Divergent Paths – the Ardell Campaign

   The Ardell setting will be using the “Mutants of Eclipse” rules. Outside of incomprehensible alien-nanite induced “mutant powers” and minor psychic abilities (Witchcraft, with no Pacts, a limited selection of advanced abilities, and some upper limits on Power), this is a fairly “hard” near-future setting; there are personal energy weapons, fusion power systems, and FTL travel – but not much else that goes beyond conventional physics.

   The laws had been laid out across the ages since the galaxy’s dawn. Each race that evolved intelligence was allowed to claim a limited number of the galaxies uninhabited worlds; those with only primitive forms of life or no life at all. Other worlds might be surveyed, but not claimed or contacted until or unless a sapient race arose and either achieved star travel – or destroyed their own civilizations and could be taken on as a client species, in which case their sponsor or sponsors might share the young species allotment of worlds if they were successful in restoring their civilization. Otherwise, each races homeworld was sacrosanct.

   Uplifted races stood or fell with their creators. Most races stabalized. Other races might pass on – either into racial senescence and death or over ill-understood thresholds and out of normal reality – and deed their worlds to others. Provisions were made for disasters such as novas, but the laws were complete enough. There had been time to address a vast array of special cases.

   Conflict between the races had proven impossible to eliminate – but it could be restricted to a transfer of rulership over colony worlds and a sharing of their resources.

   Thus there were the galactic conventions of civilized warfare and governance.

   The Sli!kang’ were adhering to the letter of the galactic conventions.

   There would be no planetary bombardment, no massacres of civilians, and no bioweapons,. Any captured spawn below the species age of rationality would be turned back over to the humans unharmed. There would be no extermination.

   Still… the “humans” were short-lived – so short-lived that a significant portion of their population was made up of their spawn. They were young enough to have focused on expanding their colonies and on upgrading the environments of their initial worlds rather then on ensuring that breaking their defenses would be impossibly expensive.

   Over the next few millennia there would be more than enough time for the long-lived Sli!kang’ to encourage emigration, to discourage their breeding, to push the holdouts into a marginal role, and to integrate “Ardell” into the Sli!Kang imperium. It had no major defenses – and such an easy addition to the Sli!Kang’ sphere of influence was not to be despised.

   No truly civilized race would have found a defense – but no civilized race (by definition, a race which had come to truly understand it’s own minds and bodies, to have reached stability, and to have mastered raising it’s spawn to fit into it’s society) would have ever needed one. No civilized race was so naive as to leave it’s colonies so open and undefended – and races that achieved star travel before they achieved true civilization were vanishingly rare. There had not been another one in two billion years.

   The nanite infusion process was a bit of elder galactic technology. A system scavenged from an ancient installation and traded across the galaxy until someone finally palmed it off on one of the younger races that didn’t know any better than to play with such things.

   Fears of “gray goo” accidents had led the government of the Federated Earth to establish the lab offworld – in fact, on Ardell. It hadn’t been a big project. The fact that they’d gotten the system cheaply had been a fairly clear indication that the galactic community wasn’t very interested in it. Still, it was rare for humanity to get unrestricted access to any super-advanced alien technology, and well worth a look.

   Even out in the galaxy, no one really understood how the system worked, or what had happened to the race that had created it (beyond vanishing) – but presumably that race had not suffered a massive lethal or crippling failure ratio in children, and a 100% lethal failure ratio in adults and non-sapient lab animals, as humans (and every other species that had tinkered with the infusion system) did.

   Well, most of the alien races to examine the device had never tried it on a child.

   Humans had never done so intentionally either. The discovery that children sometimes survived the nanite-infusion process had been an accident, when several mischievous youngsters had managed to get into the lab to see what all the fuss was about. Only seven of the eight had died…

   The lone survivor had – somehow – integrated the nanites with her own cellular structure and had acquired some remarkable healing abilities – even if they hadn’t been enough to save her friends. Abilities that human science could not yet explain. That young woman was still the occasional subject of research years later, even if relatively little had ever been learned.

   No civilized race would have risked turning their own spawn into weapons with a process that would kill most of them. It was a violation of the galactic conventions on it’s own – but humans were still so ill-organized as to have individuals who would impulsively violate the accords and their own laws without any authority to do so. People who would, and of their own free will, try incredible longshots, even at a fearful price. No truly civilized race could deny intent, and simply punish a few individuals who had exceeded their authority rather than suffer sanctions.

   One researcher stole the device – and focused it on one of the elite schools. A place where some six hundred of the brightest, most creative, most energetic – and most troublesome – children of Ardell were in class.

   Every adult there died. So did 80% of the children. One hundred and twenty-three were changed. Wildly.

   Almost half were somehow crippled – but no two emerged with the same abilities.

   The Sli!Kang’ had not expected that. Their spawn made up less than 1% of their population. They were well-taught, well-supervised, and well-controlled – and the humans were exercising almost no control at all over their newly-empowered spawn. Instead, they were allowing them to be utterly disruptive…

   An organized, logical, and civilized species was confronted with a wave of juvenile delinquency that exceeded anything they had seen in their two hundred thousand years of civilized history – and the instigator had fled with the responsible device.

   In the occupation period the Sli!Kang’ will be – at least initially – fairly tolerant. After all, they want to make sure that everything seems acceptable, and well within the conventions, if only for the benefit of the rest of the galaxy. Besides, they’ll expect the local human population to bring this mob of suddenly-and-bizarrely empowered kids under control before they become adult menaces.

   When it becomes obvious that the local humans aren’t going to do any such thing – apparently preferring to let their spawn die while their “scientists” monkey around randomly with technologies which they don’t even comprehend – it will become a race; can a group of empowered youngsters and a few crazy adults make enough trouble to either make the Sli!Kang’ give up the occupation as a bad job – or to convince them that humanity is irrational enough to make sharing a world with them far more trouble than it’s worth in the long run – before they’re killed? The Sli!Kang’ will be operating under restraints – going all out after some misbehaving underage spawn would make them look pretty bad – but the conventions only offer a limited amount of protection to spawn who insist on making serious trouble.

   Later on, you’ll have a limited group of super-beings running around an early interstellar setting. Quite a few may wind up being pushed into governmental service, exploration teams, or special-operations (or mercenary) groups, others may become “super-villains”, while others may evolve in strange and monstrous ways – or perhaps become conduits for some forgotten elder race.

   Mutants Templates (at various ECL modifiers)

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