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1001 Nights of Ankala - The End of All Hope
Upon the arid world of Ankala there lay a city of much wealth and grandeur. Erected upon the fountations of an old mining station, it lay upon the hard-worked riches, and sacrifices of the ill-fated First Wave colonists that sacrificed themselves in ages past. Or so the story went, but there is always a hidden truth beneath.
What were they prospecting? Was there a sinister motive for building the city ON the derelict site itself, such that every single one of its access and ventilation shafts were all but obstructed? What secrets or vile horrors lay in its dark labrynths, that the Empresses of Ankala sought to safeguard with their lives through the ages?
This then, dear reader, is a tale of treasure. Treasure that had been squandered - but others say that it was intentionally buried, as though to imply Mankind is not yet ready, and there will be a right time to reveal that which could reshape the very fabric of our existence.
It is also a tale about the brave explorers of old - the initial wave of pioneers that discovered, surveyed, and settled upon the arid dustbowl of Anta - and perished upon her unforgiving bosom - a planet known in First Wave lore as The End of All Hope.
The Second Exodus
"O royal skilled engineer, construct sea-boats, propelled on water by our experts, and airplanes, moving and flying upward, after the clouds that reside in the mid-region, that fly as the boats move on the sea, that fly high over and below the watery clouds. Be thou, thereby, prosperous in this world created by the Omnipresent God, and flier in both air and lightning. (Yajur Veda, 10.19)
Mankind had all but defiled Mother Earth, and there was no way her exhausted soil would sustain ever greater numbers of her children. They were spoilt children, always demanding more and yet more resources from deeper and deeper into her crust.
Her once beautiful atmosphere adorned with graceful swirls of weather systems was now a sickly gray pallor of acid rain and irreversible pollution. It was time for the children to leave home.
United as one, the race of homo sapiens soon adapted itself to deep space travel and habitation upon hostile worlds, employing cutting edge genetic modification and physical augmentation for survival's sake. Nanotech-scale machinery improved dermal protection to superhuman levels while low-intensity energy fields proved instrumental as raditation shields. This L.A.Y.E.R. system would reduce reliance of exo-suits for surivability in hostile environments.
Technologies like these were expensive and untested - their proving grounds would be the actual colonies of Alpha Centauri, Procyon and Sirius. We had become an interstellar civilization. Spurred by early successes, Mankind did not rest on its laurels. It took a few parsecs. Now it wanted the entire Galaxy. Under the newly formed Galactic Survey Corps, starships raced to the far edges of the Milky way at unimaginable velocities, piloted by augmented Navigators and Star Captains whose minds were altered to process arithmetric at quantum speeds and interfaced neurally with their vessels. Now Mankind had transcended far beyond the limitations of relativity and the cost of achieving translight speeds, was to be slaved to one's vessel as a sentient computer.
The Tale of Khalia el-Nahl
Khalia el-Nahl was one of the earliest, and bravest of these early Navigators in command of the Galactic Survey Vessel GSV Ramayana. With wings that distorted space-time and the heart of a star, GSV Ramayana's flight path would take her swiftly to all the wonders of the Galaxy. Inspiring deep respect and loyalty for her instinctive grasp of the cosmos, Khaliq el-Nahl would be selected in the year 2422 to conduct the furthest and most ambitious of interstellar expeditions yet - to attain the very edge of the Milky Way via gravity assist from multiple blue giants and a black hole - the cumulative velocity boost cutting travel to the Star's Edge from decades to just weeks. The largest and most powerful of the Galactic Survey Vessels, GSV Ramayana was one of a very small handful of vessels capable of navigating in this fashion.
She arrived at Star's Edge on 28 September 2422, under the warm glow of a yellow sun. Iwatiqa - the Crucible that will forge Mankind's dominion in the Galactic Periphery. It was then that Khalia el-Nahl discovered the ship was sent upon a one-way journey, her engines were all but spent and the spaceframe was irrepairably warped from the extreme gravitational shear stresses invoked by the feat of performing a gravity assist around a black hole. Activating her mighty Alcubierre warp drives could very well spell the end for the vessel and all aboard.
They were forced to make planetfall on the arid desert world they termed Anta - end of the wall. Leaving the crippled GSV Ramayana in low orbit, a thriving community was soon founded. Seeded by prefabricated BlueStar modules, Ankala City soon expanded to its modern dimensions using locally sourced building materiel. Extensive prospecting and mining took place in the region, under Khalia el-Nahl's oversight. For years they toiled, searching for resources they could use to rebuild their destroyed star-drive. It seemed nothing else mattered but to dig deeper and ever deeper.
Disheartened, entire groups broke off to found their own 'tribes', yet Khalia would presevere onwards, alone if need be, directing the many mining drones brought to life from blueprints secreted away in the Ramayana's databanks. It was said that the defiling of her angel's wings made her the way she was. On many a moonless night, she would be seen staring up to the heavens, watching the little point of light that was her ship slowly move across the stars. Dreaming of a time where a single thought in her mind would have moved a thousand people across ten parsecs.
With Khalia's success at navigating to the rim of the galaxy, Mankind for the next several decades followed suit. For once, we could be free from congestion and overcrowding. There was no shortage for volunteers to what is popularly termed the "Final Frontier". The discovery of alien artifacts and materials only served to fuel the so called First Wave Expansion.
With Expansion came Man's greatest evil. Ambition.
When Terra's Corporations arrived to settle Star's Edge they did so geared for exploitation. Terrex-Cosmos ships soon disgorged massive "world eating" mining machines to exploit the unpopulated worlds of Star's Edge, bringing with them large numbers of hardened colonists who operated with little respect for Nature. After all, there's nothing special with these new worlds, to them, they are just balls of rock like the previous dozen they've stripped bare.
These resources were then traded to the Synarx Order, which nurtured the growth of huge cities such as Moondown that served as financial and commercial powerhouses for the sector.
Moondown City - Capital of Commerce
"Anta - so called the Bandit Planet"
And what of Anta? It remained an undeveloped backwater, target for frequent "exploitation" raids and embargos to trade imposed by the Synarx Order unless Khalia el-Nahl submitted to their governance.
Naturally, Khalia and her people refused. In the fashion of Ancient Terra's freedom fighters, colonists took up arms and fought the intruders in daring hit and fade attacks. Their nomadic nature meant the TCMC expended far more resources trying to hunt down insurgents than what they gained in each operation. Open conflict looked to be inevitable, and became a reality in 2449 when the Synarx Order, wanting to restore its public reputation after several embarrassing defeats at the hands of guerilla forces, declared the Vesscan Union a "terrorist organization".
The effects of counter-insurgency warfare on an interstellar scale all but cut off the Star's Edge region from the rest of the known universe, and the Vesscan mines on Ankala were deemed a very lucrative primary target due to their output of faran crystals.
"A T.R.C. ad offering private military contractors. T.R.C. is the premier mercenary hiring and bonding organization in Star's Edge. They are typically employed for security but also known to participate in clandestine activities in the employ of state actors when 'plausible deniability' is desired."
Known as "White Gold", faran crystals could store immense amounts of energy and had the potential to revolutionize the energy market. This made the Synarx Order very concerned, for any sudden advancement in technology meant a loss of profits - unless, of course, the Synarx Order "acquired" the rights to said technology and could suppress its development or deny others its use.
Knowing the very existence of the faran crystals meant her people would never be safe, Empress Khalia gave the order to destroy all existing crystal mining facilities, and moved the last remaining shipments into an underground cavern deep under Ankala City where any military action would cause mass civilian casualties and disrupt interstellar markets. This in effect forced hostile factions to deal on the Vesscan Union's terms.
And this, dear reader, is the legacy of Khalia el-Nahl, the first explorer of Star's Edge, and founder of Ankala. Her granddaughter, Aish el-Saraya, followed her footsteps as a great Navigator, and she too played a decisive role in ensuring Ankala City survived to this present day.
Carmen Toreadors is the Community Lore Developer of Freeman: Star Edge. Carmen coordinates a diverse team of community contributors which aim to go where no indie game has gone before, and develop a living, breathing game universe in crowd-sourced fashion.
This story was written in collaboration with Donmeow of the Freeman: Star Edge community, along with Crusoe who discussed the possibility of utilizing black holes for gravity assist in interstellar travel. Visit us on Discord!
This lore is written in the Vesscan Union's point of view and may differ with popular Galactic Opinion. For a professional analyst's take on the subject, feel free to peruse Michael F.'s treatise on Interstellar Insurgency in the Star's Edge cluster.