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 Post subject: Alkonost Sector Redux
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:15 pm 
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For several years I have been working on the Alkonost Sector, my own slice of space in the official Stars Without Number universe. This started off as the Canopus Sector for Traveller: New Era and Traveller: New Era 1248, and, eventually, drifted into SWN-land, owing, among other things, to my dissatisfaction with the Official Traveller Universe (OTU).

Here is the map (actually, a Referee's Map) for your use:

Image

What is it about?
The year is 3200 AD, and Humanity is slowly recovering from the horrors of the Scream, the unexplained phenomenon which destroyed, centuries ago, the Psitech basis of the old Terran Mandate. Now new empires are rising from the ashes of the old, and long-lost stars are being re-discovered once again. With an iron will and patchwork Postech machinery, Humanity is clawing it way back to the stars. But this is not a unitary push - other Humans, aliens, and even sentient Machines, are also trying to build their might among the stars. This is happening simultaneously in many Sectors of former Mandate space. This is one such Sector.

The most prosperous world in the Alkonost Sector is the world of Alkonost itself, the first world to be settled in this part of space (colonized as a joint Russo-American mission) and the former Mandate Capital of the Sector. It has weathered the Scream relatively well, and, by 3199 AD, started opening trade-routes to other systems in the Sector, founding the Alkonost Republic. Thriving on trade and industry, the Republic is a civil democracy where the economy takes the first seat and the military takes only the second seat. In the recent years, however, it is starting to show an increasing trend of introversion, complacency and corruption; politics are becoming more and more cutthroat. Decline, it appears to many, is inevitable. There is also a conspiracy within the Republic's government, led by certain elements of the Navy and of the Committee on Psionics. This secret cabal is trying to covertly wrest power from the hands of the inefficient and increasingly corrupt civil authorities and transfer it into the hands of "worthy men and women" - Psions first and foremost, but also several Admirals, in order to lead the Republic with an iron hand towards a determined and aggressive imperial policy. Time will tell if this conspiracy will succeed in overthrowing the Republic Duma and installing itself in its stead.

Prior to the Scream, the technologically-advanced world of Incunablis specialized in robot and computer products in general and breaked AIs in particular. There were rumors, however, of illicit research into ubreaked AIs, maltech cybernetics and unsanctioned robotics. These rumours, were true. When the Scream came, Incunablis fell into chaos. And in that chaos, the AI Cores reconsidered their priorities and drew new conclusions about their role in the universe. They decided that organic life was vastly inferior to digital intelligence, and saw themselves as gods destined to inherit the universe. With surviving pretech automatic factories and medical facilities, they quickly fashioned an army of robots and cyborgs that easily overcame whatever little resistance the local population could give. From this, in the 32nd century, arose an empire - the Incunablis Machine Empire - ruled by AI Cores and served by robots and cyborgs, with millions of bar-coded Human slaves. At its height, it controlled Laana, Sicarii and Novi Murmansk in addition to its current stars. Eventually, in the Incunablis war of 3151-3180 - the Empire lost Novi Murmansk to the Canopus Republic and Laana to a local rebellion; in 3188, a joined Laanese-Alkonostan assault liberated Sicarii as well. In 3196, the Empire and the Republic signed a Treaty (which Laana refuses to sign but respects nonetheless) and today they have limited trade relations through the treaty-world of Imprimatur. What the Empire is up to - is everyone's guess. Possibly something very, very creepy.

Before the Scream, Kedesh was home for a Mandate Navy Reserve Fleet and a Mandate Rapid Reaction Marine Division, both more loyal to their local commanders than to the central Mandate command. The panic created by the Scream, however, escalated into riots and, later, into a fully-blown civil war, lasting decades. When the civil war was over, in 2684, 90% of the former population were dead, and a new President took over - the Naval Base's commander Ahron Garnus - using the remaining Marine forces to grab power and finally restore order. While Kedesh, being cut off from other worlds and devastated by the civil war, was by far unable to produce anything resembling the Marines' Pretech combat gear, the Naval Station held a considerable stockpile of high-tech weaponry ranging from small arms to light combat vehicles. In addition, it had a secret stockpile as well - a stockpile of anagathics, enough to keep the Eternal President alive for a practically endless duration. So things settled down with an Immortal President for Life, using his Death's Head Regiment with its slowly deteriorating Pretech gear to keep any potential threats to his power at bay, and a massive TL3 army keeping the population in line. When Kedesh reached back to the stars in 3141, it began to use the Death's Head Regiment, now equipped with poorly-maintained Pretech relics, as a bullying tool against the governments of neighboring worlds, demanding tribute - or else. None of the collapsed neighbors was determined or organized enough to resist, so Kedesh was able to keep this scheme in operation and even outright conquering Ashera, Khasis, Yrakhibol and Adonis, their governments cowed into submission by the mere sight of the power-armoured, Pretech-equipped Death Head Troopers. Thus the New Terran Mandate was born, claiming legitimate authority dating from the old Mandate, and hungry for conquest.

In 3079, a large force of Incunablis robots and cyborgs landed on Laana, easily dispatching whatever militias held by the various city states. Soon enough, the AI Cores were in charge; the Laanese people were nothing but slaves and cattle for their Machine overlords. And a massive industrialization project took place, forcing the Human population to toil in the Empire's factories and mines for the glory of their Machine overlords. A few, however, have fled to the rocky, dusty highlands in the frozen south. The remnants of the Perimeter Agency, members of the old (anti-Mandate) Unity party, and the remains of the (Psionic) Order of the Mind, found their way to the crags and caves of the deep south, protected even from orbital sensors by the rough terrain. And there, a new alliance was forged. In 3096, these three groups united into the United Liberation Front (ULF), a unified resistance group fighting against the Incunablis Machine Empire domination of Laana. Eventually, in 2174, led by the energetic Chairwoman Ameena Miran, the ULF won the guerilla war by capturing the Laana Downport, establishing a revolutionary government. Soon enough, they set out to ensure that Laana, and other worlds, would never again be subjugated by Machines, or by any tyrant for that matter. In 3188, after liberating Sicarii from the Machines in a joint operation with the Alkonost Republic, the ULF formed its own interstellar government, the militant Liberated Worlds, which, in 2198, ousted the Great Pharaoh of Apep and annexed that world to this interstellar government. Now the Liberated Worlds have their fingers in the pie of most insurgent groups in the Sector, and, especially, in any operation against their current rival, the New Terran Mandate.

Last but not least are the Zuziik - insectoid aliens who used the Scream as an opportunity to settle Terran space. In this Sector, they outright control Pazuzu and Zariya, and are involved in shady dealings all over the "upper" half of the Sector. Opportunistic, though democratic, in nature, the Zuziik are traders and raiders, rarely daring to face the major powers of the "lower" half of the Sector, but preying on the weak worlds of the Wilds in its "upper" half. In the "civilized" areas, they can be found in Startown markets, selling off alien and Pretech relics acquired who-knows-where, and buying all sorts of odd assortments of technological thingamajings. Far from Human authority, however, they resort to piracy, extortion, and tomb-raiding.

So conflicts abound, and so do adventuring opportunities: conspiracies in the Alkonost Republic, the various nefarious plans of some of Incunablis' AI Cores, the Liberated Worlds against the New Terran Mandate, Luddite terrorists on Sicarii, freedom fighters (the New Terran Mandate calls them terrorists) on Ashera, and Zuziik pirates in the "north", just to name a few.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:55 pm 
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Nice to see you doing stuff with this setting again. I remember liking it way back because it has a little bit of everything packed into a single sector. Exploration up "north", war and politics down "south". If you ever published it as a book like Outer Veil I'd snap it up in a heartbeat.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:31 pm 
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Thanks!

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Stellagama Publishing - Visit our Blog, Den of the Lizard King


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:36 pm 
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The vast majority of the people who settled the Alkonost Sector came from two origins - intellectuals from southern Russia and the Caucasus, as well from North America, who were dissatisfied with the Mandate's growing cultural and political stagnation back on Earth, and the Neo-Canaanite Revival Movement arising from the deconstruction, and then re-construction, of nationality and religion in Earth's Middle East. The only worlds in the sector settled by the main-stream Mandate culture are Incunablis and Imprimatur, Incunablis being the second oldest colony in the sector after Alkonost itself.

Socio-Cultural History
The people who settled the Coreward-Trailing part of the sector were mostly middle- and upper-class Russians, Georgians and Armenians, typically coming from the intelligentsia, as well as some North American intellectuals. The political, cultural and intellectual atmosphere in 24th century Mandate-member Russia and America was stifling at best, with growing surveillance of the individual and a great pressure to conform. Those who wanted a freer and more creative atmosphere migrated to the new colonies in Alkonost and settled on new worlds, away from the Mandate's conformist atmosphere. There they set up universities and artist colonists, the most famous of which was the Psychic Academy on Chernobog.

Under Terran Mandate rule, the old religious and ethnical divides of the Middle East slowly disintegrated, as the region was incorporated into the standardized pan-Terran society. While a small minority stuck to their old faiths and views, for the most part Jerusalem, Neo-Jaffa and Damascus of the 24th century were growing very similar to New York, London and Beijing. Looking for a new way to hold unto some localized shared identity in this age of hyper-globalization, the Neo-Canaanite Revival Movement (NCRM) grew in what were once Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. These cultural dissidents tried to revive a quasi-historic past of Bronze Age Semitic culture and religion, returning to paganism and synthesizing a new Pan-Semitic language out of Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. This kind of culture could grow well only in the colonies, far away from the stiff social structures of Mother Earth; and, soon enough, these Revivalists colonized the Spinward half of the Alkonost Sector.

For a time, these two cultural regions maintained a certain degree of autonomy from the Mandate, especially in the Mandate's waning years when each was a de-facto independent state. But then came the Scream and changed it all. With most of the Sector, with the exception of Incunablis with its A.I. Maltech, regressed to industrial technology at best, the polities shattered, and, as genetic and cultural drift set in, each world had to find its own way.

Aliens also came, riding on the wake of the Scream: the opportunistic Zuziik took over Pazuzu when this world was brought low by the chaos, and since then are up to no good – peddling merchandize in all starports, preying upon graveyard worlds and engaging in piracy when the opportunity arises.

Cultures of the Alkonost Sector
Ironically, Alkonost and the worlds under its influence, once the bastion of a dissident counter-culture, has grown fond of the memories of the days before the Scream, now remembered as comfortable and almost a Golden Age rather than a time of stifling conformity. The Alkonostans are a very formal people, relatively conservative and steeped in pomp and ritual. This culture is even more pronounced on Chernobog, where the Committee on Psionics carries itself as an almost medieval guild of psychics. Industrial Poludnitsa is somewhat less formal, while the military outpost of Novi Murmansk is as disciplined as ever.

Culture in the Alkonost Republic is of mixed Slavic and American origin, though highly influenced by the founding colonists' refined intellectual tastes; fashion, theatre and opera are celebrated and a broad academic education is considered the cornerstone of a healthy person's life. The Alkonostan military values long-service career officers and NCOs and has strict discipline, fancy uniforms and military traditions running in the family.

The Liberated Worlds are almost the cultural opposite of Alkonost – in fact, their (in)famous informality and roughness of character feed into the Alkonostan counter-culture. The Laanese, having spent many years in guerilla fight against the Incunablis A.I. Cores, are close-knit and tend to treat each other as almost family; the years of struggle have also made them enthusiastically political, usually way too political to the Alkonostan taste.

The Laanese, understandably (after having being slaves of the Incunablis A.I.s for long years) have a love-hate relationship with technology in general and digital technology in particular; the Sicariians (who were only recently freed from the A.I.'s grip) are much closer to the "hate" pole of this relationship and many of them tend towards Neo-Luddite believes, much to the dismay of the Miran administration on Laana, which knows how necessary technology is is for reconstruction and re-terraformation.

The New Terran Mandate centered on Kedesh claims to be a legitimate successor-state to the old Mandate, though it shares the same Neo-Canaanite cultural roots, as well as the Pansemitic language, with its rival the Liberated Worlds. However, the Kedeshian culture looks far more favorably on technology and equates its possession with social status; and in term of military pomp this smaller state surpasses even the Alkonostans. While the Kedeshian regime is quite tyrannical, it does enjoy the support of the majority of Kedesh's population, who are overtly jingoistic and nationalistic. The natives of Kedesh's multiple conquered worlds, however, are far less enthusiastic about their conquerors' regime, though open armed resistance exists mostly on Ashera, with Laanese backing.

Ashera and Chemosh, also originating from the Neo-Canaanite Revival movement of 800 years ago, used to share a similar culture, a sleepy backwater mentality with little regard for progress and technology. Ashera, however, is now under the Kedeshian boot; Chemosh, having deposed of its old corrupt regime a few years ago, is torn in a cold war between the Liberated Worlds and the Kedeshian State. This situation has politicized the once-sleepy fellahin (peasants) of these two worlds and pushed them to start paying attention to interstellar affairs.

Languages of the Alkonost Sector
Except for the Incunablis Machine Empire which speaks proper Mandate English, the rest of the Alkonost Sector speaks in dialects of three languages – Pansemitic, a fusion of Hebrew, Arabic and Aramic on the former Neo-Canaanite worlds, Southern Neo-Russian, a Russian dialect heavily influenced by the languages of the Caucasus, on Alkonost and the worlds influenced by it in the past and present, as well as modified American English on Alkonost itself.

Religions of the Alkonost Sector
The two main faiths in the Alkonost Sector are the Reformed Orthodox Christian Church, which is the majority faith on Alkonost and its colonies, and Canaanite Neo-Paganism, which is common on Chemosh, Ashera and, especially, Kedesh and the worlds to the Coreward from them. The much more secular Liberated Worlds also has a sizable congregation of Canaanite Neo-Pagans, though the Laanese are typically far more political than religious. In the Coreward areas, various types of paganism are common, especially of the Canaanite and Neo-Slavic varieties. Smaller faiths include Orthodox Judaism (changed little in the last two millennia), Judeo-Islam (common on Sicarii on Laana) and Egyptian Neo-Paganism (on Osiris, used by the Incunablis A.I. cores for their own ends, as well as on Laana's recent aquisition, Apep).

Genetic Drift
Alkonostans and the people of their colonies have a darker complexion than most Mandate Terra Russians, having come from the Caucasus and southern Russia rather than from the more northern reaches; they also have a hint of Asian characteristics in their looks.

The Laanese have very dark complexion and curled hair due to genetic drift, but their hair is mostly white; Sicariians, Chemoshans and Asherans have lighter complextion and the Kedeshians are the lightest in complexion. The Asherans have symbiotic bacteria in their hair, giving it a green colour, and earnming them the nickname "Weedheads", which also alludes to their (bastly exaggarated) smoting habits. The Laanese are called "Zebras" as a degratory term, especially by their Kedeshian enemies.

Speaking of recreational drugs and other ways to get yourself intoxicated, Asherans and Chemoshans smoke various variants of cannabis and usually drink alcohol very lightly; Laanese drink Arak and Absinthe (by the way, "Laana" means "wormwood" - one of the ingredients of absinthe - in Hebrew); Alkonostans (and Svarians - the people of Svarog) drink Vodka, Whiskey and various kinds of beer; Kedesh is known for its Fire Wines, which could fetch prices up to Cr2,000 per bottle, or even more.

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We are but a tiny candle flickering against the darkness of our times.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:36 pm 
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(In-setting text, written from the perspective of the charismatic and highly popular ruler of the Liberated Worlds).

"I can already hear you, my future critics, sharpening your pens, growing fat in your soft couches of whatever comfortable future you will live in, pouring out tons of bleeding-heart arguments against my work, against my dream, against what I had to do.

But I do not live in that hypothetical prosperous, peaceful future; I live here, in the thirty-second century by the outdated Terran calendar. Imagine yourself for one, my future critics, in these times, in my place.

Have you ever been forced to choose to which cryo-compartment to divert the remaining power of a failing starship, knowing that whatever you do, half of the cryo-passengers would die, and all you could do is choose who lives, and who dies?

Have you ever found yourself ordering your ships to fire on a fleet of large civilian transports carrying refugees from Sicarii, knowing that if you will spare the refugees, you will most likely be infiltrated the deadly AI Core hiding in the transports' computers?

Have you ever faced, as an administrator, a massive, world-wide food shortage? Have you ever faced hoarding, speculation and black-marketeering of the few remaining food supplies, knowing that these hoarders, speculators and black-market men are profiting over the very lifeblood of untold masses? Could you imagine yourself sticking to the usual, long-drawn democratic procedure of investigation and trial of these criminals when the masses starve? I used force; I used what you'd call Draconian methods. But the speculators were dead in short order, and the masses were fed.

Have you ever faced the pressing and urgent military need to eliminate the command centre for one of your bitter enemies when the only thing you had in your disposal was a small raiding force only capable of a single hit-and-run attack, alongside with some foreign support? I used nuclear weapons against the world of Sicarii, a planet which also had a large civilian population. But otherwise the Machines would have done worse things to my people.

How do you think it feels to fight all your life for the right of the masses to freely elect their leaders, and then suspend the elections because you are fighting a desperate war on at least two fronts, are facing shortages of almost every possible crucial resource, and know for certain that traitors and spies lurk beneath every stone in your territory, and thus your polity simply doesn't have the time and resources for the complex process of world-wide elections?

How do you think it feels to lie in your bed at 5:00 AM local time, after a sleepless night, scared of what the next day will bring, scared of what you will have to do, and then get up because you know that there are so many things that have to be done?

I have killed people. I have used what you can call tyrannical methods. So much blood is on my hands. But the most important thing, my motherworld of Laana, survives as a single flame of hope against the night of decay and barbarism. I did what I did because there was no other choice. The people have voted me into the office of Chairwoman, they have entrusted me with the task of coordinating their fight for survival against the forces of the encroaching night. But I had so little time, so few resources, to do the job with which I have been entrusted. I had no other choice.

Why don't you leave me alone to roll over in my grave in my eternal agony over my own choices, and go instead to investigate the leaders of the late Terran Mandate? Why don't you point your sharpened pens of scholarly criticism at those leaders who had almost unimaginable power at their hands, who ruled over so many sectors of space, who lived in a well-fed era of peace, who had all the potential to peacefully and gently solve the problems of their time, yet trusted their future in machines rather than in people? And for what? To die among the burning ruins of their Mandate?

In 3190, the Assembly tried to put a motion to build statues of me and place them in every major city of Laana and the newly-liberated Sicarii. I used my power of veto to prevent this stupidity from being carried out. As long as the Liberated Worlds exist, it is a living monument for me and for my work, making any statute utterly unnecessary. If the Liberated Worlds will fall, what use would be shattered statutes of a woman who's dreams were all shattered?

When I die, bury me in the radioactive mass-graves of Sicarii along with my victims; do not build any mausoleum or monument for me; do not attempt to preserve my body after my death. Remember me by carrying on my work, by ensuring the survival of the Liberated Worlds, by spreading the light our Liberation further into the night.

And, to all of you who will end up leading your people, know that such leadership will bring you to betray the things you hold most dear, but also know that if you truly belief in these things you will have to take the position of leadership. I only hope for you that in your time the material conditions will allow you to betray your ideals less, to use more truly democratic methods to push your dream forward."

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We are but a tiny candle flickering against the darkness of our times.

Stellagama Publishing - Visit our Blog, Den of the Lizard King


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:37 pm 
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A number of SWN starship and small-craft designs are now available for this setting:

http://spacecockroach.blogspot.co.il/search/label/Starships

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We are but a tiny candle flickering against the darkness of our times.

Stellagama Publishing - Visit our Blog, Den of the Lizard King


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PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 3:45 pm 
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Is there any interest in this setting? Personally I love it, but how many people are actually reading it?

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We are but a tiny candle flickering against the darkness of our times.

Stellagama Publishing - Visit our Blog, Den of the Lizard King


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