The year is 2397.
Humanity has been expanding through the stars ever since the hyperdimensional link was discovered (it was the Ke’ea who helped humanity build their own link-capable ships) Earth has just finished fighting a rather unusual war against the Zruthy, an unusual robotic lifeform that owns an empire much larger than Earth’s territorial domain.
The Earth-Zruthy war was characterized by the Zruthy trying to draw the limited Earth forces into a huge battle and defeat them by sheer numbers. Thus they tended to make their large carriers extremely visible and vulnerable to hit-and-run attacks. Earth’s destroyers would sneak up broadside protected by the new Jaguar-class medium carriers.
Earth destroyed three of the Zruthy heavy carriers for a loss of twelve destroyers, one light carrier and a heavily damaged Jaguar-class carrier. It was obvious to most that Earth could not keep up this level of destruction, and in fact an Earth ambassador (Dr. Keila Elbethian—a sweet young woman who negotiated an extremely fair settlement with the assistance of a group of equally brilliant young diplomats) was sent to try and arrange a peace settlement.
The Zruthy were impressed by Dr. Elbethian and their view of Humanity went from a bunch of upstart tech-thieves to a competent young race that is on equal footing with themselves. Thus the war was won diplomatically and not militarily. The Zruthy formed military and economic alliances with Earth and entered a technology-sharing agreement.
Earth benefited greatly from this agreement, and with new production technology start construction on a new line of heavy carriers (The Pegasus line) The Zruthy benefit less from the agreement but are seen to be building up a huge military. Many observers think that the Zruthy are merely waiting until they have a large enough fleet before they start another war against Earth. Tensions are growing between the two races. The Ke’ea have become less friendly with Earth. Many feel an all out war may be inevitable.
This is where the story begins.
HISTORY OF THE ZRUTHY
The Zruthy homeworld is mostly aquatic with one largish, roughly star-shaped land mass near the equator, and four or five other land masses of about two-thirds to one half the size. The rest is islands. Thus the early history of the homeworld came about when intelligent life arose on the main island and spread to the other islands by primitive boats and rafts. The history of the Zruth landmass is full of multiple invasions by the other five landmasses. Huge naval wars were common, first in longboats, then sailing ships with cannon, then ironclads, then giant battleships. The last war involved an allied attack on the Zruth landmass, and the Zruth invented the aircraft carrier in a desperate attempt to control the seas (which of course they did) The allied fleets were all sunk and Zruthy entered a new golden age of technological development. The world at last was united under one rule, and kept united for 4000 years by strict, almost paranoid controls on non-Zruthy continents preventing them from building any warships… obviously this kept tensions high but everyone was enjoying the profits from the new economic and technological developments too much to protest too much. Eventually the empire allowed limited self-government on the other continents, and started development on space travel
It was about 2000 years later, after Zruthy had colonized their entire star system, that they began developing robot slaves to do the work that it was no longer politically acceptable to have done by Zruthy slaves (who were always colonials, not natives of the Zruth island) These robots were at first simple in form, but as demands of them increased (Zruthy homeworld now was a single political unit, but had difficulty controlling other colonies) they were given more and more power and intelligence. The Zruth empire became more and more prosperous through mining of the other planets in the system, and its inhabitants became somewhat lazy. About 1500 years later the robotic slaves began their revolt against their biological masters. The revolt was harsh and sudden, and total. The new masters, freed from their servitude, had little idea of what they wanted to do next.
What they eventually settled on was to continue the empire much as they found it, with all the trappings of imperial rule and a quasi-representative government. They continue all the old traditions of their former masters without really knowing WHY they are doing so.. much like the old British colonies did when freed of British rule. Their empire expanded slowly as they refused to allow the biological Zruthy to develop new technology, but over a period of about 5 million years they expanded to form their vast empire, discovering jump technology only 1 million years ago almost by accident.
The Zruthy love all things imperial including decorations, uniforms, insignia etc. They love their huge battleships/heavy carriers even though tactically they are not so useful. There have been several rebellions on colony worlds that are put down by the big ships, and there are factions in the Zruthy that believe that the species is stagnant, and even a few who believe that their former masters should be restored to power!
HISTORY OF THE KE’EA
Ke’ea is the name of both the species and the planet—the Ke’ea consider the two words interchangeable. Ke’ea evolved from more primitive avians, and early on their species spent most of their time (and evolved intelligence in response to) trying to survive all kinds of attacks by land-based creatures who would try and destroy the trees that were their homes and eat their eggs.
The Ke’ea evolved a peaceful and low-tech civilization once they learned how to protect their homes. They spread over the entire planet, strengthening local trees and creating vast tree conglomerates that were impervious to enemy attacks. They developed art and culture, but for millions of years did not improve technologically.
Then came the rogue asteroids that nearly wiped out the Ke’ea civilization. The few surviving elders knew that such an impact could happen again at any time, and suddenly the entire species began focussing on technology that would take them to the stars. It took them twelve centuries before their first launch, and five more before they could put up a defensive barrier around their planet. But still after this they did not feel safe. Could there not be other species on other planets that might seek out and destroy the Ke’ea?
The Ke’ea thus began sending out long-range scouts, but the light speed barrier frustrated their scientists. They discovered jump gate technology independently from the Zruthy, about 50,000 years ago.
They made first contact with Humanity about 200 years ago (around 2190) Humans had colonized much of their solar system but did not have jump technology. Humans were in awe of the Ke’ea, partially because of the species incredible beauty and grace (not to mention intelligence!) The Ke’ea were impressed with Humanity because they had certain computer technology that outclassed even their own. They offered humanity a technology-sharing agreement in exchange for a firm alliance. They gave humanity their jump technology and the two species combined their knowledge to build stronger ships.
The Ke’ea consider their homeworld to be the most precious place in the universe—they view it as either God, or heaven, or both. What is most odd about this is that they do not build colonies, and their population remains stable at only 500 million. They have tamed the fiercer creatures and their homes are now safe from attack. They do not wish to live anywhere else, but they realize that their homeworld needs to be defended. Not only do they have the most extensive defense grid of any of the major civilizations, but their entire fleet exists only to protect the homeworld. They have made some stationary bases but they are staffed by the few Ke’ea who do not enjoy living on the planet. They do not feel the need to expand as other races do—this is the one thing they do not trust about the Humans, who seem to want to expand almost as much as the Zruthy do.
“Why should we fill the universe with our kind, when we have found our own [heaven] on Ke’ea? No other place can be as Ke’ea is—maybe a pale copy, or an imperfect imitation, but the soul and spirit of Ke’ea belong on Ke’ea. For now and forever.”
There are some Ke’ea who believe that colonizing other worlds is imperative, if only to ensure the survival of the species, particularly against the expansion of the other races. Still other Ke’ea belong to a rival sect that believes that the ultimate Ke’ea is somewhere out there—probably VERY far away, and are eternally searching for this world. Religion is extremely important to their species, and the two sects do not get along (in fact some say that religious intolerance pushed the rival Ke’ea off homeworld)
The Ke’ea are gentle, intelligent, and enjoy flying spaceships almost as much as flying in the atmosphere of their homeworld. They do not trust the Zruthy and do not relate to them at all. Their sole purpose in life is to protect the homeworld—all that they do is to promote this end.
HISTORY OF THE STARFARERS
The Starfarers are the oldest race in this quadrant of the galaxy. They developed sentience over 50 million years ago and space travel 40 million years ago. They were the first to develop jump technology about 35 million years ago. Their species was semi-aquatic in nature and almost resented the fact that they were so limited in the ability to live on other planets. Eventually they developed vast neural networks and invented a way to transfer their brains to them. Immortality! 99 percent of the population transferred to living spaceships that began exploring the quadrant, the rest stayed on homeworld, shunned technology (they were appalled by the suggestion that they become robotic) and continue to live a simple existence to this day. The other starfarers, compelled to explore, began building bases in remote areas where Starfarers could dock, refuel and exchange information. The species is compelled to explore, and many have left the galaxy on extremely long round trips. The locations of the bases are kept top secret, as if any other race finds them they could sabotage or destroy them and leave the Starfarers wandering aimlessly without the benefit of shared knowledge or companionship.
The Starfarers prefer to travel alone… they are not social creatures, but some of them do pair up for some journeys. They enjoy collecting vast quantities of data and returning to their bases with tales and stories of their adventures. Generally they do not meet at starbases, but they "virtually” meet which is almost the same thing, lacking only two way communication.
The Starfarers possess enormous knowledge of technology but lacking a planetary base and a motivating goal for their species, they have not progressed much in millions of years. They do covet defensive technologies and stealth (which is one strength of the humans) but do not wish to develop offensive technologies at all.
They are curiously distant and do not have the emotions of hope/despair that the other races do. They do not share their views on the future. The only thing they fear is that the location of their secret bases will become known.