Every science fiction universe needs factions; groups of beings that share a special interest, an ideology, a race, and so forth. These factions may be in conflict, they may be allies, or they may have their own agenda, playing various sides against each other. They add some degre of depth, dynamic, as well as drama and politics to that which aspires to a Space Opera or Epic Sci-Fi Cycle.
The Empyraeum Cycle, so far, has six clearly-defined factions, which we will now discuss in turn.
The empire of Alexander; founded in Alexandria as the ideal system of government, seen as the perfect government in the Cycle. Alexander serves eternally as Hègemon or Emperor, with his dragon-given intellect and wisdom, as well as his fairness. The Empyraeum was envisioned as the perfect society because is was meant to be inclusive; Alexander never forced much change on the people. He left their customs, religions, and identity alone, instead it was those in power who swore fealty to him, in exchange of maintaining their position. Of course, things such as Glòsta or ESG (Empyraen Standard Greek) were both formed from the cultural "hotpot" of the human soldiers comprising Alexander's army and adopted as fashion and custom by citizens as the benefits of the Empyraeum became clear and habitual.
Conquest of the Empyraeum, following Alexander's metamorphis in the Mountain (Chomolungma/Mount Everest) became famous across the known world for something previously unknown, it was bloodless. So imposing and terrifying were the Kalshodar and Dracograth that none dared face them, exactly as the dragon had planned. They remained garrisoned from distant Xin, to Afrik, Hellas, even as far as Èire and Bryttan as "The Ultimate Deterrent" to rebellion while the 'regular irregular' human army was disbanded and allowed to return to their homelands if they so chose. Most did and they trained their own loyalist garrisons in the new military ways of the Empyraeum as they did so.
It seemed destined to last forever but then Alexander vanished from his throneroom in Alexandria and did not return for two hundred years. A succession of Dracograth and, finally Lupernikes the Kalshodar served as Stewards in hs absence but, once it became apparent that war with The Council was brewing and Alexander was still missing, they withdrew. First from Alexandria to The Nest beneath Lùndùn, then to the Moon, and finally out into space, desperate to find him.
The Senate held onto Alexander's values and dreams for a while but, ultimately, human nature won over idealism.
As the Council rose in dominance, distressingly few resisted Apàteon's ambitions. It was as if they were used to simply submitting to a dominant force without conflict. The Council brought them conflict and destruction anyway, because that is all Apàteon understands; pain. Where Alexander's conquest was fair and bloodless, Apàteon's bathed the dying Empyraeum in gore and filled each and every heart with fear. Most quailed in the face of such forgotten brutality but some did not.
They were organised, if such a term can be applied, into local cells of skirmishers, bandits, and guerrilas until along came too (seemingly) young idealistic Trinity; Gabrieal and Unity. With the prophecies of Unity, spread far and wide by Sham, gave these disparate groups something they had previously been lacking, a purpose and an identity. It gave them also something far greater, hope. The prophecies taught that they could win as long as they stood together and stood by Unity for she was long destined to bring about a new era of peace. In her honour they named themselves Panàstas or Those Who Stand Together. From little cells of disorganised anarchists, they became a real army.
In EA1975, the First Union War began. It started on land, then extended into cis-lunar space. A rough and nasty space battle between freighters and cargo ships retro-fitted with weapons against full military juggernauts. It was a terrifyingly beautiful sight to see and served as true testiment to the bravery and dedication of the Pans (as they were often called now). Unbelievably and against the odds, they almost won. After almost three years of land and space-based war, Apàteon begged paizo and invited the victorious generals to his flagship, the Iron Will to accept his surrender.
Of course, he betrayed them. Sham barely escaped with his life and Unity disappeared. Sham swore that he saw he shot by a sniper as Apàteon looked on gloatingly. The Panàstas fell apart as their one remaining leader did. Gabriel had loved Unity like no other and her death destroyed him utterly. The Second Union War of EA1994 was barely worthy of the name. Gabriel took his cargo freighter the Belmorrah out into the distant reaches of space, never to return it seems.
It would take three hundred years for the Panàstas to rise again, as Alexander's long-secret plan comes unravelled and a vast loyalist force of epibaoi and hoplites ferry down from the moon to weld the broken Pans back together.
The Pilot's College
The College of pilots emerged some time around EA1654, during Lupernikes' famous Stewardship. Empyraen representatives were approached during the Symposium of that year with the city of Kenawshaw, of the Federated People's Nations serving as the host. The Empyraeum had recently discovered the lunar base left by The Ancients and unlocked many secrets. They had shared some of those secrets in the Symposium by not all. These strangers knew things they should not know, they offered to assist the construction of the Arks Lupernikes had ordered to be constructed and Pilot them when they were finished. Much perturbed, representatives denied the existence, current or future, of such craft and denied the strangers' requests, politely but firmly.
Twenty years later, when the Arks had already sailed and the Sentinel in lunar orbit had finally been unlocked (together with plans for more advanced craft), the strangers came directly to Alexandria. What passed between Lupernikes and these Pilots is not on the public record but, when the Kalshodar cruisers finally sailed, fifty years later, a Pilot was installed on each one. It is expected that those same twenty Pilots serve on those ships still. From that date hence, no interhelion capable ship sails without a Pilot. The College charges no fee and asks only that the Pilots modest needs are taken care of. Compared to the loss of a ship and, especially, its precious cargo, this is a small price to pay.
Pilots are a unique breed and it is thought that they are gene-bred that way. Pilots are not abominable clones, though, just the genome of their children is tightly controlled to ensure certain traits remain dominant and a small psykhik talent remains present. In their teens, attendees of the Secret College are fitted with their first psybernetik grafts as well as mageiteknik implants designed to channel and enhance their latent psyber talents. The best we can understand, Pilots believe in some kind of human/pysber-psykik/machine consciousness formed from their interfaces with the ship creating a single mind and conjoined senses, allowing a Pilot of think and see for the ship, becoming an extension of it.
In the constantly shifting and changing world of the Void, or Alchera-Ungud as they call it, such a melding is vital for the slightest delay in reaction and prove instantly fatal.
The Pilot's College left Gaia following the rise of The Union and refuse to Pilot their ships. Thought they relocated to some secret and hidden corner of the galaxy, Pilots still arrive before the captain of the ship they arrive at even knows they are needed.
Sham met a man known and Atara in a cave under the Caucasus mountains around EA240, together with a ragged band of Trinity, the first of his kind Sham had ever encountered. Though overjoyed to learn he was not alone in the world, Sham was terrified of Atara, a empathetic magnet and transceiver, his soul was a black hole of apathy and hatred even then. He could feel and influence the emotions of others but appeared incapable of feeling any of his own, he lived on borrowed sentiment. He also seemed to hunger for certain feelings more than others.
Sham ran through the screaming blizzard the others had barely survived in order to ensure Atara never found him again. It took him four hundred years. Sham, however, was ready this time; he deceived Atara and sent him on a wild goose chase of false trails and clues. He evaded the man for five hundred years until he came upon the idea of The Immortal Council and decided that a man of Atara's obssessive talents could be useful. So tight was his securty and so clever he thought himself that he even tasked Atara, now going by the name of Ataraxias, and Empyraen citizen with recruiting him and refusing all offers. He thought it was a funny game but counted without Ataraxias' cruel intelligence and vindictive nature.
All the time Ataraxias had been recruiting from the 'Grey Lands', sparsely populated and fiercly independant island nations belonging to none of the world's federations, empires or kingdoms. he built a secret army and he coup, when it came, was a shocking one. Sham was forced to blow his cover in order to rescue Martin Castlebank and he retreated home to India, where Gabriel and Unity were waiting, very soon after.
Once Sham left, Ataraxias grew bolder. He had always enjoyed power and could not stop now he had tasted some. Ruling the Trinity was one thing but the Empyraeum was collapsing and he saw an opportunity. He brought his expanding armies to Eurasia and began what would become the bloodiest campaign in history. His mercenary army cared not for who they killed, as long as they got paid and Ataraxias paid very well. Between EA1857 and the First Union War of EA1975, The Council had pushed all resistance back to Northern Afrik and the old Keltoi lands of Götlund, Franc, and Bryttan. It was in Bryttan that the Panàstas gathered under Gabriel and Unity's command to push back.
Of what happened next, we know the story only too well. The Panàstas failed and failed disasterously. Ataraxias became Apàteon who became lord and master of his corrupted Way of the Kristoman and what was once the Empyraeum. His vicious regime is not without enemies though and, it is darkly joked, if it were not, he would create some.
Following the departure and the rise of The Union, Panàstas allied merchant vessels began venturing farther and farther from home space in search of a base to gather and plan away from The Union's prying eyes. They sought out the legendary lost outposts of humanity and even found a few of them as well as the creatures that had prayed on them. A great many ships were lost to Ghorkai piracy until it became common practise to arm a merchantman to the teeth and spend a year's profit on sensor and radar suites. The best investment of all, though, would be in engines because the best a moderately armed and crewed freighter can do when they encounter the Ghorkai is run and run quickly.
Bred and perfected for war, the Ghorkai are an extremely well organised and dangerous breed of exos. In their very advanced armour, a Ghorkai is near to as bulky as a Kalshodar and somewhat stronger. They possess keen, feral intelligence, a natural affinity to technology, and iron hard military discipline beaten into them from birth. Imagine giant green Spartans with heavy weaponry and you might get close. Then imagine Spartans who consistently win battles and enjoy battle to the point of obsession, an unstoppable juggernaut of a Spartan baresark. A squad of five Gorkai has been known to clear out a moderately well trained crew of a mid-sized freighter in less than 30 minutes. We say 'clean out' because the Ghorkai take no prisoners, they kill everyone they find - calmly, steadily, implacably - and take whatever catches their eye if not the whole cargo, ship and all.
Some are saying that the Ghorkai are speading their nets wider and it will not be long before they set their eyes on richer plunder. Thankfully, they have not learned how to use the voidgate network...yet.
Nobody knows what these exos call themselves and very few know what they look like but everybody fears them. Like ghosts, they will come from the night and sweep world clean of life. They always leave a witness; a mad, raving, weeping witness behind. Just one, and they perform their most depraved and vicious acts for his or her entertainment.
As the tortured and abused bodies of his or her kin rain their blood down upon him from Their evil crystal trees of pain, They will copulate violently with one another and the bodies, alive or not, of the population. The witness watches it all, for they took her eyelids from her earlier, she has no choice. They will arrive one night and 'celebrate' until dawn, leaving nothing but broken offal, and dozens of their vampiric crystal trees hung with corpses in their wake.
How they arrive, what ships they use, or if they use any at all, nobody knows. How and why they select worlds is another mystery, as is where they come from and where they go.
None of them have even fallen or been captured. Even a fully manned Kalshodar cruiser was no match for the,. They slaughtered their way through the cruiser and hung the near-dead Kalshodar upon a tree of pain for Alexander to find. As they so often do, they left they insignia, daubed in the blood of the dead, for all to see. It seems that they enjoy causing fear in others, taunting those who find their 'monuments'.
They will leave messages so that those who discover their horrors know that, sooner or later, they will be next. All their broken minded witness-victims can ever say is "They are coming. They are coming. They are coming." before their heart gives out and they find the peace so horrifically denied.
Alexander is sure that they followed him and are coming to Gaia, he simply does not know how long he's got to get ready for them.