The Shelflands: A Brief History

Ancient Past

There is very little known about Zi's ancient past. Most of what modern historians know is pieced together from fragmentary records, a few ruins and some spectacular artifacts. A few facts about the planets ancient past have been reconstructed, however.

At one stage, the planet is believed to have been inhabited by a humanoid race known as the Zoidaryans. Very little is known about them or their civilization. They died out millennia ago, leaving behind very little evidence of their existence. Partial remains and some records indicate that they were humanoid, standing about 1.7-2 meters tall and of similar appearance to modern humans. Beyond that, there is nothing solid known.

At some stage, a different race rose to power. Known as the Starriors, they may have been created by the Zoidarians in their image. The Starriors were a race of humanoid androids, also known as Mindriders. Resembling humans clad in something resembling modern Zoid pilot equipment, they were coloured entirely golden, even down to their featureless eyes.

The Starrior civilization flourished for centuries, making great achievements in science and technology. The few Starrior artifacts found intact suggest a level of technology far exceeding anything known to mankind. The Starriors are possibly best known for their battlesuits, massive humanoid war machines (Although many other configurations of Starrior weapons existed) standing some ten meters tall. Starrior battle suits appear to share some technologies with Zoids, suggesting a common origin.

Two other races arose during the Starrior period. The first were the Zoids, early ancestral forms of machines that we recognize today. The first wild Zoids, essentially animal like creatures, appeared during this period. The Starriors then developed these creatures, creating some of the earliest forms of Zoid found on the planet. The Garius and others like it date from this period, believed to have been controlled by the Starrior Mindriders.

The second race were actually an offshoot of the Starriors themselves. Known as the Z-Knights, there is very little evidence of their existence today. Believed to be a very warlike culture, they created their own battlesuits that far exceeded the Starriors' own ones in capabilities.

Then, abruptly, the Starriors and the Z-Knights both vanished. There is some evidence to suggest that the two races clashed, possibly wiping each other out in some devastating conflict. At any stage, the Starriors and Z-Knights vanished from the planet, leaving behind only a handful of ruins and the Zoids.

It is known that Zi's climate altered at some stage, becoming much hotter and drier. Whether this was the result of a war, a natural process or even if it is linked to the extinction of these races is unknown. Whatever happened, the planet Zi was left to its new rulers, the Zoids. The planet would be theirs for millennia to come.

Colonisation and Conflict

Millennia after the extinction of the Starriors, a new life form arrived on Zi. The planet had been selected for colonization by Earth. More to the point, it had been selected as a very particular type of colony. The bulk of the colonists headed for Zi were selected for the program as a way for the Earth government to weed out 'undesirable' elements of their society. While they did include a number of intellectuals, political advocates, social engineers and free thinkers, the bulk of the colonists were criminals.

As per the standard model for colonization vessels at the time, the ships that bought mankind to Zi was a single use, one-way vehicle. The bulk of the ships were made up of descent modules, designed to transport people and cargo on a one-way trip to the planet's surface, and then be disassembled. The skeleton of the ship would then remain in orbit to be reconstructed for future use once the colony had achieved spaceflight, or disassembled for materials.

The majority of the modules landed on the Shelflands Continent, spread out across the length and breadth of the continent. A few more would land on Zi's eastern continent, but contact with these were lost, their eventual fates unknown. As per the plan, the colonists disassembled their modules and used them to begin building their new society.

Over time the colonies grew across the planet. Despite a few squabbles, the colonies were mostly peaceful, a surprise given the origins of much of the population. For a while it seemed like the Zi colony would grow peacefully. But a chance discovery changed all that.

The Colonists had discovered the Zoids not too long after arrival. At first mistaking them for organic animals, they were surprised to discover that they were, in fact, mechanical life forms. Early attempts to capture wild Zoids for use proved to be unsuccessful until, by chance, an exploration team found a Starrior ruin, complete with several functional Zoids within. The technology from this ruin allowed the humans to learn to capture and tame wild Zoids, as well as develop their own. Within a few years, the Zoid population had exploded as the human colonies equipped themselves with the new machines.

While originally intending to use the machines for construction and development of the colonies, many discovered that the creatures could also be armed and used as devastating weapons of warfare. Soon, groups of warlords rose up, intent on ruling their neighbors. The small squabbles grew as armed groups of men and Zoids began to clash.

One warlord had his own plan, however. A warlord named Darin Hinkle successfully seized control of several of the larger groups. Renaming himself Kor Khan, he raised an army bent on the conquest of the colony. Kor's forces swept across the planet in a merciless wave of conquest, destroying all those who would not submit to him. His stance was simple; join us or be destroyed.

There were few who could stand against him. For a while, it appeared that Kor would crush the whole planet under his iron heel, or destroy it trying.

The First Zoid War

Frost Dale had been another city that had been crushed by Kor's forces. Like so many others, he made an example of it by slaughtering every member of its populace. One of them, however, escaped, being Melissa Fyre, daughter of the town's leader.

Four years passed, during which time Kor's forces marched on, continuing their conquests. He had finally reached the gates of Metropolis, the largest city in the Shelflands. Metropolis had strong walls and some remaining advanced Earth Technology, but Kor's forces boasted sheer numbers. His forces settled in for a long siege, knowing that the victory was inevitable.

One night changed all that.

Melissa Fyre attacked Kor's camp on her own, piloting a Mad Thunder, believed to be the first of its kind discovered. In one night, her Zoid destroyed a sizable chunk of Kor's army, literally crushing it under her Zoid's iron feet. Kor's forces retreated in disarray, their leaders killed and the troops confused by the sudden appearance of this terrifying and seemingly unstoppable machine.

The people of Metropolis rallied behind Melissa, giving her their support. They, like so many others, had been looking for a symbol that Kor's forces could be stopped and that there may be another choice other then his rule. Soon, Melissa had raised an army of her own, and was ready to take the fight to Kor's forces.

Melissa's troops swept across Kor's territory, lead by her seemingly invincible Mad Thunder, liberating towns and cities as they went. However, Kor was able to rally his armies, and soon launched his own offensive against Fyre's troops. Soon the clashes escalated, growing into a full scale conflict, the First Zoid War.

The conflict grew as the two forces fought for control of the Shelflands. What began as skirmishes between small groups of Zoid-armed forces escalated into mass battles between armies of Zoids. First Kor, and the Fyre, began to use weapons of mass destruction, based on designs taken from surviving Earth technology. Large areas of the Shelflands were devastated, creating such regions as today's wastelands. For a while, it seemed like there would be no winner to the conflict.

Eventually, Fyre's forces were able to gain enough strength to bring down Kor once and for all. Fyre and Kor would face each other in one last, epic battle that would end the conflict forever. Once the dust settled, Melissa Fyre was left in control of half the Shelflands.

Rise of the Empire

Having finally ended the threat of Kor Khan, Melissa Fyre set about rebuilding the Shelflands. By the end of the campaign, the most of the eastern half of the continent was behind her, having pledged their allegiance to their savior and liberator. The rest of the continent was a mess of small, independent city states that had remained untouched by both Fyre and Kahn's forces.

A new government rose up out of the newly unified territories, with Melissa Fyre at its head. The new government went through several evolutions, before ending up as a united empire lead by a single figure with supreme power. While initially appearing despotic and not too much better then Kor's alternative, the choice was made to ensure stability. Additionally, a system of checks and balances within the ruling structure was established to prevent the newly crowned Empress from becoming a true tyrant.

Under the reign of Melissa and her decedents, the Empire grew and prospered, while remaining peaceful and stable. Other nations grew up around the Empire, but none had the strength or power to challenge the Empire. While they occasionally waged small wars amongst themselves, the Empire itself remained largely free of conflict.

After nearly two centuries, the Empire had grown to cover more then half of the Shelflands; the Eastern half being entirely ruled by the empire, while a thumb extended across the wastelands into the western half of the continent. The Western Empire eventually came into contact with the other nations of the Shelflands. Several clashes resulted from nations seeking to defend themselves form the perceived threat of Imperial expansion, but no force had the strength to stand against the empire. Eventually, the other nations withdrew to their own borders, realizing that the Empire was here to stay.

Cultural Change

In the centuries following the Zoid War, the Shelflands population grew and expanded across the continent. In doing so, they changed. They no longer saw themselves as colonists come from another world, but rather natives of this planet. As time went on, knowledge of earth and its history faded, becoming the stuff of myths and legends.

While the initial colonists had been equipped with an array of advanced Earth Technologies, the knowledge to build and use much of this technology was lost during the wars. As time wore on,, most advanced technology was lost, replaced with indigenously developed systems or more primitive systems.

As populations from earth expanded and intermixed, old cultural and ethnic groups blended and combined, forming into the new nations of the Shelflands. New nationalities arose, each with their own unique national characters like those on earth. As the people of the Shelflands adapted to their new environments, they changed to become further removed from their ancestors.

The most extreme example of this was the Meridian people. Descendants of a group of scientists and researchers who wanted to completely escape the old ways and create a new culture, they underwent radical genetic reconstruction to adapt themselves for aquatic life. These genes were passed on to their descendants, allowing them to create a completely aquatic civilization off the western coast of the Shelflands. Isolationist to the point of Xenophobia, the Meridians all but vanished below the waters for centuries.

Another interesting change was the discovery of humanity's growing mental powers. Some individuals began to develop an affinity for Zoids that grew beyond the normal connection between pilot and machine, with the pilots able to somehow mentally communicate with Zoids. This group would eventually evolve into the 'Darth' movement of today.

Independence

After nearly two centuries of growth and stability, things were beginning to change within the Drakken Empire. There had been a growing movement for change within the empire and dissatisfaction with the current regime. Many of them stemmed from opposition to what was seen as a totalitarian government and a growing desire for true democracy.

At the same time, many of the Empire's western colonies and territories were agitating for independence. Far removed form the ancient heartland of the empire, the citizens of the newer colonies didn't have the same attachment to the Empire as their forebears. Over time, the voices for change and independence became louder and louder, and some grew to fear for the empire's safety.

The Draken Emperor reacted to the situation in a completely unexpected manner. He granted independence to the western portion of the empire, separating them from the empire and allowing them to form their own nation. The newly independent colonies wasted no time in setting up a freely-elected democratic government, which in turn attracted many of the reformers form the empire into the new nation.

It was an ingenious solution; not only did it allow the Drakken Empire to dispose of potential problems and possibly even avert a civil war, but it also created a buffer of sorts between them and the other nations of the Shelflands. By withdrawing their forces back beyond the wastelands, the Empire effectively cut the new nation off from their support.

On the first day of 3903 (Stellar Standard Calendar) The United Zoid States came into being. Almost immediately, it was attacked on all fronts by its neighbors. The determined new nation fought back, desperate to preserve its newly-won independence. To many it seemed like the UZS would die not too long after its birth. They couldn't have been more wrong.

The United Zoid Nations

In 3908, the aquatic nation of Meridia emerged from its isolation and declared war on both the UZN and the neighboring Raycliffe Confederacy. The Meridian forces attacked both nations, aiming to seize their coastlines while both were distracted with fighting each other. Realizing the new threat, the two nations formed an alliance against the Meridian threat.

Putting aside their hostilities and coordinating their actions, the UZS and Raycliffe Confederacy fought back against the Meridian invasion. The two combined forces smashed the Meridian army, driving their forces back into the ocean. Several punitive raids were launched against the Meridian homelands, but were largely repulsed.

Realizing the benefits to further cooperation and mutual protection, the two countries formed a mutual protection, economic and technology sharing alliance, dubbed the United Zoid Nations. The UZN was formally born in 3909, but most historians date it's founding to the Meridian War.

In the meantime, Meridia was suffering a period of great economic and social strife following their unsuccessful invasion and discovery by the outside world. The government that had launched the invasion had collapsed, leaving the nation in chaos. The interim government reluctantly appealed to their former enemies for aid. To their surprise, the UZN not only offered aid, but also offered them a place in the new alliance. Meridia become the third member of the UZN, formally joining in 3910.

Despite the new alliance, the wars and raids into the UZS continued for a number of years. Daatoon, an alliance of tribal groups was particularly aggressive, aiming to capture more of the UZS and later Raycliffe territory. However, as the growing military strength of the UZN began to see more defeats for the Daatoon forces, they began to reconsider their relationship with their neighbors. The UZN invited Daantoon to join in 3919; they accepted almost immediately.

As the UZN continued to grow in power, other nations requested to join the alliance. Beginning with Glade in 3922, other nations joined the UZN. The Western Wastes, a loose tribal coalition joined in 3930, largely to gain protection form the encroaching Drakken Empire.Thios was followed by the mercantile nation of Zespoia in 2934, the industrial nation of Chronos in 3936, and finally the military state of Pendros in 3941. Very soon, the UZN stood as a military, economic and technological power comparable to the Draken empire. Many thought that a war between the two superpowers was inevitable, with only the barren expanses of the Wastelands standing between them and conflict.

The Technology Wars

By 3972, the UZN had reached rough parity with the Draken empire in post regards. Many within the UZN still regarded the Empire as a threat to their future and hard-won freedoms, however. Hawks within the UZN assembly began calling for war with the Empire, as a way to 'protect themselves form the inevitable'. However, the UZN military command realized that such a war would at best end in a bloody stalemate, and at worst would end with the UZN being crushed by the Imperial Forces.

Searching for a way to defeat the Empire, the UZN believed that they had found one just beyond their border. The high tech enclave of Acroinia had remained secluded from the outside world for centuries, but stories had leaked out aobut its people. They were known to be the masters of ancient and arcane technologies, far beyond any found elsewhere in the Shelflands. It was believed that the Acronians possessed lost Earth Technology, Starrior weapons and other such fantastic devices. Soon, voices within the UZN command saw the Acronians as their key to victory.

Figuring that the reclusive, almost secretive Acronians would be unwilling to enter into a military alliance, the UZN tried a different approach. They contacted the Acronians, and demanded that they hand over all their advanced weapons to the UZN in the interests of promoting peace and stability in the region. The Acronians refused to, and as a result the UZN declared war to seize the weapons they sought.

The UZN's forces immediately met with incredibly stiff resistance from the Acronian defense forces. Facing mainly automated defensive systems of incredible destructive capabilities, the UZN forces became bogged down in a long and bloody stalemate that would last another eight years.

After years of attrition, the UZN forces were able to break through the Acronian lines. Heading for their capital, they reached the Acronian last line of defense, the Shelf Ridge. A lone Zoid stepped up to challenge the approaching UZN forces, launching a single weapon, the so-called Darius Missile. In an instant, over 70 of the UZN forces were annihilated. The remaining troops, unwilling or unable to face any more technological terrors that the Acronians may unleash, broke and fled.

The UZN, after witnessing what had happened, immediately contacted the Acronians, signaling their immediate surrender. They realized that they could not hope to fight against such weapons that could destroy their nation in minutes. The UZN prepared for the worst, fearing Acronian domination.

Instead, the Acronians joined the UZN. They themselves were horrified at the destruction they had wrought and wished to atone for their perceived crimes. The Acronians would become full members of the UZN, but their weapons would remain sealed away forever.

Ironically, the Acronain representative Card afterwards stated "We would joined them if they had but asked."

The Present Day

While the Acronians didn't yield the "ultimate weapons" that the UZN had hoped for, they still provided many benefits to the UZN. Access to lower-level Acronain technology allowed for numerous scientific and technological breakthroughs, greatly improved the standard of living across the UZN.

Another benefit was the Acronians gave the UZN far greater access to space through their extensive launch and research facilities. Soon after the Acronians joined the UZN, the UZN Space Command was formed to make the UZN a true power in space. A fleet of attack ships was constructed to protect the UZN from any space-borne threat or weapons platforms the Empire might deploy, while construction of a moonbase enabled further exploration of the Zi system.

As the years passed, the nations of the UZN found themselves growing closer and closer together. The nature of the UZN changed over time from an alliance to a true government as its nations created a common currency, a central military command and a dedicated army that served the Alliance as a whole, rather then any one individual state.

Despite this, the threat of war still loomed large on the horizon. Many within the UZN began to see it as their destiny that all nations on the Shelflands would be united under the UZN's banner. At the same time, others remained wary of the Draken Empire and its power. Both sides would engage in numerous small clashes and skirmishes with each other and various neutral nations, but a true full-scale war would never emerge.

One unpleasant side effect of this was the rise of the Wastelands into a form of prominence. Acting as a buffer between the two superpowers, it became the site of numerous clashes between them. Many 'undesirable' elements from both countries filtered into the wastelands, taking advantage of the chaos to raid and pillage independent communities. Soon, it became something of a free fire Zone where raiders, mercenaries, terrorists, wanderers and the two great powers clashed.

The dawn of the 42nd century saw a marked rise in tensions between the UZN and Draken Empire. A Draken army base in the wastelands was attacked and wiped out by an unknown force, while a dangerous criminal escaped one of the UZN's most secure facilities with outside aid. The UZN's most respected mediator, a representative of the Acronian government, vanished in the wastelands on a diplomatic mission.

The planet seemed blanaced on a knife-edge, about to tip into total war; one in which the Wastelands would be the center of the conflict.