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Appendice 3: Tripartite Alliance

The Alliance consists of the Viridians, VASA, Junkers and Syntha.

Viridia: The Commonwealth of Worlds

Viridia is the birthplace of humankind, the point of origin for the vast, and vastly differing, empires of man. For its diverse biomass, abundant resources, and industrious and creative people there is no world richer or more self-sufficient than Viridia. As the centre of a thriving commercial empire, the headquarters of the wealthiest and most influential corporate bodies in pan-humanic space, and the source of mankind's cultural and species identity it is no exaggeration to say that Viridia is still the beating heart of humankind's galactic domain.

Man's history is one of slow progress and violent upheavals, wars of aggression and wars of self-defence, dramatic breakthroughs and their unexpected applications, the story of men and women of distinction against the backdrop of unnamed masses whose collective qualities nevertheless gave shape to their times, and of injustice and idealism, of dreams of beauty and cataclysmic nightmares, ruin and redemption. Though this chaotic tide produced the greatest works of scientific and artistic genius in man's long history it also birthed a competitive drive for dominance between the two great cultural capitals of Viridia, north and south, the superpowers of Karas and Myhrin; a rivalry that, during the industrial age, unleashed a devastating global catastrophe that nearly destroyed the human race.

This Great Flood saw the melting of the polar ice caps, the swelling of the temperate seas, and the near total inundation of the equatorial tropics that are the site of Viridia's population belt. But mankind's ability to adapt to such a disaster ultimately strengthened and matured the people of Viridia, and it was during this time that crucial technologies emerged, as well as a new outlook toward man's place in the natural world and in the larger universe, that would prove the salvation of the species. The sealed biodomes that became the engineering basis for both the colonization of distant worlds and the intensive cultivation of engineered crops first made their appearance as floating shelters for the survivors of the flood, the solar and clean fusion technologies that revolutionized energy production were originally developed in this time as replacements for inaccessible and potentially hazardous fossil fuels. So too the new rapid land reclamation techniques pioneered to restore Viridia to its pre-flood state were the first steps man would take in the science of terraforming, and, perhaps most importantly, a new understanding of proportion and balance with nature, and a greater appreciation for the long term view, can first be said to enter the consciousness of the majority of mankind as a result of the flood. Those few that survived the cataclysm took steps to ensure that its like should never happen again.

Thus was born Viridia's concern with the natural world, and in the century that followed the subsidence of the floodwaters a technological revolution, propelled by breakthroughs in clean energy and bio-agricultural sciences, enabled mankind to rejuvenate spoiled Viridia and rebuild human society on a new model. The equatorial belt was once again verdant with flora, many plants altered to suit man's material or nutritional needs; and to replace extinct mammalian species man turned to the ancient saurian stocks that had survived the cataclysm, engineering them to fulfil vacant ecological niches as well as serve man in a domestic capacity. Most of the restoration was accomplished in little over a century of intensive environmental husbandry, and once again man was ready to reach outward and extend his grasp to other worlds.

The Wars of Secession were perhaps the inevitable result of Viridia's attempts to manage its colonial possessions in an era of slow, expensive rockets. Man emerged divided from the early space age, having barely avoided a system-wide civil war, into a time of intergalactic colonization. Viridia, despite having lost its early colonies and having to rely on VASA for wormhole travel, commanded far more resources then any of its new rivals and received the lion's share of habitable and life sustaining worlds. On each world the Viridians adapted the lessons of the flood; terraforming, creating hybrid biospheres, constructing the clean energy archologies of their distinctive solar cities, and performing a precise and careful balancing act between man and nature, always with the long-term view in mind - and always with an eye toward profit.

Viridian society is a corporate society, and most citizens owe their whole experience, from cradle to grave, to their corporate masters. Viridian's practice of free market capitalism is thus tempered by a kind of social safety net in that every corporation is completely responsible for its personnel. While government confines itself to a narrow sphere of activities, acting more as a facilitator and repository of public funds, the corporations take the lead in public works and social welfare programs. Though this often leads to redundancy from corporation to corporation, and the occasional strange and wasteful competitions between corporations to out-spend their rivals on prominent (and occasionally completely unnecessary) social programs, it is felt that such small inefficiencies are nothing compared to the surety of government incompetence.

One sphere in which the government is paramount, perhaps the primary reason for the existence of the Viridian Assembly, is in the armed forces. Though Ironglass possess more men under arms, VASA a larger fleet, and the Syntha the latest technologies, no other faction can hope to combine these traits into a better, all-around fighting force than the Viridian Armed Forces. The Viridians take an all-purpose approach to warfare just as they do with their architecture and engineering, and the Viridian army and fleet are both based squarely on the doctrine of general utility and inter- changeability. But as events in the wake of the Koralon invasion spiral out of control, and as ambiguous conflicts such as the war on Iskandria continue to arise, the VAF's generalized approach to war has been severely tested, in much the same way as Viridian reliance on corporate initiative and rational economic principles is increasingly being called into question in an era of mounting uncertainty.

VASA: The Pan-Humanic Protectorate

VASA is many things to many people, nefarious intergalactic meddler or preserver of the balance of power, unjust monopoly or protector of the spaceways, a necessary and inevitable evil or unexpected stroke of historical good fortune: the truth changes with one's perspective. VASA embodies all of these extremes, and its complexities and paradoxes are the outgrowth of an unusual history that saw a state run administrative body transformed into the most pervasive and influential authority in human space.

VASA, acronym for the Viridian Aeronautics and Space Administration, began life as an arm of the Viridian World Government tasked with the coordination and of disparate corporate enterprises and the remnants of Myhrin's scientific community in the early days of colonization of the Viridia-Solaris / Leviathan Binary System. VASA only emerged as an independent power once it had colonized and transferred its headquarters to Vacillus, a world orbiting the dead star Leviathan, and developed the breakthrough technology of grav-shunting that would forever open the vistas of space. As sole possessors of this revolutionary technology and of Leviathan's grav-well, VASA had absolute control of intergalactic travel for decades, and thus found itself in a very strong bargaining position when the Wars of Secession finally tore the homeworlds of man asunder.

These wars first saw Prime, and then Ironglass declare their independence from the mother world of Viridia, both rebelling worlds having developed along radically divergent lines in this period when primitive spaceflight left them isolated and virtually independent. VASA rose to the occasion as arbiter of these conflicts, stabilizing a situation that had the potential to destroy mankind just as it had begun to make its first tentative steps outside the homeworld system. With the signing of the Treaty of Vacillus a new era in human history was inaugurated, the Tripartite Peace, and VASA grew into its new role as maintainer of the galactic balance of power. It would prove a demanding task.

With the development of grav-shunting VASA took the lead in the most important commercial, scientific, and, as it turned out, political breakthrough since the development of space flight. The ability to navigate n-space by linking far distant points in space by means of a gravitic manipulation enabled man to make the hop from system to system and bypass the enormous gulfs of interstellar space that made sub-light travel and colonization a near impossibility. VASA's early monopoly in this technology allowed it to lay the foundations for its present control of nearly all grav- wells in human space, and the enormous revenue generated from the trade and excise taxes at these points ensures VASA has the resources to support the high-technology investments and enormous fleet necessary for the maintenance of its position.

Though practically omnipresent in human space - VASA does, after all, claim guardianship over all mankind - the Protectorate cannot command the kinds of material and human resources of the more traditional empires such as Ironglass or Viridia. Instead they maintain a decentralized and diffuse presence throughout the galaxy; concentrating on key strategic or economic regions and relying heavily on espionage and diplomacy to wield power in ways more subtle and cost effective than blunt military force. There is no world, nation, or outpost that has not in some way felt this 'long arm of VASA.'

But VASA soft power would not be nearly as effective without the backing of the VASA fleet and armed forces, highly trained and continually updated with the latest technologies. While the VASA fleet patrols the intergalactic space lanes - with many worlds tithing resources and personnel to support this titanic endeavour - the VASA military operates on somewhat different principles. An elite body specializing in surgical strikes and rapid deployment, as well as peace keeping and psychological warfare, the VASA armed forces are constantly shifting from one galactic hotspot to the next where they are called upon to fulfil a variety of roles, often augmented by local planetary garrisons or other VASA response teams. These elements are combined to execute a particular task, then broken down and rushed away to another crisis where a new combination of forces is built in response to a specific tactical need. The whole system exhibits a greater fluidity than traditional strategic doctrine, though it is also a great deal more precarious. But, thanks to an unparalleled intelligence sharing network, Sec-Net, and the Protectorate's dominance of the space lanes, it has proven an effective and efficient means of projecting VASA military might.

VASA continues to uphold the tenants of the Tripartite Confederacy, and the centuries of peace in the Viridian System that allowed the empires of man to expand their colonial holdings is its greatest legacy. However, VASA's failure to protect the worlds of the galactic rim from the alien Koralon and its military evacuation of this region has caused a backlash of political destabilization that has severely damaged VASA's reputation. Now the Koralon have struck deep at the heart of human space, launching an incursion that has plunged key systems into anarchy. In the wake of these events many question VASA's role, and even the Great Powers of the Tripartite Confederacy, the homeworlds long held in check by the Treaty of Vacillus, have begun to extricate themselves from the web of alliances linking them to VASA. Worse yet on Kyklops, where VASA has carefully attempted to remain a neutral mediator between rival factions, the Protectorate's none-too-secret use of the criminal clans of the Triads to manipulate events in the Iskandrian Neutral Zone has driven both friend and foe further from the VASA fold, and threatens to drag Protectorate troops into open conflict with the other Great Powers. It remains to be seen if VASA can recover its prestige and harness its considerable resources and unite mankind in a war against the Koralon, or if the signs of destabilization are really the portents of a conflict that will plunge the galaxy into civil war.

Junkers: The Ironglass Imperium

Brutally repressive, rigidly authoritarian, callous in its regard toward human life and flagrantly untrustworthy in intergalactic affairs the Empire of Ironglass is viewed by many as the most disruptive force in pan-humanic space. While it is inarguable that the overlordship of the Ironglass Senate is indeed every bit as cruel as their reputation suggestions, and that the harshness of life under Junker rule is fully as bad as the worst of slave- owning societies in Viridian's antediluvian past, there are a few who argue that Ironglass is in fact a great, stabilizing element in human history. Its maintenance of enormous swathes of colonial territory and a tremendous population in a near- frozen social pattern along with its efficient exploitation of marginal worlds acts as a counter- balance to the potentially dangerous aspirations of the other Great Powers. This theory holds that should a species-threatening cataclysm arise through the misuse of new technologies or the pursuit of social or evolutionary dead-ends the Junkers, tenaciously following a course of subsistence and survival, will endure while the more fragile of man's great empires collapse under the weight of their own grand ambitions.

Mankind's first extraviridian settlement, Ironglass was founded as a penal colony, and the taint of criminality has remained in the descendants of those convict labourers transported to the mines and tunnels of this harsh, desert world. Confined primarily the habitable meridian between Ironglass's permanent day and night sides, the colony eked the barest existence. Sifting the ferric sands of the vast dayside desert, the Red Erg, for iron offered some return on its investment, though cost cutting forced the convicts to trap their water in subterranean basins and harvest the native algae for food. The difficulty of keeping prisoners under such grim conditions spurred the development of the infamous neural spike, an off-shoot of Syntha neural-circuit interface technologies, and the most unruly convicts were outfitted with prototype spikes that would monitor their mood and remotely induce paralytic seizures should they seek to disrupt operations. Today of course a much simpler and cruder device is outfitted to nearly everyone in Junker military, service, or industrial positions, and is used in a far more dramatic fashion should one wish to set an example - the explosive detonation of the offender's skull.

In these oppressive, yet isolated, conditions an underground revolutionary movement took shape, and with the example of Prime's new won independence as an inspiration the prisoners of Ironglass were ready to take up arms and declare their own autonomy. With a ruthless and indomitable will the convict leadership waged a bloody war against the Viridian authorities, improvising weapons out of the mining equipment that could be had in abundance in the tunnels of Ironglass, such as high explosives and exo-skeletal lifters. Junker military doctrine was born in this War of Secession; the human wave assaults, the coercive leadership, the absolute disregard for human life. So too were the seeds of dictatorship sown at the moment of revolutionary triumph, and when the newly 'elected' Senate declared the independence of Ironglass they slammed shut the door to the outside world, instituted a draconian system of laws, and constructed a state security apparatus that ensured they themselves would never be the victims of revolution from below. The convicts of Ironglass had merely traded one set of chains for another, shackles that would prove a far heavier burden.

The poverty of Ironglass and its dearth of resources forced the fledgling state to perfect new ways of exploiting their environment, and of making due with the detritus of the other Great Powers. Thus the name Junkers was bestowed upon them, this motley collection of ex-prisoners in their scavenged ships fighting over scraps like carrion birds, squeezing every ounce of value out of an unnoticed asteroid or picking an ancient space wreck clean. Though unglamorous such techniques worked, and the marginal sustenance they provided allowed the government of Ironglass to grow in power and expand into the galaxy just as mankind was taking its first tentative steps outside the Viridian system. Ironglass became an empire in its own right, and has remained aggressively expansionistic in pursuit of imperial glory. The militarism and bloody-mindedness of the Senate served them well in the wars of conquest and piracy that accompanied the Junkers onto the intergalactic scene, as did the ever-swelling surplus population of Ironglass.

The great mass of people in the Ironglass Imperium live in conditions of bare subsistence, labour under harsh conditions, and are subject to governmental whims to such an extent - never knowing whether they will be conscripted, reassigned, or simply abandoned on stripped out planetoids when Junker scavenging fleets decide to move - that the average Junker tends to be suspicious, fatalistic, and cruel. It is a society of prisoners governed by a small elite, and the only pleasures offered the masses are the vicarious thrill of imperial glory and the inhuman spectacle of arena blood sports and public executions. To govern this potentially dangerous populous the Senate relies on paranoid and redundant methods, such as parallel chains of command, and simple compulsion such as the use of the ubiquitous neural-spike. This system is most evident in the Junker armed forces, the enormous legions, whose soldiers and commanders alike are scrutinized by the watchful eyes of Senatorial political officers, the dread lictors and censors, who ferret out disloyalty and weakness, create an atmosphere of fear and distrust, and ensure that no army can operate independently of Ironglass.

Now an enormous empire of hundreds of worlds, with a fighting force estimated in the hundreds of millions, the Junkers are ever-present in galactic power politics and no important Tripartite decision can be taken without at least nominal Junker involvement. In the repulsion of the Koralon Incursion the Junkers have proven themselves surprisingly useful - though completely unmanageable - allies, but their blatantly opportunistic actions on reconquered worlds, and their growing belligerence in the Iskandrian struggle, are proof that they have no intention of abandoning their antagonistic and contentious stance in intergalactic affairs.

Syntha: The Dominion of the Machine Mind

While some find the Syntha's pursuit of pure science praiseworthy, and applaud Prime's collectivist society as a step forward on the road to human equality, most would agree that there is something unsettling, something inhuman, about the Syntha and their way of life. Syntha society is, after all, dependant on the suppression of fundamental human behaviours; a suppression stipulated, monitored, and enforced by the artificial mind of a machine.

The story of the Syntha begins in the great age of early space exploration with the discovery of the Prime planetoid. The outermost body of the Solaris-Leviathan Binary System, Prime orbits both stars in a slow, elliptical path that takes 323 standard years to complete. This curious, teardrop- shaped planetoid was formed some five and a half billion years ago when the ancient dead star Leviathan dragged the still-forming Solaris System into a dual orbit, exposing the proto-Prime to immense gravitic shearing. So unusual is Prime, its anomalous magnetic and spectroscopic readings long a source of confusion, that it was some years before scientists concluded it was a naturally occurring phenomenon and not, as the first excited reports claimed, an alien artefact.

Prime's value is incalculable. In addition to the rich seems of rare elements locked in its interior the colloidal planetoid itself is comprised of a substance unique to the known universe. Dubbed Prime Obsidian, this strange pseudo-silicate has an unusual circular molecular structure that makes it fantastically durable, as well as super-conductive at almost any temperature. It is this substance that formed the cornerstone of Syntha research into artificial intelligence, its unique properties enabling the creation of the first non-human intelligences of man's experience: the Synapsed Prime Obsidian Matrix Minds (SPOMM) that caused a revolution in automation, design, and society, and launched the Syntha on a radical trajectory of experimentation and social engineering.

But it was a different kind of revolution that turned a colony of VASA scientists and their families on Prime into the first Syntha. In the age of the chemical rocket no human outpost was more isolated, more truly distant, from Viridia than Prime; and for decades the small scientific community there pursued its goals of pure research unfettered by homeworld interference. When the news broke that the Prime community had not only succeeded in creating artificial intelligences, but was also experimenting with human neural tissue to create cybernetic grafts, Viridia sought to intervene to curtail what many of its people viewed as dangerous and unprincipled tampering. This sparked the First War of Secession, which saw Prime gain its independence from the howeworld. Soon a second round of even bloodier wars would see a fully independent Ironglass and VASA and thus usher in the age of the Great Powers.

The Syntha created for themselves a society based on principles of economic equality and rational organization, but it is a society wholly governed by a single machine intellect located at the heart of the Prime planetoid, the Prime AI. This massive SPOMM mind is a vacuum-sealed sphere of Prime Obsidian circuitry over 300 cubic meters in volume and capable of processing trillions of calculations per second. It is a masterpiece of micro-circuitry; exponentially more sophisticated than the simple SPOMM minds of the synthetic class of Syntha society, the androsynths and teratosynths. All variables of Syntha life, great and small, pass through the obsidian relays of the Prime AI, and within its circuits the destiny of the Syntha is planned with rigorous, dispassionate precision.

It is Prime that conceived of the present Syntha social model, taking the principles of its founders as a guide Prime has created a society free of want, devoid of competition, without threat of crime or violence. All production, distribution, and services are performed by machine AIs; leaving the ever-dwindling population of humans free to pursue research and development in the pure sciences; disciplines that require traits such as intuitive analysis and imagination that even the most sophisticated SPOMM minds lack. Human Syntha are grown in nutrient tanks and remain there for several years, undergoing a period of accelerated development and education through virtual reality simulations called Alephs. Emerging fully-grown, often with several cybernetic enhancements, the individual is free to pursue the life of his choice; but given that each embryo is gene-patterned for desired traits, and VR indoctrination is tailored to produce a specific set of desires, skills, and affinities for each person the concept of choice in Syntha society is something of an illusion. Such an absolute predetermination in society, the total control of information and sensory input down to the very cells of its citizens, is unparalleled in the annals of man.

Pure science, as practised by the elite human cyborgs of Syntha society, the prosthenes and standards, is the overriding principal of Syntha expansion. While other factions covet worlds for life-supporting biospheres or a wealth of minerals, the Syntha seek outposts of science, distant places of observation and analysis, airless worlds neighbouring astrological anomalies or possessing rare elements. As such the Syntha posses the most sophisticated and advanced technology in human space, and much of their power is built on the export of unique, secondary applications of scientific discoveries. This is crucial in the militarily sphere as well, where the Syntha exploit the technology gap to get the most out of their numerically small forces, comprised largely of military grade SPOMMs and prosthene specialists; always seeking the maximum gain for the least expenditure.

The Syntha seek perfectibility in the machine, they look toward a future in which the lines between man and machine have disappeared. It is this quest for a master race that led the Syntha to their most startling breakthrough: the creation of the biomechanoids. Biomechs are literally fusions of man and machine at the genetic level, a perfect synthesis. Whether Prime can reliably achieve such results and inaugurate its longed for future age, or if the strange, experimental monstrosities newly revealed on the battlefields of Iskandria represent a new focus in Syntha priorities remains to be seen.