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Chapter 1: Iskandria


I call it Helios for, when seen with the right kind of eyes as I see it, it greatly outshines Arkadia; more brilliant by far is its potential...rather than warm but a single living world Helios warms the heart of the New Man, its promise is the universe and a fresh start for humanity.

Iskander, Reflections (HoloRec MCCLXXVIII bio, case b12)

The Arkadia / Helios Binary System


At first glance little about the Arkadia / Helios Binary System seems worthy of note, a small mainline star and its even smaller dwarf partner attended by but two planetary bodies, Kyklops and Thule, only one of which is of any value; though perhaps in an age of galactic empires it is all too easy to forget the miracle that is a life-sustaining world. Kyklops is such a world, but it is small and almost entirely covered by ocean, unremarkable. The reason for the system's importance, the reason little Kyklops has become a Gateworld of enormous worth to the empires of man, lies with the white dwarf star Helios, Arkadia's fellow traveller in the black vastness of space.

Helios is an ancient star; it predates the formation of the Arkadian System by perhaps ten billion years. Scientists can only speculate as to its origins, most think it was formed early in the galaxy's history within the galactic core, a few going so far as to point to the diffuse gas cloud of the Croiter Nebula as the distant site of Helios' collapse. Regardless of its history Helios arrived in the Arkadian System in its present form, as a weakly radiating white dwarf, and set up a tandem orbit with Arkadia a little over four billion years ago. Helios is super-dense and generates almost no flux compared with most collapsed dwarf stars, a perfect anchor point for grav-shunting. It is this, coupled with the spatial geography and low radiant count of the surrounding sector, that makes Arkadia a key galactic system.

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The Great Tyrant


For my answer tell them this: the Viridians I scattered at Eight Fleets, let them seek their reply amongst those broken hulks a-drift around Karnus IV; Ironglass I chastised on Pommigral and Onu- Yesh, if any of those rabble survived let the Senate inquire of them as to the disposition of Great Iskander; for the Syntha I offer only the contempt of the New Man for their crudities, let them rather ask of history why it has forgotten them in some future age than ask me for peace in this one, and for the sham of VASA I present myself, first New Man, a pillar of undiluted strength against their clouded misrule, as answer to their query: ask nothing of me for I do not ask, I take, I do not negotiate, I conquer, I am the polestar, the lighted dark, time's agent. You cannot ask peace of the god of war, nor submission of one greater than yourselves.

Iskander, in response to a Tripartite treaty initiative (HoloRec MMMCMXCIV dip, case k1)

Iskander's brief but glorious career blazes comet- like across the chronicles of galactic history, a volatile and anomalous punctuation of the steady march of human progress. Much has been said of the Great Tyrant's life, his rise from obscurity as a militia captain in the internecine struggles on his native Mandigant, his usurpation of the private security firm of Silvershield Inc. and eventual takeover of the Viridian combine of Gropotkyn- Ssung, his rise to high office on Karnus II and the resultant decade of frenzied conquest that saw his ambition writ on a galactic scale. His final years preceding his eventual assassination are his darkest chapter, when the 'Universal Ruler' grew increasingly mad and erratic, bringing suffering to those who previously recognized in him their saviour.

It was Karnisian free merchants that 'discovered' the nearby Arkadia / Helios Binary System a scant three years prior to Iskander's audacious coup. The peculiar properties of Helios made 'cold-shunting' into the system extremely difficult so, for close to a century, no one had been able to penetrate Arkadian space. Once breeched the magnitude of the Helios grav-well became apparent, and Iskander was quick to exploit the new star system to the fullest once he assumed his dictatorship. The placid, blue-green world of Kyklos was declared his new capital, and a massive settlement and construction program begun, funnelling resources from surrounding systems for years, right up until the death of the tyrant himself.

It is somewhat ironic that Iskander spent so little time in his new capital, soon to be a sprawling urban centre with a population in excess of half a billion, for his energy and ambition took him to many fronts to fight many wars. But Kyklops nevertheless accrued the benefits of the tyrant's favour, and the massive public works programs that resulted in the administrative centre of the Acropolis and the enormous sub-ether aerial of the Phaeros were just a few of the examples of the tyrant's largesse. Capital of thirty-three systems, Kyklops grew enormously wealthy, and the unique properties of the Helios grav-well combined with the lasting improvements and settlement of the world ensured that Kyklops, and the city famed for its founder, remained a crucial hub in man's galactic empire.

Iskander can never be forgotten; the mysteries and romance surrounding his life ensure his immortality. Rumours abound that some of his secrets may lie undiscovered, that deep in the archives of his great Academy lie the plans for a super weapon of his design, or the techniques, whether genetic or psychological, for the forging of his New Man are sealed in a vault deep beneath the city streets of Iskandria, or perhaps the tyrant carried his secrets to the grave, and locked somewhere in his Mausoleum can be found the power to rule worlds as he once did. Such success as his will always excite the imagination of rulers, and enflame the greed of the empires of mankind.

Kyklops


Set in a gem of azure two islands, one land, and on it a city, fed by the sea but nourished by the void: a city on the crossroads of infinity, the capital of mankind, my gift to the ages, the centre, Iskandria.

Iskander, Reflections (HoloRec DCCCIX bio, case a)

Iskandria is the eye of the Cyclops; Kyklops, so called because of its appearance from space, its double-island continent a dark pupil in an orb of pale blue. The Iskandrian Islands, Major and Minor, together span one thousand klicks, and are nearly half as wide, and this entire land surface is a city, or many cities grown into one, the metropolis Iskandria. One could wander their entire life in such a vast urban conglomeration without stepping off the hard shell of plastiment, and meet fellow natives possessing habits and speech as strange as that of men from other worlds. The inhabitants of Iskandria differ widely from one another, from the wealthy in their luxurious gated compounds and private parks, to the street snipes that roam the abandoned sectors in vicious packs, to the communities uprooted and settled from other planets that occupy entire subcities of their own.

Since the collapse of Iskander's empire Kyklops has been the jointly held property of the Tripartite Powers. By decree no large standing armies may be stationed here, each partition held only with a minimum force. This centuries old division into sectors has created dramatic demarcations in the city of Iskandria; to the north the clean solar cities of the Viridian Sector seem to have been lifted straight from the homeworld, to the west VASA has created an enormous port and excise zone alongside a high-technology manufacturing centre, to the south the eerie termite cities of the Syntha march seaward in cool, precise ranks, while to the east the smog-shrouded tumble of leaning shanties and churning stacks can only be the domain of Junkers. Between these poles the Iskandrians live as they always have, proud of their past, energetic and industrious. They would be the first to suffer the machinations of Tripartite politics, and their 'free city' is now, in the wake of the Syntha assault, a neutral zone between hostile factions, a mostly abandoned battleground of skyscrapers and superhighways, manufacturing plants and commercial storefronts, habitation units and public buildings: an urban war zone.