This emerged as a sketch for a vision of future events for a campaign on WIP list. I decided to replace the event for that timeline with a randomly chosen glimpses into post-Capella campaigns from across the community – you know, as a tribute to the work put out by the community.
Since I actually have no interest in putting in the work to realize this sketch, I see no harm done in putting it out here. Also, you know, it’s hard to not see the set-up as totally derivative of other projects.
It has been 19 years since the Shivans destroyed the Capella Star(s). With the supernova remnant an effective barrier between the GTVA and the Shivans, the gaze of the Terran and Vasudan species turned inwards.
As a lesson learned from the NTF Rebellion, the GTVA was reformed – allowing individual systems and colonies to form smaller federations under the umbrella of the GTVA.
On the Terran-side this has led to creation of the Polaris Union, which has revived the humanistic spirit of the Terra Nova-movement, which had been decried has a precursor to the NTF. Indeed the Union is struggling mightily to cast off the shadow of the NTF, trying to cultivate an ideal of a Terran civilisation no longer reliant on Earth. As the Union’s most prominent minds would put it: “Without Earth we are free for a new beginning.”
On the Vasudan-side, tensions over the Imperial hegemony have finally come to surface. With the illness and death of Konsu II seven years ago, the central integrating figurehead for the Vasudan people was lost. Now non-Imperial populations across Vasudan colonies are fearing for their cultural identities, that the Imperials in their dominance might complete what the Shivans have started.
Meanwhile, the terran, non-Union worlds have poured their resources into building a jump gate to Sol. However after seventeen years of planning, research and construction, they were most disappointed with the result.
Sol did not welcome its lost children with open arms – the returning exiles found their paradise a well-armed fortress and its guards highly suspicious of the new arrivals. After the portal was opened the Solar Federation lost no time in forcing the GTVA to return to Delta Serpentis and declaring all travel through the jump node an act of war, unless it was sanctioned by the Federation.
In their nearly five decades of isolation, the Federation had become highly suspicious of what might eventually come to them if intersystem travel was restored. And even with all those scenarios to play through, the GTVA was a disappointment to them as well. From the view of the Federation leadership, the terrans from the other side of the node are a horde of paupers – "devoid of their own culture, identity and achievements"; "to sum it up, and unworthy branch in genealogy of human civilisation". In another quote: “Nothing beyond the Heliopause is worth the health and sanity of one Federation sailor.” Meanwhile, if they were not this well-armed, some members of the Federation Admiralty can be heard musing, one might consider a campaign to “educate these savages”.
But where the Federation leadership is arrogant and distant, the civilians on Earth, Venus and the Jovians hardly care for the “Imperial mandate” of Federation propaganda. The possibility of interstellar travel has inflamed the imagination of many. By opening the jump gate, the GTVA has managed to undermine the Federations ideology of “splendid isolation”. The slogan “Even golden cage is a prison” is starting to appear more and more across Sol. And in defiance of the Federation’s foreign policy, a vibrant semi-legal exchange between civilians on both sides of the Node has emerged: through pirate subspace communications and thanks to people smuggling materials on diplomatic vessels, both sides seek to satisfy their longing for which they have been deprived.
Now, Federation and the GTVA have managed to finally agree on terms for regular exchanges between both sides.
Part I – “Idle Hands…”
“I have been in the service for twenty-five years now. I have been in engagements with the NTF and the Shivans. But nothing I ever did was as stressfully as dealing with those damn Federation tourists.”
- CO of the GTCv Monitor
It has been several months since the Federation and GTVA have agreed on conditions under which Federation citizens may visit GTVA worlds. Since then thousands of Federation citizens have taken the opportunity to be tourists “out on the frontier”. Although most of them travel via commercial craft and that way stick to pre-planned, easy to monitor routes, there are also a number of these tourists that prefer to roam freely through allied systems. Most of them are only nuisances to the GTVA and Union forces, as they have to escort them out of restricted space or on occasion rescue ships in distress. But there are also those who fancy themselves modern-day treasure hunters and truth seekers, chasing every tall tale that can be overheard in a pilots’ bar.
One of these groups kicks off a crisis as GTVA task forces arrests them in Union space, with no clear intentions of letting them go. The situation quickly devolves as the Federation dispatches a rapid response force to free their citizens and Union mobilizes its own forces to in order to save face before the Federation.
To diffuse the situation the GTVA is forced to reveal the reasons behind their actions – and as they do they have de-classify a matter which had been a well-kept state-secret for nineteen years: Using the ETAK-technology the GTVA had been able to tap into and monitor the Shivan communications network for the entire Orion-arm. For almost two decades, the GTVI had a live feed on Shivan fleet movements and jump routes – keeping a keen eyed vigil to prevent the any further Shivan invasion before it even could begin.
Part II – “The pull to action”
“You should have seen the looks on the faces of the Federation and Union brass when Richter revealed the scope of Panopticon. If one of them had fainted it would have been perfect.”
- Anonymous, possibly a GTVI analyst
As the GTVI revealed Panopticon, their complete and live surveillance of Shivan forces in the Orion arm, through their own communications network, it send shockwaves through all levels of GTVA and Federation society. Since the Great War, the threat that the Shivans might reappear without warning had been a constant presence. Some might argue that it was the golden thread by which held the GTVA together, and a fig leaf for the hegemony of the military. It certainly had been an iron curtain preventing more hard-line elements of the Federation to push for conquest.
But what was to come next? – The Shivan threat was essentially contained, now that there would always be ample time to warn and prepare. While precise intelligence of the tactical capabilities of the Shivan battlegroups and ships might still be elude the GTVI while observing from a far, it was no an insurmountable obstacle anymore.
Through backchannel communications, the GTVA quickly had to learn that they had made in mistake with revealing Panopticon. While in the short term diffusing the volatile relationship with the Federation, the mere existence of Panopticon was water on the mills of the hardliners in the Federation government. For them Panopticon was too valuable an asset to not be in Federation hands, even more so as the GTVA was very tight-lipped with regards to the technical details and unwilling to share.
On top of that, the Union governments, which had to learn about Panopticon at the same time as the Federation delegates, were outraged. Accusing the GTVA of acting on lingering resent over the NTF Rebellion, the Union raised the spectre of breaking ties with the GTVA.
But the blow that brought the GTVA strategy down came from within: As news of Panopticon hit the public, among the Vasudans a quite unexpected movement gained momentum – one that rallied to a call for vengeance. For fifty years, the inability of mount a counter-offensive against the Shivans had stifled any through of a campaign to retaliate for destruction of Vasuda Prime. But with Panopticon, the GTVA was no longer at the mercy of the Shivans and a strike could be planned and executed.
Part III – “Outbound”
“Command always picks the biggest, meanest horse to ride. All you can hope for is that they know they did.”
- Anonymous, possibly a GTVA officer
While dealing with the crisis of their own making, a report reached GTVA Command: For months the analysts working Panopticon had been monitoring an unusual pattern in Shivan fleet movements – Shivan forces were gradually converging on a system in relative galactic neighbourhood of the GTVA. On top of that the some ships which arrived at said location were disappearing with no indication were they had been going.
A more invasive application of ETAK would provide additional information but also possibly compromise Panopticon’s access.
Risking Panopticon was out of the question, now that knowledge about it was in the public domain. However a different course of action would provide a solution to the crisis with the Federation, the Union and the Vasudan Dissenters at the same time, a GTVI delegate argued: A joint expedition, as both a sign of cooperation and a test to lower the high expectations into Panopticon as an offensive tool.
In the Federation, the Moderates leapt at the chance for a joint mission with the GTVA – under the motto “what belongs together, comes together”. The Hardliners on the other hand, raised no objections, mostly because testing a Federation detachment in combat was considered an assets on its own. The lead ship of their detachment would be the frigate Athens.
The Union was more hesitant. Mostly because as mark differentiation the Union had minimized military spending (also a sign to the Vasudans), their forces were underequipped and facing logistical problems. But the fear of being on the outside during this defining endeavour eventually helped to form a pro-joint operation coalition. The union detachment would be commanded the destroyer Oberon.
The Vasudans would be providing the largest detachment. The crusade for vengeance had become at pet cause for the non-Imperial Vasudans and putting strain on the pan-Vasudan coalition. As a result, both an Imperial, aboard the GVD Ptolemy, and a non-Imperial commander, aboard the GVD Siwa, were selected.
The GTVA provided its own GTD Excalibur as well as an intelligence detachment lead by the GTCv Noir, commanded by Admiral Richter.
Together, the fleet departed through jump nodes revealed through the use of Panopticon.
But their departure did not escape notice. Somewhere far away the Coryphaeus watched their departure on a surveillance feed that would have made creators of the Panopticon green with envy.
Part IV – “No Man’s Space”
“It never rains on Concordia.”
- Solar Federation idiom, used to a express an unexpected problem
The joint expedition was under way for nearly a month until it first saw signs of Shivan forces, thanks to the advance warning provided by Panopticon. But these Shivans were not acting like any other Shivan force encountered: They were making haste towards the same destination as the joint expedition – ignoring the allied ship unless provoked and even then only engaging for as long as required to make the next jump.
As they approached their target the JE began to encounter more signs that something of urgency was going on – Shivan ships that had been abandoned “by the wayside” if they could not keep pace with the rest of the fleet as well as massive convoys loaded with arms and supplies. All evidence pointed towards a war effort.
At their destination the picture suddenly turned as JE forces lost contact with one the Shivan battle groups they had been tracking through Panopticon. As scouts investigated the scene, they encountered what they didn’t expect: Towering over the wreckage of a Ravana class-destroyer was that of an unknown alien battleship. One that easily outclassed every ship in the JE.
The Shivan ships had not been disappearing to parts unknown, the Shivans were fighting a war – and apparently the tide of battle swung both ways.
Until Command back home could be consulted on the news, the JE limited its operations to reconnaissance and tried to stay out of sight.
Part V – “The Anchor” (possible SOC loop)
“When they told us which system was heart of Shivan operations, we should have run right in opposite direction.”
- Anonymous, possibly a Solar Federation Pilot
While waiting for confirmation from Command, the GTVI made an excursion deep into Shivan controlled space. Evaluation of the data from Panopticon suggested that Shivan were defending something near system’s star. And that is where Admiral Richter ordered a selected cadre of pilots to go.
The mission would turn into a disaster: Of twelve scouts send to find whatever the Shivans were guarding, none returned. The last scout was able to transmit an image of a massive space station, orbiting the star and apparently draining plasma directly from the star.
A second scouting party fared no better, but this time the final pilot was spared by the Shivans. Instead the pilot was contacted by someone speaking in a human voice: “Tell your commanders, that the Anchor must not concern them. But if they want to step into a hell of their own design, they are welcome to try.”
Part VI – “Intervention”
“The GTVA and the Solar Federation recognize the Voc’quir Dominion as an ally in our defence against the Shivan Threat.”
- Communique by GTVA Command
After salvaging debris from those alien ships that were engaged with Shivans, begins to learn about the enemies of the Shivans – they are a species called the Voc’quir. And their core worlds occupy a nearby segment of Orion arm. While their motivations remain unclear, the JE assumes the Shivans to be the aggressors in this conflict. In a second communique to Command they relay their findings and subsequent conclusions.
As a response, Command authorizes the JE to make contact with the Voc’quir and to intervene in the conflict on their side.
Following up on the reconnaissance the JE transitions into a nearby system where the Voc’quir are fighting a losing battle against the Shivans. Attacking the Shivan fleet from behind, the JE is able to disrupt their supply line and eliminate the Shivans reserves.
However the final engagement over the Voc’quir positions takes an expected turn:
As the Shivans are defeated and the JE extends diplomatic overtures, the Voc’quir launch an attack of their own – cornering the Excalibur and Ptolemy in orbit of planet, while the Oberon and Siwa both are attacked and boarded.
As it turns out the Voc’quir are indiscriminate xenophobes – and were the aggressors against the Shivans in this conflict. Fuelled by religious fervour that their gods reside in the stars of nearby systems, Voc’quir have been trying to “purge” what they consider holy sites. And JE is equally trespassing.
The Athens is able to launch a daring rescue op for the Ptolemy and the Excalibur, but even with the help of these ships they cannot prevent the crews of the Oberon and Siwa being abducted.
Part VII – “No man left behind”
“You want to know what a Voc’quir solider looks like? – Like a giant cyborg shrimp. And they are a hundred times meaner than the image is funny.”
- Anonymous JE marine
Following the tragic misjudgement with regards to the Voc’quir, the JE puts its depleted resources to the task of rescuing the crews abducted from the Oberon and Siwa. A task which made considerably more difficult by having to operate all ships without a full compliment.
Because the Oberon and Siwa, being a Hecate and Hatshepsut respectively, are less advanced than the Excalibur and the Ptolemy it decided to use these ships as fall-back positions, and ready them for the immediate retreat to allied space.
With the more mobile Athens and Noir scouting ahead, the Excalibur and the Ptolemy begin tracking the Voc’quir ships that are carrying the prisoners from Siwa and the Oberon. The first Voc’quir capital ship they manage to intercept already poses a considerable challenge due to the restraint the JE have to exercise in order to not jeopardize the lives of the prisoners.
In the end, the enemy capital ship is disabled and boarded but the Voc’quir put a considerable fight, delaying the Excalibur and Ptolemy long enough for Voc’quir reinforcements to arrive. With abandoning the prisoners to their fate a non-option, the two JE destroyers are once again cornered and trading blows. However this time the exhaustion of ship and crew shows clearly and Voc’quir manage to close in aggressively.
Just in-time however the Oberon appears at the back of the Voc’quir attack. The distraction is enough to cause disarray in the Voc’quir ranks for just enough time so the Excalibur and the Ptolemy can jump to safety without exposing themselves to the Voc’quir.
Upon their return to normal space, the second Voc’quir capital ship that has taken on prisoners jumps into nearby space. In an expression of utter contempt for the JE, that ship jettisons all prisoners into space and warps out.
Part VIII – “Censure” (possible SOC loop)
“Saving you from yourself is turning into a distraction.”
- The Coryphaeus, true identity unknown
While the rest of JE consolidates for the long trip home, aboard the GTCv Noir options are being considered in order to at least strike the “complete” out of “complete failure”. Quickly the idea is hatched to acquire Voc’quir technology from one of the more intact derelicts, in the hope that Voc’quir technology could improve the fortunes of the GTVA in any future confrontation.
The salvage operation hits an obstacle – upon arriving at the designated derelict, they find the Athens trying the same thing. As the Federation and Alliance warships face-off, they become targets of roaming Shivan fighters and bombers.
Just as it seem that the Shivan would overwhelm both ships, the attack stops and Shivans freeze in place. A familiar voice makes herself known: “I wonder if you are deliberately testing my patience with you. Saving you from yourself is turning into a distraction.”
After that as one, the remaining Shivans depart.
Part IX – “The Long Road Home”
With the half of the abducted crews rescued, the JE set out to return home – beaten and bruised as they are.
During the return trip they are however “swimming against the stream” of Shivans making for the Anchor, and the both ships and crews are seriously exhausted, making the trip home much more difficult.
As they arrive back in Allied Space, they are greeted by an honour guard of Allied Ships. But the celebration feels terribly hollow considering the lives lost and the JE basically ammounting to nothing other than all participants having failed together.
I guess you can all see the biggest issues with this:
- A lot of the background story points go nowhere in particular.
- The Voc'quir are one-dimensional.
- And there is no real reason for them to be something new. They could easily be replaced with some kind of estanged Terran or Vasudan colony if the timeline allowed for something like that; or Ancients survivors if you rearrange the motivation.
- The story actually starts way more interestingly than it ends.