(Please help proofread prior to publication: spelling, grammar, and pointing out any inconsistency or confusing section. Gameplay feedback not needed until later, we want to focus on getting the book to print). Introduction Welcome to the world of Ember, or as star charts designate it, Em-8ER (“E-M-Eight-E-R”). The planet is a newly discovered world, one of hundreds found since the invention of D-shift gates. Prior to D-shift gates, humankind was spread across 28 distinct star systems, vastly separated by the limits of sub-light speed travel. With decades of travel required between colonies, these colonies were like marooned seafarers strewn across tiny islands and separated by a vast, deep, and treacherous ocean. But humanity, through D-shift gates, is now freed from the shackles of sub-light travel. It has embarked on an unprecedented wave of stellar exploration. Gates allow for instantaneous travel to distant parts of the Universe, and new planets and stellar discoveries pour in monthly. The competition for discovery, resources, and new worlds has spurred hope, adventure, and boundless expectations for the future. On the flip side, humanity is facing a cold war, complex politics, and corporate intrigue as long separated human colonies, previously kept apart by decades of sub-light speed travel, now cross paths in cultures and ambitions. But no other newly discovered planet has yet been as rich in possibility, and rife in danger, as Em-8ER. The planet is “haunted,” inhabited by ghosts of a long lost race who materialize out of nowhere to attack human mining and exploration teams. Em-8ER is the site of humanity’s “first contact” with a living sentient xenomorph, the Tsi-Hu. The Tsi-Hu are prisoners on Em-8ER, placed into a time loop after losing a civil war to others of their kind. Humanity’s arrival has disrupted the loop, allowing the violent Tsi-Hu to partially escape back into present time. Gatestriders, a group of nomadic and exploratory humans, were the first to discover Em-8ER. Sent to explore and exploit the planet, Gatestriders find themselves fighting to contain the violent and bloodthirsty Tsi-Hu who wield advanced technology and employ giant beasts called “Kaiju” as war machines. This is the point where our players enter the game. Players will wage a war for control of the planet, its resources, and ancient artifacts. They will discover who and what the Tsi-Hu are, a discovery that will lead them to conclude they must be stopped at all costs. Em-8ER is set in the Crixa universe. Crixa is a tabletop, space-opera RPG that we are developing in parallel to the video game. Crixa is set in an alternative history where the Axis won World War II but were, in turn, overthrown by scientists who established a ruling class called the Enshigi. The Enshigi became repressive, and were also overthrown and forced to flee to the stars. The fates of the colonies, the enigmatic Enshigi, and the violent Tsi-Hu are all intertwined. While Em-8ER represents only one planet in a vast space opera, it is one of the most important recent developments in the Crixa universe. We hope you enjoy a snippet of this lore and backstory from both Em-8ER, and its larger setting, Crixa. The Axis Powers Win World War II Humanity’s exodus into space was not a plan born out of ambition. Nor was it some desperate attempt to escape extinction from an impending doomsday asteroid, global warming (or cooling), or some other kind of apocalypse. It wasn’t because humans had invented the warp drive or some other breakthrough to make space travel easy and practical. In fact, travel between the stars was still deadly, impractical, achingly slow, and hugely expensive. Humanity expanded into the stars because it couldn’t afford to stay behind. It was an arms race. A race everyone feared they might lose. At that time, space travel beyond Earth’s solar system was full of unknowns. There were so many problems that it seemed infeasible to overcome them all. How would ships achieve even a fraction of light speed? How could ships be built to withstand years, even decades, of space travel and not fall apart? How could they sustain humans long enough for such a journey with water, air and food? The questions, impossibilities, and resources, all seemed insurmountable. Which is why, of course, it was so astounding when the Enshigi were able to launch such a ship, bound for a distant star. To understand why they fled the Earth, and why the rest of humanity was bound to follow, we must recall the events of World War II. The war had fared poorly for the Axis powers after the defeat at Stalingrad. Morale was low. Japan had also suffered tremendous losses at Midway, further weakening the Axis powers. Germany was fighting a war of attrition on the European continent--only one military masterstroke away from defeat. When the Allies invaded Normandy, Hitler recognized the massive invasion as the moment that would seal his defeat. Without hesitation, he unleashed his ultimate solution. Two German V-2 Rockets, launched by the end of the day. Both carried the first atomic bombs ever unleashed on humanity. One V-2 rocket, with its deadly atomic payload, struck Omaha in Normandy. The blast vaporized over 30,000 US troops and fused the beach into one long plate of glass. The energy unleashed pushed the very ocean backwards. When it dissipated, the resulting tidal wave of water crashed back into shore where it tore through another five miles inland, killing thousands of German troops and as many civilians. The other rocket hit London. The resulting atomic explosion flattened buildings and burned flesh off bones across three square miles of London. It scorched the heart out of the city and, in turn, the nation. Whitehall and Downing Street were destroyed without a single timber left standing to show for it. The war rooms beneath, never built to withstand the mind numbing power of an atom-splitting bomb, were likewise utterly annihilated in the blast. Seen from a distance, London appeared on the horizon as a cloud of dust and debris. It was as if the entire sky had fallen upon the city in tatters. Churchill, overseeing the British D-Day efforts underneath London, was incinerated by the blast and his body reduced to ash. Parliament was gone. King George VI was gone. Great Britain was leaderless in an instant. The Allied surrender followed in just a few short weeks. German and Japanese occupation followed shortly thereafter under the Security Accords Treaty. The Germans occupied the eastern coasts of the United States while the Japanese occupied the West. Middle America proved to be a problem. The territory was too vast and the population too spread out to control effectively. While provisionally split state by state between Germany and Japan, few Axis forces occupied this vast expanse. The problem of security was addressed by Germany, who planted a number of hidden nuclear devices throughout the interior. Without knowing the location of the devices, which could be detonated by radio at any time, Americans were kept in check without too much trouble. Americans policed each other for fear of any agitation resulting in a nuclear reprisal. Tensions ran high between those who wanted to resist and those who did not want to risk annihilation, and much of the country was divided. The tense internal conflict made the job of managing middle America that much easier for the Axis. Similar tactics were used to keep the Soviets in check. The Enshigi Rise to Power The decades that followed the war were a paradox of progress and repression. Great advances and strides were made, particularly in the sciences, which rapidly crossed from the atomic age into the biotech and information ages. The economy, in many areas, boomed under a planet largely united. Even Great Britain was rebuilt, although admittedly under forced labor, terrifying work conditions and human rights abuses. Science, with the penultimate act of splitting the atom, now reigned supreme in the eyes of the Füher and the world. It had won the war and secured the future for the Axis. Scientists were revered and allotted great freedom and power. Even Allied scientists and Jews were allowed to serve on scientific teams, albeit closely monitored and under strict guard. Vast sums were spent to advance technology to secure the future of the Reich and secure its thousand-year reign. But for every advance, there were terrible costs to pay. The “London Rebuilt” initiative cost thousands of lives. German and Japanese scientists experimented to devise experimental vaccines and other methods to find ways to harden workers against radiation. But often the results of these experiments were far more horrific than dying from the radiation itself. Death camps, instead of being closed after the war, only grew to accommodate more purges. The oily smoke from their chimneys were a constant reminder of the price of rebellion. Ironically, the availability of such a large numbers of human lives for experimentation created some of the greatest medical advances enjoyed today. Japan’s biological warfare division, Unit 731, grew to be a large mega-corporation specializing in pharmaceuticals, genetics and healthcare. Not only was radiation hardening achieved, but human life-span nearly doubled, effects of aging greatly slowed, and major diseases like cancer cured. Genetics, microbiology and biotechnology advanced at a prodigious rate. But as Hilter’s ambitions were fulfilled, his mental stability faltered. His obsession with “lebensraum,” or living space for Germans, grew to consume him. Despite having conquered or subjected much of the world, it was never enough. He demanded a “Ausmerzung” or great culling of the world’s population, to make more room for the Aryan race to multiply and thrive. The plans for Ausmerzung were carried out in secret. Scientists were tasked with creating a genetically targeted virus that would eradicate anyone not of sufficiently pure Aryan strain, or without suitable inoculation. Japan and the other Axis powers were kept in the dark, for they too would be subject to the final culling. As an extra precaution, an inoculation was prepared to protect German troops and high members and leaders of society who may otherwise have lacked the requisite “purity” to avoid infection. Mass inoculations had already begun in preparation of the virus’ release when a secret cabal of scientists, warned of Hitler’s plans, launched a coup. Lead by the American, physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the rebellion unfolded in carefully sequenced stages executed with rigorous and meticulous detail. First, Unit 731 in Japan, helmed by Dr. Shiro Ishii, secretly altered diverted shipments of the inoculations destined for German troops. Instead of ensuring their survival, the injections now harbored a bioweapon of Japanese origin modeled on the recently discovered Ebola virus. The tainted inoculations would now act to kill their hosts, at a precise delay set by Oppenheimer’s timetable. After infecting its host, the virus would self destruct to prevent excessive spreading. Max Planck’s son, Erwin, delivered the killing blow to Hitler, which set off the chain reaction of Oppenheimer’s plan. Erwin’s father, the great German theoretical physicist, had been instrumental in convincing Hitler and the Nazi regime to spare Jewish scientists, persuading the dictator that they could advance the Reich’s cause during the war. But Erwin hated the regime and plotted an assassination with the help of high-ranking officers close to the Fuhrer. Max held him back for years, arguing that working with Hitler was the best way to change the Reich for the better. But when the aged Max Planck passed away, Erwin was free to act. Working in concert with Oppenheimer and high-ranking officers close to Hitler, Max killed Hitler, and himself, by detonating a briefcase bomb he smuggled into a business meeting arranged with the ill-fated ruler. At the precise moment of Hitler’s demise, Alan Turning’s team, using software prepared in advance, penetrated Nazi command and control computers and disabled the nuclear weapons hidden around the world. Simultaneously, they armed new nuclear weapons secretly hidden in Berlin and Tokyo, wired directly to a dead man switch on Oppenheimer himself. The virus, acting on a timed delay fuse, proceeded to at first sicken, then decimate the majority of German troops. The horrific, modified Ebola virus instantly incapacitated Germany’s military in a swift, horrific and bloody epidemic. The coup was complete. German troops were dead or dying nearly worldwide from the inoculation that was meant to save them. The world’s most powerful leader was dead, and high-ranking leaders and allies in Japan and Berlin were held hostage by Oppenheimer’s hidden atom bombs. Official communication and control systems were inoperable, thanks to Turing, and under the full control of the revolutionaries. Oppenheimer sent a broadcast out over the world on radio and television. He revealed Hitler’s secret plans to wipe out half of the world’s population and betray his allies. He announced the successful coup and the rise of a new world government, lead by reason and science instead of demagoguery and emotion. They would call themselves the Enshigi, and they promised to guide humanity to new heights of achievement and peace. Exodus of the Enshigi The Enshigi took their name from the Japanese word for sandpiper, “Shigi”, who’s singing was said to spread happiness. The “En” was added to Anglicize the name, signifying the new era of co-operation between the Japanese and Western factions of the rebellion. As the world cheered and united under the Enshigi, there came another time of great stability and advancement. Science accelerated even more rapidly under the Enshigi, growing at a dizzying, exponential clip. Humankind moved through the information age, the bioscience age and well into the space age. Humans expanded into their local solar system, colonizing the moon, and then Mars, and all the way to the floating gas mining stations of Venus. Rationalism, empirical science, and data drove the Enshigi Empire. Political decisions were based on hard logic and quantifiable justification. There would be no room for emotional [DC1] , or any ideology not founded on the granite of scientific reasoning. Emotions, popularism, irrational nationalism, all had given rise to the evils of past rulers and governments. Humanity was to be freed by the rigors of scientific analysis. But despite the huge leaps in human scientific capability, energy and resources remained finite and the economics of scarcity required decisions on allocation and usage. There were still the “haves” and the “have nots” through all layers of society, from those with wealth to those lacking basic needs like food and clothing. Enshigi rationalism dictated that leading minds of a centralized authority, the Enshigi governing body known as the Communion, would make these decisions. But the decisions dictated by science and the hard realities of truth were eternally at odds with the human spirit--of emotions like selfishness, greed or even empathy, compassion and love. Enshigi doctrine weighed all these emotional needs far below rational decision making, with its inevitable and inescapable conclusions that often sacrificed the few for the good of the many. Humanity grew restless as decisions became more and more centralized within an elite core of intellectuals and scientists. At first the decisions were confined to economic policy, defense, healthcare, research and industry. But increasingly, as the Enshigi tweaked and optimized humanity, the decisions started to reach into every facet of human life. The Enshigi decisions and their laws began to determine who ate and who went hungry, who was educated and who was cast aside, who could have children and who could not, and who could live and who could die. Cold reason allocated resources and pushed and shaped humanity to the benefit of science and progress over “useless” and “destructive” emotionally driven policies like compassion or equity. Humankind was not inherently equal, and the Enshigi had to ensure that the best of humanity thrived and propagated for the betterment of the species. As humanity’s emotions were compressed, repressed and dismissed, the pressure started to mount. First protests, and then riots began to sweep the world. Revolution was inevitable, as the fires of revolutions are stoked into conflagrations by emotions—something the Enshigi were increasingly unable to control. The Enshigi realized they had made a profound error. But rather than accept and deal with human nature they, simply and logically, concluded that most of humanity was simply unsuitable for advancement. They understood rebellion and destabilization was unavoidable. They came to think of themselves as the true progressive future of the human race. The Enshigi elite were different from most of humanity. Perhaps they represented the dawn of a new species of homo sapien. Regardless, they knew their path was diverging from everyone else. It was time for them to leave. Having foreseen the coming destabilization, and recognizing their own increased divergence, the Enshigi had prepared for over sixty years. They had already genetically altered themselves in secret, and augmented their bodies and intelligence both organically and technologically. But their greatest achievement was the creation of the first ship to cross interstellar space. The ship was vast, miles long, and its construction hidden among the rings of Saturn. The journey, to a secret location previously scouted by Enshigi particle probes, would take decades. The probes were microscopic vehicles, built atom by atom, and accelerated to near light speed by giant particle accelerators near the edge of the solar system. The Enshigi had been surveying the heavens, casting thousands of probes out into space, scattering them like seeds on the wind in search of new fertile ground. Ten thousand of the selected Enshigi elite would survive the trip in stasis. The rest, as determined with cold rationality, would be left to the riots and the bloodthirsty masses. It was the only viable conclusion. And so, when the world erupted in violence and the Enshigi were hauled out of their homes and shot in the streets, ten thousand of the best and the brightest Enshigi were already well on their way, bound for a distant secret star. The Star Race Fast forward a hundred years. Earth is rushing to the stars. The shocking discovery of the Enshigi escape ship sent shockwaves through humanity. The Enshigi had progressed in secret farther than anyone had imagined. Humanity had slaughtered them by the millions on Earth. What would the remaining Enshigi do among the stars? Would they seek revenge? What technology and discoveries would they make “out there” on other worlds? Would Earth ever be safe? Would the Enshigi return to destroy the Earth itself? Or enslave it once again? There was no choice. In order to ensure survival, Earth had to compete. Humanity had no choice but to rush to create their own starships, despite the enormous costs and obstacles, and expand to the stars before the Enshigi could establish themselves, grow even more powerful, and possibly return with dark purpose. Thus began mankind’s interstellar expansion, but not as a single, united planet. The world had split after the destruction of the Enshigi, divided between the United Nations of America, The Soviet Union, the Europa Empire, the Crescent Conglomerate, the Great and Harmonious Sino Alliance, and several other smaller states. All competed with each other in the race to the stars. Eventually, twenty eight colonies were founded in the ensuing centuries of travel and exploration. The process took well over two centuries to complete. But while starships were limited to just a fraction of the speed of light, a breakthrough in communications allowed colonies and ships to transmit information instantaneously. The discovery of tachyon particle generation meant that these faster than light particles could be used to “beam” information point to point in space. High bandwidth, latency-free communication became prevalent between the colonies. Computer and communication networks spun a dense web of information that draped across and connected the far-flung colonies. But travel still remained a risky and lengthy voyage. Very few ships ever made the journey between systems once the colonies were founded. The colonies diverged from Earth, in both culture and, in some cases, biology. With such vast distances separating them from Earth, there was no way for the governments of Earth to exert their control over their colonies. Humanity was divided by distance and time into over two dozen growingly disparate civilizations. This expansion and divergence is why the era is referred to as the Babellian Expansion. Like the biblical story of Babel, the reality of these times reflected the splintering of humanity. As for the Enshigi, their ultimate destination remained undiscovered until a sudden and surprising astronomical event was observed. A star had dimmed unexpectedly. The process had taken only a few short years, a blink of an eye in terms of the timescale of the Universe. The sudden stellar dimming went unnoticed until an amateur astronomer came across the anomaly and reported it. No conventional theories could explain the phenomenon, so particle probes were dispatched to observe the star and report back. When the probes arrived, they were able to transmit for only a few seconds before they suddenly fell silent. Humanity caught a brief glimpse of a giant structure completely encircling a blue dwarf star. The structure was big enough to cast a shadow that dimmed the star, explaining one event but revealing an even greater, terrifying mystery. Was this the doing of the Enshigi? Could they have possibly mastered the technology to completely encircle and harness the power of their star in a massive dyson ring? The answer came just minutes after the probes went dark. Tachyon beam communications, originating from the probes themselves, relayed an ominous warning: “We are the Enshigi. We have no concern for you. Do not attempt to probe or visit this star system again. Furthermore, we forbid you to enter or explore the following areas of space. Attempt no travel to these areas or suffer catastrophic consequences. This will be your only warning, and the last communication you will receive from us.” The list of co-ordinates which followed the message encompassed vast areas of space. Curiously, the areas were nowhere near the Enshigi home system or the rest of the human colonies. Some were not even in the same galaxy. Nor were the areas contiguous, or resemble any containment strategy. They were scattered, some near, some distance, and without apparent pattern or commonality. It was a mystery that confounded human astronomers and scientists. A mystery that carried a dire and equally mysterious consequence for anyone attempting to solve it. A consequence that no one dared test after witnessing the incredible and powerful technical abilities of the Enshigi. The creation of a dyson ring would require dismantling of entire planets to provide the raw resources necessary. If the Enshigi were capable of that, and so quickly… the consequences could be very severe indeed. Discovery of Gates Another century passed. After the lack of any further contact, the Enshigi were largely forgotten except in myths and stories. Earth, and its now fully independent colonies, was assuaged by the long passage of time and no longer fearful of Enshigi retaliation or conflict. It was a time of great peace, for the lack of faster than light travel made conflict between the colonies non-existent. Who could wage interstellar war when the fastest military ships would take decades to reach their targets? Exploration was muted. Not only because of the dire Enshigi warning, but because there was far too much work to do terraforming and populating the existing colonies. Humanity was strewn across space like tiny islands, with the vast ocean of space between them. What use was it to worry about other far-flung neighbors whose troubles and ambitions could never affect you? Each colony turned inwards, busy at the task of raising new human civilizations. But the discovery of D-shift gate travel changed all that. The theory for dimensional shifts, or D-shifts, was well known, and the creation of gates was widely regarded as a difficult, but not impossible, eventuality. After all, instantaneous communication was already possible, showing the speed of light was not an absolute barrier in the Universe. So it was not a great surprise when the first gates were built and the theory proved to work. D-shift gates were massive structures, orbiting rings large enough to admit spacecraft [DC2] into the stable wormholes they generated. The artificial wormholes were a result of dimensional shifting of existing micro-wormholes that permeate the foam-like structure of space-time. These micro wormholes manifest more like tiny strings connecting and entangling particles at long distances in three-dimensional space. But in four-dimensional space they exist as full-blown wormholes. By shifting and distorting dimensions at the gate, the 4D wormhole is turned and twisted to project itself as a larger aperture into 3D space. Gates had to be “tuned” or “paired” to each other to allow predictable passage. Without a paired gate, the wormhole could lead to a random destination anywhere in the universe. This meant the first gates were constructed as pairs, between two known points in space. Eventually, gate pairs were constructed between most of the colonies and to and from Earth. At first humanity was overjoyed at being finally reunited once again. Trade and commerce exploded, as it was now practical to ship goods between worlds. People marveled at how humanity had evolved in so many different directions and cultures. Great parties were thrown for well over a decade as new gates were opened and new colonies reconnected with each other. There were tall, frail giants from low-gravity worlds, stout ones from high gravity planets, humans who had symbiotic relationships with local life forms, and those that had adapted in even stranger ways to their local worlds. Many humans, of course, seemed relatively “Earth standard,” having found planets that mimicked Earth’s conditions closely. The sense of awe and wonder and exciting possibility infused nearly everyone. But the era of peace, with war and competition held in check by the now smashed barriers of light and distance, was coming to a close. A cold war erupted between the various colonial systems and even Earth. Planetary and corporate espionage activity soared as each colony eyed its neighbor cautiously for the first time, sometimes with envy, sometimes with fierce rivalry, or even fear. Largely due to the lack of military starships (there was no need prior to gates), no large-scale wars had broken out. There were tense incidents, conflicts between small numbers of starships, or battles on isolated moons and minor worlds. These were downplayed and written off as renegades, civil unrest, or even pirate activity. In reality, governments were secretly fighting proxy wars and testing each other’s weapons and capabilities. An arms race erupted as colonies built up stellar navies for the first time in human history. Dreadful weapons were conceived and built in secret, all in preparation for wars that everyone felt were inevitable, but hoped to avoid. It was an age at the brink of war, where tensions ran high, and intrigue and dark politics gripped every system. It was simultaneously an age of great joy, a new-found hope for the incredible future that lay before humanity. Finally, it was the dawn of an age that saw great explorers and expeditions, as the Universe unfolded and opened up its treasures before humanity for the first time. Gatestriders Foremost of the great explorers were the Gatestriders. Originally founded as a colony of the United Nations of America, the Gatestriders were originally known as The Omega Frontier. They were the furthest colony Earth ever attempted during the Babellian Expansion. They took on the Gatestrider name only after the gates were created and they were forced to abandon their home. The Omega Frontier began on the most habitable of the worlds surrounding their star, which wasn’t saying much. The world was canted at a harsh angle, it’s polar rotation at a seventy-six degree angle to the elliptical plane. The resulting environment was severe. It was blazingly hot near the pole facing the star, and near the pole furthest away it was frozen and dark. Days and nights at portions of the planet lasted for years, and gravity, while not exactly crushing, was still an exhausting 1.8 G. The local flora and fauna were also highly toxic or lethally aggressive to humans. This made the people of the Omega Frontier some of the best survivalists and explorers of all the colonies. They were subject to a wide range of environmental conditions, from extreme deserts to frozen wastelands, long nights, hostile environments, and predators. The extreme range of conditions made genetic alternation somewhat impractical, and the people of the Omega Frontier tended to avoid genetic solutions as a whole. They preferred to test themselves, as they were, against their new world. They relied on their technology and survival skills to carve out a harsh existence and still thrive. The Omega Frontier became experts in mechanically enhanced kinetics, or MEKs. They enhanced their strength against the harsh gravity and hostile environments by wearing pilotable exo-suits. These suits ranged in size from barely visible motor and synthetic muscle augmentation worn in their geesuits[DC3] , to full blown armored variants that were vehicle sized and used for heavy industry and labor. MEKs with autonomy, driven by low-grade artificial intelligence, were called MEK-As. These semi-sentient mechs labored alongside humans. The bond between humans and their robotic companions sometimes resembled that of fond pets and even friendship. Humans depended on them for survival and even companionship in the sparsely populated world. It was not unheard of for humans to risk their own lives to save their MEK-A from danger or destruction. People wore geesuits daily by necessity. The suits offered both active thermal systems for heating and cooling, accomplished via a circulatory system of fluids. The same circulatory system of piping and inflatable bladders also kept human blood cycling efficiently under the harsh daily G-forces of their homeworld. They became fashionable, and many variants and styles were created as they became the staple everyday wear. The pioneering spirit of the Omega Frontier colonists was second to none. They were fiercely independent, rugged individualists, who had taken writer Robert Heinlein’s phrase TANSTAAFL to heart. Standing for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” tanstaafl is still a common and popular phrase amongst Gatestriders today. Everything had to be earned by hard work or sacrifice, and everyone was expected to contribute and to “haul their own G’s.” The people of the Omega Frontier were spread out wide across the planet. They preferred to gather into large extended families or tribes. Each took on a unique pride and identity as they banded together to survive the deadly world. Competition and rivalry was fierce, but violence was rare. There were enough ways for a human to die in the harsh planetary environment, that none felt they needed to add to them. The Destruction of the Gatestrider’s Homeworld When the gates were created, offering humanity a vast new Universe of exploration, Omega Frontiersmen and women were the first to volunteer to risk travel through unpaired gates. An unpaired gate was one that was constructed as a “transmitter” without a corresponding “receiver” gate. When such a gate was opened, it created a wormhole to an unknown destination anywhere in the Universe. An unpaired gate’s destination was always drawn to gravity wells. This meant the exit points would largely appear near stars and solar systems. Occasionally they would open up into black holes. When this happened a dangerous feedback loop would build in the gate, which would have to be shut down or destroyed before the massive gravity well of the black hole started to bleed through the gate. Traveling through an unpaired gate was always an adventure. Adventures were something the people of the Omega Frontier found hard to resist. Although probes could be sent through the gate, they were useless, because without a corresponding return gate, there was no way for them to return. And without a way to precisely locate home and beam back a tachyon message, there was no way to transmit information back. And so Gatestriders were born. The adventurous and intrepid clans of the Omega Frontier took up corporate and government contracts to travel through gates and explore them firsthand. The potential rewards, bounties and fame for discovering new planets or rich resources were the type of gamble they lived for. They brought with them return gate components which would have to be assembled and tuned in order to form a return gate. Until a return gate could be constructed, Gatestriders could be on their own for months. Of course, that was only if they were lucky. The unlucky ones never returned, having perished in a black hole or encountered some inexplicable and fatal danger on the other side. They earned their new name “Gatestriders” through the inconceivable risks and dangers of their occupation. And then one day, the Gatestriders lost their homeworld. A new gate had just been opened into an uncharted location, somewhere in the Universe. At first, the Gatestriders were unaware of where they were. After surveying the nearby star system, they constructed a return gate. By passing information back and forth between the gates, they were able to chart their new location in the Universe. With grim realization, they realized they were right in the middle of one of the vast areas forbidden by the Enshigi. At first, nothing happened. The Gatestriders labored uneasily, wary of the tales of the Enshigi and the stories told about their power and cruelty. Rather than leave, they continued to explore deeper into the nearby star system. The corporation that sponsored the gate desperately ordered them to return, but the Gatestriders refused. No one had heard from the Enshigi in nearly two hundred years. No one had ever been close to one of the forbidden zones, let alone manage, through sheer chance, to end up inside one. The odds of appearing in one of the zones, out of the vast infinite of space with its billions of galaxies, was astronomical. This might be the only chance to discover what the Enshigi seemed so desperate to hide. The sheer scale and power of the Enshigi retaliation was astounding. It was every bit as awe-inspiring and terrifying as when the Enshigi’s ancestors had unleashed the atom bomb that had destroyed London. Within a week of the Gatestriders pushing farther into the forbidden system, the Gatestrider’s homeworld star went nova. There was no warning, and no indication that the star was unstable. One moment it was fine, and the next it had exploded and wiped out the entire Gatestriders system, leaving nothing behind but a cloud of debris and stellar fallout now called the “Enshigi Nebula.” Later reviews of astronomical observations of the Gatestrider’s home star revealed a foreign object passing through the elliptical plane and impacting their sun 2 hours prior to its detonation. Despite there being no other evidence of tampering, no smoking gun weapon, and nothing but damnable silence from the Enshigi, everyone came to the same conclusion. The only safe conclusion, despite the lack of definitive evidence, was to never test the Enshigi ban again. The Gatestriders had lost their homeworld and millions of their fellow people, families and loved ones. Worse yet, Gatestriders were now banned from gate exploration contracts. Their corporate sponsorships were stripped and they became outcasts and untouchables. Gatestriders were shunned and avoided. No one would take them in, no one would help them. Everyone feared what the Enshigi would do if they did. Gatestriders became a nomadic race, without a homeworld, destined to drift among the stars as mercenaries, or become wayfarers and pirates to survive. But some still clung to the hope of exploration, of possibly finding a new homeworld for their people. Some even dreamt of revenge, as impossible as it seemed, against the cold race that had doomed their world. The discovery of Em-8ER The Gatestriders continued to explore in secret. They constructed unlicensed gates from spare parts and what they could strip from the debris of their homeworld, or what they could steal. These “shadow gates” were operated in secret by the Gatestriders. Due to their cost and complexity, the Gatestriders could only afford to construct less than a dozen gates. Each one was a roll of the dice in hopes the portal would lead to a system with worlds rich in resources, or survivable enough to found a new homeworld. But luck continued to be against the Gatestriders. A handful of gates had been opened, each one costing a fortune in resources and effort. One after another the disappointments poured in. One expedition never returned, another found nothing but a planetary system of gas giants and barren rock. Nothing seemed habitable or close enough to terraform. Most systems revealed only common resources and others were either too costly or too impractical to exploit to be worth the effort. With a string of failures enough to daunt even the hardiest of Gatestriders, hope dimmed…until, of course, Em-8ER was discovered. When the ninth shadow gate was opened, the Gatestriders found themselves orbiting a G-class star with a stable main sequence. The sun was warm, even earth like. The light it cast illuminated a solar system with fourteen different planets. Of these, the eighth planet was deemed the most suitable for terraforming. Planet Em-8ER would become the focus of the Gatestrider expeditionary teams known as Reapers, whose task was to “reap” the planet of its resources and establish forward bases and outposts prior to colonization. In some distant ways, Em-8ER was not dissimilar from the Gatestrider’s original homeworld. Em-8ER featured a geologically active landscape with fiery volcanoes, fueled by tidal forces at the core of the planet, that drove magma plumes shooting through fissures and vents on the surface. The magma poured out onto a glittering, gleaming white surface of sulfur dioxide frost and ice. Ash plumes from spewing fissures froze and settled as corrosive “snow” across the landscape, forming a cross between a winter wonderland and hell itself. Between the fire and ice, Gatestriders almost felt at home. It was as if the two polar opposite of their homeworld had mixed and melded together. The average global temperature was a brisk but survivable -142° F, or -96° Celsius. This was it. This was the planet every Gatestrider had hoped and dreamed to find. The possibility of a new home with enough resources to start a new planetary civilization had cheers erupting through all the clans. With Em-8ER, the Gatestriders could finally start again. Clans dispatched their Reaper teams to recon the surface of Em-8ER. They found that beneath the sulfuric snow and ice was volcanic rock, and beneath that were small pockets and sometimes rich veins of precious resources and raw elements that could be mined and forged into a new future for the Gatestriders—a future that was now even brighter and more promising than they had dared hope. But there was still much work to be done. Most of the planet was still uninhabitable and inoperable to reaper teams. The atmosphere was unbreathable and toxic, and highly corrosive to the MEKs and MEK-As that would need to be deployed to reap the planet. The planet would first have to be bootstrapped. Smaller atmospheric terraformers would open up small but survivable pockets of atmosphere over the most promising terrain. There they would hover and scoop in large amounts of atmosphere, convert it to a more breathable state while reducing its corrosiveness, and eject it back out of vents. The floating machines were massive, but even at this size they worked slowly, and could only open up small “islands” of habitability a few kilometer radius at a time. After an initial atmospheric pass, reaper teams could move in and begin to survey and mine the resources needed to construct the gigantic terraforming factories that would open up even larger areas of the planet surface. The resources gathered would be also used to upgrade MEKs, improve equipment, and build bases and other facilities needed to expand the small footholds on the planet. First contact with the Tsi-Hu The true potential of Em-8ER remained undiscovered for months. Reaper teams had already opened several pockets of habitable territory and the process of accumulating and refining resources was starting to accelerate. Some areas had already achieved Tier 1 of terraforming [DC4] and had stable atmospheres free of corrosive snow. Next, the teams began harnessing the planet’s natural geothermal warmth to thaw and raise the overall surface temperature enough to melt the sulfur dioxide frost. Orbital mirrors were constructed, focusing the sun’s energy on the small pockets to further warm them and prepare the ground for gene seeding. When reaper teams began the next phase of expansion, they opened up new pockets near the initial sites and started their survey scans with overhead dropships. That’s when they first discovered the ruins of the Tsi-Hu. The reaper teams surveying the area described them as gothic and ornate, baroque meets technology. There wasn’t much left standing, and the structures were very old, dating back thousands of years, mostly encased or buried in volcanic rock formations and ice. The Gatestriders were ecstatic. This was the very first intelligent xenomorph civilization ever discovered. The Fermi paradox was rampant everywhere humans had looked in the Universe, with no signs of intelligent life. Humans had encountered plenty of creatures, both flora and fauna and strange life forms, but none had possessed intelligence, let alone a civilization. The technology was decayed and smashed, but was still a treasure trove of possibilities. The Gatestriders started piecing it all together, re-activating what they could and disassembling the rest. That’s when the ghosts appeared. The mining teams discovered them first, a few months after the techs had been analyzing the ruins. They appeared at first as energy or plasma that swirled aggressively around the teams as they mined with their THMPR MEK-A’s for resources. While harmless at first, the rate of these appearances started to increase exponentially. They seemed attracted and agitated by any human mining or construction. Within a few months, the ghosts were everywhere and disrupting all progress and work on terraforming Em-8ER. But things turned deadly when the apparitions started to materialize. When they finally assumed tangible form, it was a sudden change. They roared into existence in force, taking on a humanoid appearance armed with energy weapons that they used from a distance. These weren’t ghosts, but the Tsi-Hu, and they were armed and deadly. They could fire from a distance, then shift at will into a four legged armored beast with claws that shredded through MEK suits in hand to hand combat. They were lightning fast and strong in their “beast form” and their tactic was to pin teams down with rapid fire weapons from a distance while flanking and shifting into hand to hand combat with their altered state. Mining turned into a dangerous operation, and military MEKs were sent out regularly to protect THMPR miners. They enemy would come in waves, materializing out of plasma energy that crackled in existence around the teams as they worked. By detonating an EMP pulse after enough resources had been collected, the teams could gain enough of a pause in the waves to escape, but the Tsi-Hu were always close behind. It was always a race to get the resources back to a nearby base where heavy defenses could finish off the pursuing Tsi-Hu who would rush after them in beast form. And then the Kaiju came. Taken from the Japanese word for “strange beast,” the Kaiju were monstrous in size and strength. They matched the mining THMPRs in size and were stronger and deadlier. They came in a variety of forms. Some had two heads, others hand wings and claws, but all were ferocious and nearly unstoppable. The Tsi-Hu had augmented them, hardening them with shields against weapon fire and using some kind of spinal tap to control them. The only way to stop them was to destroy the implants up and down their spines, taking down their shields, or destroying their control mechanisms. Now aided by their Kaiju, the Tsi-hu stepped up their offensive from attacking miners to full blown invasions into Gatestrider territory. They invaded by the hundreds, attacking and destroying bases and refineries. The Gatestriders found themselves in a full on war… [DC1]Do you mean populism here? [DC2]Should this be spacecraft(singular) as a category, or spacecrafts as in ships? [DC3]Could you call them G-suits since you referred to “g” just now? And you have MEK-A’s below [DC4]Tier 1 of terraforming or Tier 1 terraforming?