by Max Barry

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Changing of the Guard - From the Third to Fourth Era

Changing of the Guard
A collected history of the 3-4 Cycle Change


In the Third Cycle, the Human race was a fractured and divided race. Each colony held itself, each nation had her own interests. Many were ruled not by a government but by the corporation that had financed the colonization. Many more simply disregarded those they came from and governed themselves. Without faster-than-light communications, it would take years, decades even, to call upon another planet. Combining this with our short lifetimes, humanity was at a disadvantage.

All that saved her was the lack of alien presence - or at least, intelligent presence. Rarely did any colonists encounter aliens, and the few times they did, they drove them to extinction. Had a powerful alien civilization met with humanity before FTL Communication, and they be hostile, humanity was predicted to end - single stars, colonies, blinking out into the night as their neighbors watched, helpless.

In the end, it was not an outside force that collapsed humanity into full-scale civil war, instead it was internal forces. Approximately a double thousand years after the transition to the Third Cycle, a single Consortium formed from the many millions of companies that comprised humanity, uniting trillions of humans and thousands of planets under a single unit. A single loyalty. In time, their name was forgotten, the common person simply referring to it as “The Consortium.”

The Consortium was in every home. They built the nanobots that cleaned teeth, that repaired bone, that filtered lungs. They mined the iron, processed it, and shipped to a city planet to turn it into the home. They had your job and they allowed your family to survive. They were benevolent, helping all of humanity, bringing it under a single banner of humanity.

They were not as peaceful as they made themselves out to be, however. Whenever given the chance, they snatched land from even the largest of independent planets and companies. They sent lawyers and blockades to any planet that did not comply - and when those didn't work, they sent in their security force. Without goods, the people rioted, and they needed to make sure their property was safe.

It was at this point that some resisted - small at first, but it grew. This resistance aimed to take down the Consortium, an obviously corrupt and greedy group that aimed at nothing but taking down humanity by furthering their short term gains. They could, and would, not stand for this. It was on a single moon, by a desolate planet, in a dying star, that these men and women stood together and swore an oath. An oath to unite humanity, and send her empire across the stars, a single, united species, aiming for the heavens. Their name forgotten now, but their actions not.

Theirs was a slow growth. A remark here, a poster there, maybe a couple of “accidents” to hard workers to incriminate The Consortium. It did nothing but rile the people up, not bring them to revolt. They needed a symbol of their own to stand behind. Something that would unite them against The Consortium. That symbol was, and is, Shanix.

The name Shanix is lost to us this day, rumors stating it was the acronym of the founders while another says it was the mispelling of an ancient Terran province. Whatever the meaning, is irrelevant, for now, it brought a new meaning, and a new identity. On their home, industry was above all else. Hydroponic stations orbited, constantly spitting out foodstuffs and water, sending vital supplies down to the planet, while intra-system freighters moved asteroids, comets, and moons to mine out. Entirely - in less than 3 months, a moon the size of the beloved Luna could be reduced to a hollow rock waiting to collapse in on itself.

None felt The Consortium’s grips worse than that Industrial Planet. As an mining and manufacturing metropolis, she was heavily monitored and patrolled, that slightest thought of open rebellion crushed before it could escape lips. It was there that a resistance did not form. Instead, it was a rally point for resistance. Given a window of opportunity, several hundred thousand anti-Consortium fighters slipped onto the planet, disguised as miners, and assimilated into the population of 23 billion. All centered around the main spaceport, a massive complex stretching hundred of kilometers in size, and still used to this day.

When a ship enters a spaceport, it first contacts an Artificial Intelligence that handles all maneuvers. After it has been granted access and flight path, the ship begins descent into the planet’s atmosphere, where a gravity nullifier slows the ships descent and pulls it to the specified docking station, and it is literally locked into place while cargo is extracted, repairs made, and resupply fulfilled.

Without the nullifier, or any way to let orbital ships know they were non-functional, ships would become massive orbital bombardment weapons without knowing it. So the fighters did just that - disable the gravity nullifiers, and sent all AI commands to virtual systems without real effect.

Within three hours, 90% of the port was in ruins, and the rest under complete lockdown for the future unforeseen. Without the primary spaceport operational, and innumerable amounts of product destroyed or unmovable, the planet was crippled. With the future uncertain, the few dozen thousand remaining fighters riled the people up again to contest control of the planet - if the Consortium could not protect them, they they should not need the Consortium.

It stuck - a month after the attack, several hundred million citizens, shook off the oppressive Consortium Control and took the planet as their own - the Fighters, conveniently, were at the helm of this rebellion. All was good. The people freed, the Consortium hurt, and the rebellion had its symbol.

Beginning of the War

With the industrial might of an entire planet, and the will of her people, simple consumer good production became wartime industry. Happy, beautiful factories were smeared with grease, pocketed by holes as an army was raised, to fight in urban combat. But without help, they would be wiped off the map the moment The Consortium learned of this betrayal. So off many went, spending years playing diplomat, buying time and securing support.

The most important to be won over was the Agricultural Conglomerate, many thousands of planets converted to the growth of food to provide. With them, the rebellion could supply their forces while simultaneously denying the Consortium proper supplies. However, a sudden strike of conscience set the AC in neutral stone, declaring that they would neither support nor oppose either side in their actions, merely selling their supply to those that could, and would, buy.

Without full diplomatic support, the first campaign, arm, was for control of the farming worlds. The first to send troops was the Consortium, dispatching a full fleet of security personnel to the primary HQ of the AC. Knowing that under Consortium Control, they would face high quota demands and punishments for not meeting them, several smaller planets called for Shanixian aid and defense. The Rebellion dispatched a half-fleet of warships disguised as as a token force of defense. This kind of action escalated constantly, one sending ships to a set of planets and the other did the same, until they both came upon the Yuddrssi system. It was here the first true battle ensued, between a dozen Consortium Ships and twenty Shanixian 'tugs'.

At first, it appeared the Consortium had the upper hand, their sleek warships made specifically for combat, compared to patchwork ships reliant upon mining lasers to do their work. It was continued to be thought this, until the opening salvo of the Shanixian fleet halved the Consortium fleet. They outfitted each ship with high-power lasers, meant to blast asteroids from hurting planets - making them incredibly fragile, but incredibly powerful too. Too arrogant to properly react, it was only after the second salvo that the Consortium did attack - at the strength of only a quarter their original.

The battle ended as quickly as it began, a complete loss for the Consortium, at the cost of a dozen Shanixian tugs. But this had a greater victory that the Consortium could see - a victory by a single planet against thousands, in obsolete vessels meant to forward freight, not fight. More left the AC and joined the Shanixian Rebellion, and with every battle they did gain many, even in defeat. By the end of this campaign, the AC was dissolved and reformed as the Agricultural Free-Worlds, the AFW, under the direction of the Shanix Rebellion.

War of Attrition

Though Humanity had mastered FTL Communications, the same could not be said for ship travel. More often than not, it was 30 years of travel time between systems - survived by cold-sleep facilities aboard most ships. So while besieged garrisons could call for help, they were all for nought as rescue parties were rarely able to arrive in time to relieve the defenders. Many theorized ways of creating FTL Travel, but each contained a flaw that could not be overlooked - a power source. The only way to properly secure enough power was to, theoretically, force a star to go supernova, and some how collect the resulting energy into a single storage system.


The original rebels had died, passing their mantle onto their children, by the time the Consortium attempted their first attack on Shanix. Because of the near 50 year travel time between the Consortium Terra-based Fleet and Shanix, the Rebels had more than enough time to design, test, and produce true warships. When the CM Fleet entered system, it was met by a fleet of equal size but greater firepower. After their fleet failed to return communication at certain interval, the CM declared it lost and called for ships for another attack.

The second attack performed the same - two similar fleets battled one another, ending in defender victory. But each battle was conducted by a new generation. Each conquering of a planet, a different generation. Over the course of 400 years, 4 Generations were born, bred, and butchered in this war, save the CM Overseers, whose substantial wealth brought vastly improved health and longevity. Many billions knew nothing but the constant monotony of propaganda, rations, and blockades.

Industry and Economy

Many industries which once produced consumer goods now spat out bullets, barrels, and beans. Where free-market capitalism once reigned, heavily regulated Mercantilism proved to be king. Simple things, like a slab of meat or loaf of bread, became highly sought-after goods, once the CM and the rebels took their pick. The common man was ignored, as usual, to support a massive system in an attempt to bring about peace.

The few planets that were allowed to produce as they pleased experienced incredibly high demand, often for simple items like shoes or hull sections. They entered the conflict with little output, and left it with massive increases in all sectors. Where once, a planet was an entire inner-city slum, was transformed into a wealthy, improved, and redevelopment planet. Many criticized them as being no better than the Consortium they followed/fought, but in the end, their contributions, arguably, kept the rebellion afloat as it battled.


Once, a citizen could vote officials into office to represent them in the Consortium, they were quick to outlaw such practices and institute their own Overseers to manage planets, and the rebels were not an exception to this. One General, his name forgotten, had said:

“...We cannot expect those...Consortium bastards to simply wait for us to vote our defenses...”

Those few planets that remained independent of the conflict, scattered on the fringes of Humanity’s expanse, were the few to retain their right to political involvement. Elsewhere, it was swiftly revoked so that either empire could better hold itself in the Rebellion. While some had hoped it would be a temporary measure, the current state of the Autocracy/Militocracy firmly entrenches itself in those same ways, with no intent to remove them until all of Humanity is gathered under a single banner again.

Outward Approaches

Humanity was, is, and shall, not be without alien counterparts. Though peace and brotherhood was beamed across the stars, the thought of humanity joining others in the galaxy as comrades in sentience, it was clear with the Consortium that this was not meant to be. They alone accounted for the genocide and extinction of several dozen sentient species, and were slow to call for allies once it was certain that the Rebellion was a serious threat. None answered their call.

On the other end, the Rebels were quick to call upon potential allies amongst the stars, hoping for even one race to support them in their infancy. Based upon the lack of sentients in the galaxy now, their reactions are obvious - none answered their call, as well. Because of this, our current Empire crusades across the stars looking for Terra, as well as exterminating those who had betrayed us and left us to die against the Consortium.

Throughout the years, many thousands, nay, millions, of humans from either side gained fame and familiarity across the stars as heroes. From the soldiers of the Consortium, like Lance Corporal Laura Case, who defended the gates of Aeneas Prime from soon-to-be Shanixian Conquerors, to Admiral Bergenfield, who successfully lead the Rebel Fleet to bring the fight directly to Humanity’s Homeworld, Terra.

LCPL. Case of Aeneas
In the Third Generation of Rebellion, war finally came as armies fought armies on planets, not in space. One of the largest battlegrounds was Aeneas, once a wealthy and mineral-rich planet that was held as enormous garden for high-ranking Consortium Overseers. To take this jewel would cripple both the officers of the Consortium, as well as the soldiers that knew of it. So Shanix sent its finest, its best, its most numerous forces to take it as theirs, or destroy its scenery.

Upon arrive in system, they immediately engaged with the Consortium Fleet above planet, and swatted them out of the way without a worry. The Naval forces set up for orbital bombardment while the combined Army, totaling 35 Million, began to drop at key locations - one of which, was the Capital of Aeneas, Aeneas Prime. To secure that would give them a near impregnable foothold on the planet, solidifying its position as primary target.

Without the ability to bombard the city itself, the resulting plan was to send in several covert teams, backed up by a large distraction force, to cut off electricity, destroy several weapons emplacements, and blow open an entrance into the fortress of Aeneas Prime. The plan succeeded, save for a single fireteam that was trapped in the fortress, captured by the remaining garrison after completely their assigned objective - by blowing open one of the gates to the inside.

Knowing them must save their comrades, the remaining operatives, coupled with the invading distraction force, marched on the gates of Aeneas Prime to rescue their comrades, a mass of nearly a hundred thousand soldiers bearing down on less than a thousand of them. Because the main gate into the fortress had been breached earlier in the night, the secondary gates had not triggered, requiring the usage of their manual trigger.

Enter Laura Case, Lance Corporal of the Consortium Militarized Security Forces, Veteran of 5 years experience. Her thoughts and parting words remain unknown to Shanix to this day, however, her actions are as well known as any battle in the rebellion, especially on on Aeneas. She rallied her comrades to the main gates, and with their covering fire, charged through to the security post containing the trigger and successfully activated it - and was promptly gored by a 14mm rocket. Though it granted her comrades a total of 14 hours survival time, the rebels managed to breach their defenses once again, and eliminate the garrison in within an hour. Aeneas Prime had fallen, and within a month, Aeneas followed in suit.

Because of the haste with which Aeneas was taken, there was no time for the CMSF to notify their command of Case’s actions, but grave-teams managed to identify her body after the battle, allowing her the small amount of respect she deserved, even if she was Consortium aligned.

The Assault on Terra
The tale of Bergenfield is a hard one to solidify - after he scattered the Consortium Fleet from Terra, all communication ceased with the collapse of the Intragalactic FTL Communications System. The following events are confirmed to have happened, due to direct transmission via FTL Communication Stations:

  • Admiral Bergenfield enters Solar System with combined fleet of 1392 Capital Ships and associated support.

  • Bergenfield engages CMSF Fleet, sized 1186 Capital Ships, for approximately 1.2 hours.

  • Bergenfield disengages from CMSF fleet, having caused 230 disables on CMSF ships at a cost of 313 of his own.

  • Regrouping behind Jupiter, Bergenfield announces he is reengaging the CMSF Fleet.

  • Bergenfield transmits successful capture of Terra, his final transmission.

After this, we lost contact with Bergenfield, and eventually, with the entirety of Humanity. The FTL Communication Systems had been destroyed by a rogue virus at this point, forcing us to attempt to piece together the events in the Solar System, after appropriate mourning of Bergenfield.

We assume that, because he transmitted capture of Terra, that the Consortium’s control had fallen and an invasion had begun. We assume that, because the FTL systems had been destroyed, and traces of the virus found, the Consortium used their final option to cripple the rebellion, and Humanity with it. We assume that, after 450 years, Bergenfield has passed away and been succeeded.

After his “official” passing, the Shanixian Rebellion, now Empire, called for a year of mourning for the famed Admiral, on each planet. His actions toppled the Corrupt Consortium system and started the replacement with the Shanixian Imperial Defense & Transitional Government. And he will, forever, be missed.

Collapse of the Consortium
As mentioned during the description of Admiral Bergenfield’s direct attack on Terra, the toppling of the Consortium happened during the dual event of conquering of Terra and loss of FTL Communications. Without their central control station, the iron grip that once held thousands of planets fell limp, and unwillingly released them. The Rebellion had won. Humanity could be united.

The biggest problem though, was communication. While Shanixian forces are true and loyal to their cause, the same (but to a lesser degree) can be said about the Consortium Planets. This forced, and continues to force, The Shanixian Government to actively hunt down former Consortium planets, as well as former Shanixian ones, and bring them under the current fold. Our hopes are that one day we shall see our Empire reunited with, at the least, fast communication.

Our would-be allies, The bastard aliens, understood the fracturing of the already greatly divided empire meant a chance at gaining some territory and power will little cost. The most daring of them were the Rabolei, who enslaved twenty human systems before they were stopped, and held them for another 30 years before being dislodged. To this day, we are unsure whether more of our brothers and sisters lie under the guns of hostile Xenos, but we know that if we find them, we will save them. At any cost.

The Shanixian Empire Today
As it stands, the Shanixian Empire is a massive confederacy of systems all under the banner of Shanix. Each planet sends a large report of its operations every decade to Shanix, across the mining tug lanes, who responds with proper command for them to continue - otherwise, each planet maintains a level of independence comparable to single nations that used to exist on Terra.

The most important result, outside the formation of a central imperial government, was the Unification of Humanity under a single defining idea - the Campaign for Terra. Before, humanity served its individuals, venerating celebrities and money as the important and influential. Now, each man, woman, and child, has come together to support humanity as a whole in her endeavors.