The History of Beyond Sector: Non-human Intelligences

To date, the Terran Space Empire has encountered two technological, sentient, non-human species, and the ruins of a third. While numerous lesser plants and animals have been discovered, it appears that intelligent life is a rarity in the galaxy. Relations with non-human species are handled by the Ministry of Colonisation, although the outbreak of the Bug War has somewhat damaged the ministry’s prestige in the Imperial Court

The Krill

The Empire’s first contact with alien life was almost missed entirely. As the Empire expanded, it frequently re-discovered human worlds originally settled during the Great Exodus. Accordingly, it was not unusual to jump into a system and find unknown ships of a strange design already there. It was only when radio contact was established with the ships in the Rambla system that it was realised that this time, the strange ships were non-human.

First Contact proved to be a singular disappointment. The Krill proved disinterested in interacting with humanity; their technology was not substantially more advanced than existing human tech; and they seemed to be alone, rather than connected to a rich tapestry of other species as had been theorised by earth-bound xenobiologists.  

It soon became apparent that many worlds in the galactic north-east had already encountered the Krill. In some respects, their reports were identical. The Krill appeared to be descended from avians, with visible crests of feathers on their head and shoulders. They were bipedal, but with four arms rather than two. They lived on worlds with oxygen/nitrogen atmospheres, and were capable of learning human languages. 

The differences were more interesting. Some worlds had encountered their ships in space; sometimes alone, and in at least three reports in huge fleets of hundreds of ships. Others had found Krill planets – or at least, Krill settlements, as the Krill do not appear to maintain significant populations on planetary bodies, and archaeological analysis has never found a world showing long-term Krill habitation. Some worlds knew them as neighbours who could sometimes be traded with; others knew them only as merciless pirates who scourged the space lanes. 

It was believed for a long time that there was no central Krill government, but long term analysis of interactions with Krill groupings has shown that groups sectors apart are sometimes aware of and will honour agreements made with the Empire or individual corporations.  The Empire has made significant efforts to locate the Krill home world and to open communications with their leadership, but despite sending several exploratory fleets into wilderness space has failed to do so.  

It has been theorised that the Krill are an entirely space borne species, but this explanation is not believed to be credible. Firstly, even the Imperial Navy struggles to operate for prolonged periods beyond the range of friendly worlds for resupply and maintenance. Secondly, it would be extremely difficult to sustain a large enough population to maintain genetic diversity in a purely space bound environment. Thirdly, this explanation still does not explain where the Krill originally evolved, and how they lived before developing space flight.

The Empire’s relationship with the Krill is characterised above all else by uncertainty. The Krill simply do not react to threats, trade, gifts, or even outright violence in a predictable fashion. They are known to be present on worlds in four Imperial sectors, and in the wilderness space on the Galactic North-East border. They sometimes trade with local worlds, but seem incapable of making and maintaining longer term arrangements. Sometimes, they attack ships or even outlying settlements. When the Imperial Navy conducts retaliatory action against Krill settlements, the reaction ranges from a desperate defence, to offers of goods as appeasement, to simply ignoring the attack. As Krill vessels very rarely seem to visit their planetary colonies, Imperial strategists are unsure whether attacking their settlements has any impact on their vessels.  

In Beyond Sector, there are known Krill settlements on New Angeles, Monmouth, and Helen’s World. There was a fourth on Elizabeth, but it was destroyed in a dispute over land roughly 70 years ago. The scientists of Helen’s World have been studying their settlement since their ship arrived on the world, and are a valuable source of information on the Krill. On Monmouth, the Krill are regarded mostly as another tribe to be fought. They have never attended a Moot or recognised a High King, but tenaciously defend their settlement against intrusion. The settlement on New Angeles was established shortly after the colonists arrived, and an act establishing their right to stay was one of the first passed by the New Angeles Senate. Occasionally, a bill to make the local Krill citizens is raised, but their total lack of interest in engaging with the humans present – coupled with Krill attacks on shipping – have prevented this coming to pass.

The Bugs

The Empire made contact with its second species much more recently; only 2 years ago, when a Ministry of Colonisation survey vessel came face to face with its Bug opposite number in an uncharted system past the Imperial border in the galactic south. Basic communication was painstakingly established, and a few details exchanged.

The Bugs are an insectoid species. Several different body types have been observed, and it is unknown whether these represent distinct species or different castes, as in terrestrial bees or ants. Their technology is believed to be comparable to human technology, although this assessment may be revised as more information becomes available. Their leadership and form of government is unknown, but is speculated to be a hive mind.

Arrangements were made for a summit on a specially built space station in the system now shown on Imperial charts as First Meeting. What precisely transpired at that summit has not been made public, but it is known that a Bug vessel unexpectedly opened fire on the INS Gallivant which had transported the Imperial delegation. All further attempts at communication have been ignored, and the Bugs have fired upon any human vessel they encounter without warning.

The Bug flagship at the Battle of Sinestra. The Ministry of Information reported that the Bugs were routed and a key stronghold captured. After the failure of the First Meeting summit, an Imperial squadron was dispatched to pursue the retreating Bug vessels with orders to re-open communication and negotiate a ceasefire. When that squadron was destroyed, Emperor Adam declared war on the Bugs, stating in an Empire-wide address that “…we offered the hand of friendship, and these insects have shown us nothing but violence. My Imperial Navy will pursue them back to their nests, and destroy them like the insects they are”.

Imperial forces are currently pressing into Bug Space and have fought several major fleet actions against Bug forces. Over 50% of the Reserve Fleets have been formed into the Grand Fleet, under the command of Admiral of the Fleet Thaddeus Holt von Gershin von Jiang vam Tybolt, and the Ministry of Information frequently broadcasts reports of the latest Imperial victory. Some observers have questioned the extent of the Bug threat and have suggested that certain Imperial officials are exaggerating the size of the problem to secure funding and support for the Navy, and to provide an excuse for crackdowns on dissent.

The Forerunners

The Ministry of Colonisation has found fossils and archaeological records pertaining to numerous species, but each species appears to have perished prior to leaving its home world. Only one species appears to have left artefacts on more than one world – the Forerunners.

Very little of their society appears to have survived the ages. The current best estimate is that their civilisation was widely spread across known space approximately 50,000 years ago, before abruptly disappearing. They appear to have reached a level of technological complexity significantly above modern human technology, and known Forerunner sites are Imperial property by law. They appear to have been capable of engineering on an unimaginable scale. The best known Forerunner site, Rosetta, features what is believed to be the wreckage of a destroyed Dyson bubble.

Studying the Forerunners is as much an art as a science, due to the lack of real data to work with. Experts disagree as to whether there was one species of Forerunner, or multiple; whether there disappearance was sudden, or gradual; and whether the Forerunners have any connection to humanity, the Krill, the Bugs, or all three. No written records or electronic devices have ever been recovered, and so almost every aspect of Forerunner culture is a mystery.

“Secret Forerunner Technology” is one of the favourite topics for plot devices in popular holofilms and wild conspiracy theories, and there are persistent rumours about the work that goes on at known Forerunner sites. The Ministry of Colonisation does periodically publicly release summaries of its latest findings, but as the Imperial Navy maintains a permanent blockade of all worlds with Forerunner sites, it is not possible for independent sources to verify this data.

A Forerunner artifact on the planet Agrippa, in the Imperial Core. The site has since been closed to the public by the Ministry of Security

The History of Beyond Sector: The Terran Space Empire

This is the second in our series of background lore posts designed to give you an insight into the setting of Shot Heard Around the Universe – look out for more of these over the next two months!

### Recording of seditious lecture delivered by Professor Seumas Cartwright, formerly Professor of Political Science at Aniston University, New Angeles. Recording made with covert audio-visual device by Ministry of Security Confidential Informant codename GOLDRUSH ###

“I appreciate that a history lecture isn’t what you expected today, but knowledge is power, and you need to understand the mindset of those Core Imperial officials you may encounter. Believe me, when you’re playing it cool and trying to talk 500 kilos of smuggled lanthium past some jumped-up dilettante from the Core, you’ll find a basic understanding of their mindset vital. With that in mind, let’s begin.”

*grumbling from the crowd. Speaker begins lecture*

“The generation ship which arrived at the world imaginatively dubbed Terra Nova was crewed by the employees of a large corporation named for its founder – Helen Cleon. Cleon Enterprises had been one of the largest transnational corporations on Earth prior to the Great Exodus, and the industry leader in spaceflight technology. The shipbuilding boom that the Great Exodus triggered made the company unimaginably wealthy, and Helen Cleon channelled most of that wealth into her plan to start over in a world she could remake in her image. Cleon Enterprises left Earth not in one generation ship but in five – all targeted on the same world, all built with absolute bleeding edge technology, and carrying as many experts as could be packed aboard. With them went Helen Cleon, cryogenically frozen and awaiting her new world.”

“Jump Drive technology was developed separately and independently on multiple human worlds, but Imperial histories insist that Terra Nova got there first – merely 20 years after the arrival of the colonists. Official histories claim that this had always been Helen Cleon’s intention, and that work had been underway on the project even before departing Earth. At this point it’s impossible to determine whether that claim is true, and to be honest, it’s not terribly relevant. The important thing is that the Imperials trumpet that success as the first sign of their exceptionalism. Yes, I know, same as always.”

“Terra Nova quickly leveraged its financial and technological advantages to begin annexing surrounding worlds. Not every world was keen, but the sheer economic clout available to the newly forged Terran Mercantile Association made not joining economically impossible. Where world leaders were noncompliant, Helen Cleon essentially bought new world leaders. All worlds in the Association would send representatives to Terra Nova, who would advise the Chief Executive – Helen Cleon. In practice, all meaningful power lay with the office of the Chief Executive. Despite this, Cleon carefully refrained from interference in the internal affairs of the member worlds, and this precedent continued until her death. You’ll note that’s rather different from the current state of affairs, where the Principle of Autonomy is being steadily chipped away.”

*angry muttering from crowd*

“Over the next 50 years, the Terran Mercantile Association continued to expand. Eventually, however, it encountered another true interstellar power – the Star Kingdom of Wu. The Kingdom firmly closed its borders to the Terrans, refusing access for any trading starships. Sensible people. Following the destruction of a Terran merchant convoy in disputed circumstances (the Shanxi Incident), war broke out between the two powers. The Terrans emerged victorious, and it was Helen Cleon’s grandson Michael who was able to use the prestige from this victory to reform the TMA into the Terran Space Empire, ruling as Michael the Founder.”

*Cartwright is interrupted on stage by event host. Inaudible discussion lasting 12 seconds*

“I’m sorry, people, but we’re going to have to end it there, it seems the Ministry of Stability is en route. If I can ask you to make your way to the nearest exit. Gentlemen, if you could – thank you.”

*Camera pivots suddenly to floor. GOLDRUSH triggers emergency retrieval beacon. Picture shakes and auditory analysis shows signs of a struggle. Loss of signal after 8 seconds.*


### Ministry of Security analyst comments ###

It seems Stability got an anonymous tip about the meeting and naturally decided to rush in mob handed. We’ve not received any actionable intelligence from them following the raid, so it looks like they didn’t catch anyone meaningful. Through this blunder, they’ve blown 6 months of careful work cultivating GOLDRUSH and supporting his entry into Cartwright’s inner circle. Cartwright is a suspected leader of the proscribed Beyonder Sovereignty Movement. No trace has been found of GOLDRUSH after this recording.