest asset is its flexibility. It is so successful that as time has passed, it has come to outnumber it smaller brother, the Foul Wing.
Standard battle deployment is in a squadron of six, divided three flights of two. They are often supported by fighter escort, but are equally found operating alone. It is also quite common for the flights in each element to act in differing roles.
Traitor Recon Destroyer
Midnight D Drain Dreadnought
Blackhole Drone Carrier
Fleet scale (stand not included)
Photos of Replicator 2 versions.
Next month, we will have wave four, where we will look at Liches themselves and the other races that form the majority of the peoples of the Army Of The Red Spear… Before death, anyway…!