The Final Passes of Malkariby Joerghen Klinsk, 2562 GC
The Golden Age
“The Atom ended the Darkness, the Atom will warm the Golden Age, the Atom will unlock the Six Worlds to our kind. All while harnessed and controlled by the greatest genetic heritages to be found. Blood and Atom; and all else are the dreams of children.”
These great words were spoken by Suzain Toreade in 2132 when she declared the First Family of Malkari the chief ruling body of all land bathed in Malkari’s golden light. On her right were the heads of the nine oldest families in Malkari—famous landholders and leaders now legendary in their patrician rule over the Golden Age. To her left were the last of the robber barons and crusaders that sought to place the Home World under the control of dictatorships. Those on the left found reason for terror in the cheers that erupted from the crowd because of those words; reason to fear for their family lines and futures.
But Suzain was a benevolent Queen, and granted the dissenters, the barons, the Lesser Families their own dominions and rule. She forgave them their excesses in the name of acquisition, the better to make an example to the Malkari people that there was a place for all in the new age of free power and unlimited potential for expansion.
For the next two and a half centuries, her example would be the Law; and the Ten Families ruled in peace over the Golden Order Of Reason (GOR) Techno-Aristocracy. Their legislature, the Council of Ten, managed distribution of the resources of the Six Worlds and the asteroid belt and dictated the lines of research and development which were to be pursued. Their protection and guidance ushered in a Golden Age of peace, unity, and technological progress free of witch-doctor experimentation.
Then the terrible news came. Technologists for the GOR, while conducting a survey of the stellar bodies in the Malkari sky, noted that one star, Diantos, was odd in that it returned a much higher Doppler than the others in its constellation. Calculations revealed that the star’s Doppler shift was so purple because the star was actually heading straight for the Malkari system, at not an insignificant speed.
For a very brief time, the Technologist were dubious of their findings. They were sure that the razor-straight collision course calculated by their instruments must be a mistake of some kind; the fate of their rising race could not be so terrible, so ultimately tragic.
The calculations proved to be correct: Diantos was on a collision course with Malkari that would bring it to within half a lightparse of their star in approximately 5000 passes. When this news was brought to the Council of Ten, they unfortunately disregarded it, claiming that they surely would resolve the problem before the distant, deadly time limit. What they failed to realize, for the moment, was that the gravitational effects of the approaching rogue star would tear the Six Worlds from their orbits and smash them with massive tides long before the star made its appearance in local space. The Technologist Claude Phortele spent almost a week with the Council, going over the Scientific Academy’s findings again and again until he finally was able to convince them that Malkari did not have millennia to escape the threat, but mere centuries.
In those early days, the exact time of the planets’ utter destabilization and demise was not determined, as it would come to be; Phortele predicted about three hundred passes left for the Malkari race. Three centuries, and then the Six Worlds would become uninhabitable due to their violence. Less than a century beyond that date, and there would be no more Worlds, only splintering hunks of rock and cooling magma careening off each other and being swept up in Diantos’ waxing gravity, robbed from Malkari’s corpse.
The Age of Arks
This shorter time limit shocked the Six Worlds and set the Council of Ten into frenzied action. The prohibitions on research were immediately lifted and every available resource was channeled into finding a possible solution. But those golden days, while enlightened and advanced, did not have the tools to steer a star gone mad, and the Technologists, flooded with support, quickly came back empty-handed.
Heated debate raged in the Council of Ten for the next parse as various desperate measures were proposed, debated, weighed, and rejected. Finally, an idea was proposed by members of the Space Navy, the Mining Division, and the Third Family. The race of Malkari would be saved by fleeing their home in space craft built to support generations of pilots as they conveyed a selection of the history and spirit of Malkari to a new Home World around a distant star. They proposed that all resources, all sciences, all people of Malkari be focussed to the task of building as many of these Arks as possible.
As a last ditch effort, it was inspiring, and the Malkari people embraced their leaders’ idea with coordination and determination. Those first generations of workers were among the most noble in our history; they sacrificed their personal development to create ships that would carry their children and grandchildren to the stars. None of them could hope to benefit from the Arks, except in antiquity. Of course, none of them would feel the death throes of the Six Worlds either: mercifully, old age would claim them hundreds of passes before the Cataclysm.
And thus did two centuries pass. The Golden Order flung wide the doors of research and thought in the hopes of developing any little gain that might increase the Ark’s chances for success. Their astronomers scoured the nearest stars through their telescopes and radars, hoping to find a suitable planet at which to target the Arks.
Though a target was never found, the Arks that launched were sent towards a promising cluster, the Chotheth, in the hopes that somewhere in its crowded suns a new Malkari could be found. And those Arks were sent with some of the newest and most advanced developments to come out of the Age of Arks. Incredibly light and strong silicates had been developed for their superstructures. Radiant shielding had been added to augment the dense, ablative shells that encased the Arks against the vacuum and deadly stellar dust. Beam weapons and faster computer systems (COSMs) were designed to defend the crafts against larger wayward objects they might encounter in their generations of travel. In all, the Age of Arks ushered in more technological advances in two hundred passes than had been seen in the previous two millennia.
Invention was a snowball that had rolled into an avalanche. In spite of containing only thin samples of all records of Malkari history and development, the best and brightest lineages and technologies would survive.
But even the Ark solution was ultimately limited. The materials needed for their construction were difficult to mine and to transport to the launch cities and, then, orbit. Worse, seismic activity increased steadily over the decades: first, an annoyance, an occasional setback; then, a source of costly losses, large scale deaths, damaged launch centers; finally, a steady stream of wasted efforts, sunken launch foundations, and bloody tragedies. The 300 parse time limit had been corrected to 270 passes; the mathematicians and geologists adjusting that figure reserved the right to shorten it still further. Workers who could look to a distant salvation for their progeny now wondered if they would be allowed the full course of their own lives. Morale declined, work slowed, research lagged, and finally the point of diminishing returns was reached.
The last Ark of the Malkari people rumbled to the stars in 2579 GC. The billions of Malkarians who watched it go on COSMNet turned to the Ten Families and asked, “What now?”
The Age of Vaults
For a brief time, the Ten Families considered what to do with the last decades left to Malkari, how to occupy the populace, the better to distract them from their doom. It was quickly decided that the industrial complex tooled up to construct the Arks would immediately direct its energies in the opposite direction: inward instead of outward. The old idea of digging into the mantles of the Six Worlds was tabled again, but this time with the persuasive weight of more advanced tools and technologies to accomplish the task with some hope for ultimate success. The Mining Division and the Third and Fourth Families argued plausibly that if they could construct spaceworthy Arks, they could design Vaults embedded into miles of solid rock that would be automated and self-sustaining.
The announcement was made; though cheers did not ring out from the drawn mouths of the Malkarians, they did embrace the concept as presented by the GOR Technologists. Though preserving genetic and technological records in stasis did not have the sense of adventure and flair of launching your young into the great unknown of space, the Malkarians have ever been a practical and level-headed people. They bent to the task with resolve.
But, oh, how the pressures of those last passes drove people to madness, to despair, to extremes. As the first of the thousands of planned Vaults was sunk, a debate flared, then flashed into out-and-out rebellion. It all began when the sad fact was revealed that even the Vaults, if they were to have their shielding, armor, gene banks, cloning system, living areas, record data, and COSMs, must contain only a sampling of the Malkari history and science. The largest of them could not hope to hold nearly three millennia of art, growth, and progress; further, each had to be built on the assumption that it would be the only one not pulverized, so distributing stores was not worth the effort. As with the Arks, a choice again had to be made of what to preserve. The weary and worn Council of Ten declared to the people that the Vaults were only to preserve the true and original greatness of Malkari. Rather than saving every new development and half-baked technology at the cost of sections of Malkari history, only those core technologies of nucleics and heat transfer on which the Golden Order was built would be fitting to preserve. Further, the reliability of the centuries-old technology was thought to be the best asset to give to the emergent new Malkarians.
Sadly, high-ranking members of the military and Science Academy disagreed. In particular, several Admirals of the Space Navy—setup to protect trade and mining from the inevitable pirates and rogues—felt that the new and expensive silicate designs employed in the Arks and their Naval craft should at least be saved. They also argued that their cannon would protect the unsealed Vaults from random collisions certain to still be a risk even after the Vault COSMs deemed the Malkari system safe for Emergence.
Rather than humor time-consuming debate and expend critical space on unproven science, the GOR Families declared that the Admiralty’s demands, unfortunately, could not be met. The Navy’s immediate reaction was to ignore the will of the Council and place records edited by the rebellious Admirals in those Vaults on the outer planets and asteroids. When the Council of Ten discovered this practice, the offending Admiralty was asked to resign.
Only then was the madness, the wildness of the strained Malkari psyche revealed for the first time. The rebellious Admiralty did resign… and took with them almost 60% of the Navy’s ships and personnel. For three and a half centuries, the Malkari people had lived united and worked for the common good, the greater glory of the race. Now, petty personal predilections drove a wedge between the Council and its greatest Son, the Navy. Within the next parse, the renegade Admiralty formed the Blue Talon Corp, rejecting the very name of the body that created them. They cordoned off the asteroid belt, declaring that, since they were the ones who opened it for exploitation and defended it from robbery, they would decide on the contents of its hundreds of Vaults. They immediately began reprogramming the COSMs, installing different systems and genetic codecs and transcribing all records of recent scientific development—writing over volumes of ancient philosophy, creative works, and art copies in the databanks.
Such spurning of our ways was intolerable then, as now, and the Golden Order of Reason declared the Blue Talon Corp persona non grata. No Family or Academy or Division was to trade with them; no equipment or rations, no fuel or materials. The BTC stormed about for a time while scrabbling to make ends meet as they stole Vaults from the GOR throughout the asteroids. Finally, they requested leniency and forgiveness for their break, arguing that they only wished to save the latest great works of the people. When the Council ignored their pleas, they did the unthinkable. They declared war.
2583 was the darkest parse in Malkari’s long history; the GOR stood on the brink of war with the new Blue Talons. While we had the size and resources to crush them, they had the ships and speed to cripple our Vault production and possibly doom the entire race! The rebels threatened the future of all people of the Six Worlds in their knavish craving for their bright, new bangles. The GOR would hear no threats. Would not deign to respond to their suits for war.
Then the most surprising thing occurred. The threats just stopped. No reason was given, no payments were made. The BTC simply stopped their threats and began their Vaulting again. And somehow, they no longer were short on needed tools and supplies.
It took months to determine what had happened, and the revelations made by the investigating Fifth Family tore the GOR apart.
The Splinter Age
Two families on the Council of Ten, the Gordano and Luchensa, had been secretly dealing with the BTC, as had several of the Lesser Families who did not hold Council seats. When confronted with the accusations, the two mad, selfish Families seceded from the Golden Order! Their estates sealed their gates on all the worlds, their mining interests ceased digging the deep tunnels down to the Vaults, their freighters entered holding orbits around the worlds. Behind the scenes, out of view of the Council of Ten, the Seventh and Tenth Families had maneuvered into controlling interest of the ground production and shipping industries of the Malkari system. They had planned for their own special brand of preservation since shortly after the Vaults were begun and now were ready for their ultimatums to be heard.
The second rebellion produced a written work, not preserved in your COSMs because of its churlish example, called the “Declaration of Free Memory of 2582.” In it, they presumed to state that the GOR was not suited to decide on the records to be preserved; that our history was not worthy of redemption but that rather the Vaults should only preserve “the goods”: the technologies developed at the end of our history. They paralyzed Vault production on behalf of their short-sighted selfishness—or rather, they paralyzed GOR Vaulting; they claimed and modified Vaults on their own properties by the score. Further, they aided the BTC in digging still more Vaults in the belt and on the Admiralty’s grounds.
To their credit, the Rebel Families, who took the ludicrous name of the Diamond Cooperative, agreed with the Golden Order that no further energy should be wasted in new technology production or preserving unproven designs. But they still blasted rolls of history in favor of the BTC ship and weapon designs. They still allowed the BTC to steal asteroids for Vaults that would have gone to the Golden Order. For the next twenty passes, they ran their game of control and profit and rebellion, all the while playing the BTC against our Order and all of us against Diantos. Never had such selfishness been so glaringly, vulgarly displayed.
One of their own finally showed them, and the rest of the nearly insane Malkari people, the nature of rebellion and the quality of the company of thieves. One of their “Chapters” broke from them in 2602 to form an Emerald Combination, or some such. With only forty passes or so remaining to generate Vaults and get them sealed, the rest of the Malkari people jumped on the bandwagon of dissolution. The Emerald Combination lead the way for the formation of scores of Splinter Guilds. The Guild of Light, the Order of Rapid Progress, the Vaulters of Bread, the Line of Guitano: new Guilds formed almost monthly, each one with their own backwards agendas and twisted philosophies.
I wish I could tell you, our newborn, that your parent race died with dignity, but I can not. It would be a lie, and it is far too late for falsehood to help you or us. The last decades of Malkari were torn by internal strife which mirrored the fury of the daily earthquakes and weekly asteroid collisions. As thousands died in digging and mining operations every month, thousands more died in petty ground wars fought by these Splinter Guilds over one or two largish Vaults, or the ground to build just one more Vault for the Brothers of Oblivion or some other lunatics.
The death throes of Malkari were an embarrassment to all except those Families of the Golden Order who remained faithful and proud: the venerable Toreade, the wise Guillome, the steadfast Foraith, the kindly Klinsk and cautious Hortheth, all other Families true to the Order from its inception. The remaining Council of Eight struggled to hold fast to the unity of the Malkari system, but to no avail. The Fragmentation was not to be prevented, and the Vaults fell into whomever’s hands were the quickest, richest, or deadliest.
In the end, there were four major guilds and probably fifteen minor Guilds each with from ten to ten thousand Vaults. The Six Worlds became hellish and deadly. The atmospheres of planets nudged closer to Malkari began to boil off; planets pushed wide in their orbits froze and died, leaving their inhabitants struggling just to get through the days. The planets’ mantles began to buckle and warp—slowly, but fast enough to kill those riding the waves of seismic chaos. Around the system, the Vaults began to be sealed, their respective custodians deciding that they could await no further developments, could not hold out for the last news updates. As the last of the Vaults closed, those Malkarians who did not care to await their violent ends strode calmly into euthanasia rooms setup for the terminally despondent. Final communiques, such as this one, were downloaded into the Vault COSMs.
Our race died.
The Age of Awakening
Now, you are the risen ghost of the Malkari legacy. You are Awakened to reclaim what little remains of the Shattered Worlds, to gather up any and all resources that can be gleaned from the scarred rock, the thick stellar dust, and, yes, the ruined Vaults of the Order and any other Guilds. You may be our only hope: the Arks may have been lost or destroyed while you were still stored genetic codecs, the other Vaults are likely pulverized by chaotic asteroids, ices, and debris. You must use the stored designs and techniques for ship building to break free of the chuck of rock that now is your Home and expand throughout the wasteland.
When you have gained a foothold in this desolation, when you have recruited or crushed any survivors who would seek to carry on the Fragmentation that should have ended eleven thousand passes ago, only then should you set your sights to the distant stars and try to follow your parted ancestors to the New Malkari.
The Great Families are depending upon you, their child….
Chapter Designations (Families)
Family Toreade, Family Guillome, Family Foraith, Family Klinsk, Family Hortheth, Family Phortele, Family Spadzi, Family Entenada
Assault: Rhino, Rogue, Bull’s Horn
Battle Station: Cavalier, Colossus, Megathere
Battleship: Mastodon, Auroch, Dybbuk
Cheap Attacker: Stag, Buck, Boar
Construction Station: Chateau, Bailey, Donjon
Constructor: Matriarch, Sire, Dame
Cruiser: Jerid, Xebec, Trireme
Defender: Bison, Tusk, Paladin
Destroyer: Olifant, Dreadnought, Conqueror
Explorer: Harbinger, Dowser, Basilisk
Outpost: Fortalice, Warder, Sentinel
Scout: Proctor, Argus, Fowler
Supply/Repair: Koumiss, Llano, Oasis
Transport: Palanquin, Brougham, Caleche
Ultimate Station: Dragonus, Minotaur, Caudillo