I only own what someone else does not.

2/28/11: I was recently reminded that this has some similarities to Heir to the Empire by Ozz, which is a happy but unintentional coincidence. I just went back to reread that recently, and picked out spots that had similar themes. When I was building this, my source materials, as far as theme ideas, were EVEOnline (ships), Star Trek (singularity weaponry), and general geophysics for the planetary mechanics. Asheer's Crystal Gambit seems the most familiar, but I think that was unintentional. Lexicon notes were put up on the fly, and then compared to my concept flow chart (outlines are too mechanical).


A History Of War, Loss, and Hope: pt. 1

Initial AN: This... is a complicated interlude. In a way, this can be utterly ignored, and you as the reader, lose nothing. This is also, I suppose, a character piece. In a way, I feel like I've alienated some of my audience with Ranma's severe bias against a figure that canonically represented everything right and just that one could aim for.

I mention sometimes that I tell stories via imperfect windows. I write, most often, in a limited third person perspective. I focus on one, maybe two characters, and through them, tell the story. My focus is usually fairly good in this – you as the reader see the world through their eyes. Their imperfect, biased, opinionated, personal windows. Such is how we view the world, and so, I strive to mimic such in my work.

This is a history, as I envision it for the purposes of defining the Eclipsed alternate universe. It expands and focuses on a portion of history that actually has little bearing on the story itself at this time. In the future, it may become... extremely relevant, but there is no foreseeable point in what I'm planning, that this should be included as-is. The degree of exposition is massive, and resorting to flashbacks and the mechanics required to build characterization and dialog to include it would easily double the current written payload of what has been published, and distract severely from my focus.

In this first of possibly three interludes – the other ones will come after the next story arc, no sooner – detailing what should be considered a somewhat biased record, as told by the writers of history. There is that accursed tool, jargon, but I have included a lexicon, at the end. There is pseudo-science. I ask that if you cannot ignore what implausibilities I attempt, to at least regard them as a moderate effort in explaining a course of circumstances. I do not presume to be a scientist, but I do enjoy science.

This will be the last 'interlude' type chapter, before the beginning of the next story arc.

On with it.

Imperial boundaries included the Sol System in their territory many years before long-distance scans revealed three inhabited worlds there. Due to the distance and other concerns wracking the Empire at the time, those mostly pertaining to threats that saw the original homeworld of the sprawling dynasty destroyed, little was done to follow up on that awareness until sometime around two centuries after the ascent of the previous Serenity XVII. By the time attention had returned to the distant worlds, the happy surprise of human influence had spread to every planet in the system, if not in familiar ways.

To understand why the Sol System became a target of so much attention, one must look to the history of the Empire, at the time.

More a title than a name, The Serenity was a position held by the current viable heir of the matriarchal ruling line of the Empire's predominant ruling family. There were five such families – called Houses – which were at once the force that kept the Empire from stifling its subjects via the threat of tyranny, and posed a source of internal conflict, keeping the Empire in a state of near-eternal civil war. The title 'Serenity' was coined, as only when those Houses' conflicts were quelled, did the Empire enjoy peace in any way, shape, or form. The rise of a Serenity typically indicated these periods of idyllic rest and peace, though such a position was not always filled. Despite the Empire's seemingly warlike nature, it was not the drive to conquer that lead to its vast military engine which secured a protectorate spanning most of an arm of the known galaxy. It was a desire to enlighten. Culture within the Empire was, broadly, considered focused on the ascetic and encouraged the production of art of various kinds, and the advancement of human knowledge. It was far from idyllic, but there were no better examples.

The future Serenity XVIII – the figure most common in record – was a remarkable woman who was a second-born daughter and third child of the Jinholor House circa 418 PS (Pre-Settling), based on the primary Empire homeworld of Spiras. Her birth name was stricken from the records on her ascent as was custom, but it was commonly known as she was anything but an unknown figure. Asheer ul'Jinholor rose from near-obscurity, the long shadow of her elder sister who ruled House Jinholor and therefore Spiras as was custom, and an older brother who proved a prodigy at combining Immaterial Metrics and Logical Sciences as if they were mated ideas. Those shadows were deep and hard to dispel, though she managed well enough to do so by act and reputation some small time before her ascent. Graduating second place overall in her creche, the future Serenity's focus on Immaterial Metrics – a love instilled in her by her brother – and Strategy would prove crucial to the survival of the Empire, as would her tenure as a fleet commander, as most non-heir children of the Houses spent their lives.

Ten years and three commissions as a ranking Second Officer aboard Imperial ships saw Asheer taking command of her own vessel, Galatea, shortly before an uprising against the current Serenity (Halasiir un'Garave, Serenity XVII) due to a sudden madness regarding the loss of her consort. Details regarding the consort's death were never released, but assassination by a rival House was suspected. Serenity un'Garave turned her private fleet and guard against the near-neighbor to Spiras, Korova, homeworld to the parties she suspected responsible for her consort's death. As she had bypassed the House Conclave and acted independently, and in a fashion that threatened the well-being of three of the five Houses directly, her title was stripped, and control of the Empire was again returned to the Conclave – though this decision was made moot by the time-frames involved.

Regardless of those decisions, made in the early stages of Halasiir's vendetta, her actions proved pivotal in leading to the ascent of Asheer as the next Serenity.

The last Imperial Home War (the 318th), began with the refusal of Halasiir un'Garave (former Serenity XVII) to relinquish control of her personal fleet and hand-chosen Imperial Guard, while in orbit over Korova (Second Imperial homeworld, neighbor to Spiras, the Imperial Seat). While personal fleet movement was not an act of war on its own, the suspected assassination of Halasiir's consort by parties originating on Korova from rival Houses proved cause enough to demand the former Serenity's compliance in a disarming action.

Halasiir's answer was to arm and launch her entire fleet's compliment of singularity armament against Korova. Planetary defenses were sluggish to react on the irrational attack, and estimates in the hundreds were suspected in the number of ZPG warheads launched (for a planet Korova's size, density, and makeup, four ZPG warhead detonations under ideal impact conditions would have been sufficient to result in planetary collapse). Twenty-seven such payloads were delivered to Korova's surface, resulting in cataclysmic structural collapse of the planet, and the formation of a short-life Singularity Compound phenomenon.

Due to the timing and nature of the attack, significant Imperial Home Fleet numbers were absent, and those ships loyal to the three Houses based on Korova were caught in the catastrophe that saw the planet reduced to a prolonged Singularity Compound phenomenon, centering on its former position. Halasiir herself lost over forty percent of her own fleet in that same gravity distortion, proving quite clearly that the former Serenity's mind had suffered significant upset over the loss of her consort.

As the Imperial Guard and personal fleet to each Serenity were typically charged with the defense and protection of the homeworlds, there was little non-affiliated Empire presence within the Je'en System to counter the un'Garave woman's actions. The further loss of Korova and nearly all nearby orbital bodies lessened those numbers drastically.

Asheer ul'Jinholor, returning with only the recently launched Galatea and its support fleet from the distant shipyards positioned within the Hrall asteroid field, seemed wholly insufficient for the task of routing and bringing the maddened Halasiir to heel.

She would prove those opinions wrong, by doing the impossible, which became a hallmark of her rule.

The future Serenity's actions require a broad understanding of Immaterial Metrics, in regard to the functioning of Star Seeds.

It was a common practice for the Empire to pass along the Star Seed of Spiras to the Serenity in power, through a ceremony that spanned nearly the history of the Empire itself. Some claimed that the bearing of that artifact-conduit insured that the Serenity-in-power considered her homeworld her paramount responsibility, recalling ages in prehistory that claimed that such a thing was gifted by the anima of the planet itself, rather than spontaneous natural selection. Others considered the Silver Crystal a created artifact, resembling those primitive Star Seeds in the same way a flint arrowhead resembled a singularity missile.

Before contact with the Sol System, the Empire's handling of various 'Guardian Forces' on the many planets within its borders had been a standard affair. If the planet could be self-governed with minimal hostile behavior from its inhabitants, with conformity to Empire doctrine established, and had little risk of uprising, the Empire did nothing, feeling the Guardian Force a benefit as the planet essentially fell into the broad definition of assumed rule. Planets that refused the Empire's overtures were systematically stripped of all military power, including the Guardian Force in most cases. In the event of such a situation, the acting Serenity would be required to make a personal appearance, using the Silver Crystal – the unofficial name of the Spiras Star Seed – to initiate and bind a new Guardian for the planet, loyal to the Empire to help establish correct rule. By necessity, almost all Empire Houses trained their heirs in Immaterial Metrics, regardless of talent or the potential for them to one day find themselves wielding the Silver Crystal or another Star Seed. Such studies, discussions, lectures, and discourse fueled the culture that the Empire worked to spread.

Immaterial Metrics studies confirmed that there exists a linkage between Star Seeds granting Guardian Force abilities, and the collective unconscious of that Seed's protectorate. If the bearer of that Seed held allegiance to the Empire, so too in time would the population of their planets. This phenomenon took generations, but was well-documented. Fault tolerances were studied in such situations, but no conclusive results were found. Few Guardians would willingly endanger their own planet, or allow such danger to go unanswered, indicating a sympathetic link working both ways, at least on an instinctual level. Threat response seemed a higher priority than the more subtle coercion of loyalty – as loyalty to the Empire implied safety and protection. Studies of hostile Guardians were deemed too costly in human and material resources to perform.

Though it was an uncommon ability within the Empire at the time, there were various degrees of sensitivity to that collective mind-state that was proven to permeate large populations sharing a culture. No one suspected Asheer ul'Jinholor to have the talent to access this empathy, as none in her House had previously, but nothing more than speculation on her abilities in such a vein would ever come to light. She herself was quoted as saying "When pressed, we all have something special to draw on. Maybe it was fated that I do as I did, in light of Halasiir's madness. Maybe there is some truth to those old legends, and Spiras called out to me."

Records of the battle between the Galatea's support fleet and Halasiir's remaining Guard showed that Asheer entered the battle underarmed and outnumbered despite the former Serenity's losses to her own ill-planned offensive. As her fleet died around her, Asheer was reported to have entered her ship's Synthesium – a meditation chamber common on House ships – to consider her actions.

It was during this period that Astrometrics aboard the Galatea reported that debris from Korova's destruction, specifically a large mass-remnant from its satellite, was on a collision path with Spiras.

This string of seemingly unconnected events resulted in the first of Asheer's 'miracles'. From the Synthesium of her ship, she emerged with the Empire's Silver Crystal.

Once Asheer acquired the Silver Crystal, the battle between Halasiir's forces and her own shifted drastically. This was the result of many factors.

In the brief period before her ship's destruction, Halasiir's crew were recorded going into a brief period of confusion, and a shift in the command structure occurred. It can be inferred that Asheer's actions may have killed Halasiir, as most often the loss of a Star Seed proves fatal. That sudden loss and the shift in command proved pivotal, as the loss of a field commander understandably resulted in chaos for those affected.

Asheer proved competent as using the Crystal immediately, extending her consciousness outward through her own fleet's command structure, coordinating acts through that network of perception and response. The shift of the battle's result in her favor was staggering.

No record of why was given, but the carrier-dreadnaught Noralune within Halasiir's forces broke formation, and proceeded on a collision course with the satellite-remnant threatening Spiras. It is theorized that much like her own fleet, Asheer took control of or planted the suggestion within the mind of the ship's commander to take such an action. That neither Halasiir's nor Asheer's fleet fired on the Noralune after it changed course supports this. As the largest coordinating vessel, and the command ship in control of Halasiir's drone fighters, the loss of the Noralune reduced the former Serenity's effective field strength by a quarter, and her fleet's ability to counter Asheer's respective interceptors and light-attack craft by seventy-five percent.

The Noralune survived the longest of Halasiir's fleet, before colliding with the remnant.

Despite that collision, the satellite-remnant remained essentially on-course with Spiras. ZPG armaments were suggested but the risk of possibly utterly destroying Spiras due to gravity-interference in targeting was too high. None of the expected results were satisfactory – if the remnant shattered, multiple extinction-grade impacts would occur. Annihilating it via Singularity Compounding – the fate of Korova – was out of the question, due to the nearness of Spiras. Time was a factor, and there was little to spend in debate. Asheer again retreated to her Synthesium, to consider her next actions.

It was during this period of tense waiting that all communication with Spiras ceased, and remote monitoring showed that the planet itself had gone 'cold' – infrared emissions from population centers plummeted. Minutes later, the planet suffered a cataclysmic impact event from the collision of the remnant. The resulting crust-mantle buckling, and ultimately the loss of dynamo action in core regions due to a compromised upper-core fault, rendered Spiras's magnetic field inert. Within a day, the atmosphere that remained began to be quickly boiled away into space or became a reactive soup, as no protection remained to avert radiation with the loss of a magnetic cloak to deflect the largest portion of the solar wind. The loss of the atmosphere reduced surface pressures drastically, triggering a chain of evaporation and expulsion of all surface water in the same manner. Massive events of surface volcanism due to the shifting crust-mantle boundary and the lock-up of the previously fluid-buoyed core destroyed all traces of previous habitation.

Asheer ul'Jinholor was found in her Synthesium, unconscious, bleeding from the nose, ears, and eyes, cradling the Silver Crystal, and encased in a protective field that defied all attempts to breach it. Cryptically and alluding to a stress-induced episode of hysteria, she had penned a single passage on the Synthesium floor, near where she was found.

"I saved them. They live on in me. I saved them, oh Light, what have I done?"

Nearly a month later, as the Empire homeworld's fate was made public through its vastness, the combined remaining fleets gathered above the Je'el System. Asheer ul'Jinholor, last and most senior surviving heir of any House, addressed the concerns of the broken Empire.

She had, as she explained, burned out what talent she had at tapping into the collective unconscious, grasping at and trying to save all those on Spiras in an act of desperation. Though she did not plan it, her act – at least in part – succeeded. The massive drop in infrared radiation detected directly before the destruction of Spiras was the result of the planetary-scale death of every sentient being on the planet and near-orbital bodies. Those lives were captured and locked into an energy state, contained within the Silver Crystal. That same artifact, so empowered, defied any and all attempted measurement in capacity or potential. It also refused any attempts at isolation from Asheer, violently in some cases, resulting in the death of one science team, who by popular order worked to sever her connection.

Asheer herself took such attempts in stride as if unconcerned, coordinating plans to rebuild the Empire in another system as if driven. She forwent food, rest, and all but the most basic human necessities in her focus. She would rebuild the Empire. She would redeem those she had let die, while under the banner of her protection. Plans were laid out and discussed, along with potential target systems, while the Empire shifted like a restless beast around her.

With the center of its power seemingly destroyed, distant and strongly-opposed worlds rose up and cast off their Empire overseers. Rebellion rampaged across the outer portions of the Empire's influence, while at its core, the survivors worked to reconcile and recoup their previous glory. Systems were lost. Connections to resources broken. The Empire was crumbling.

Reluctantly, a consensus of minor House bloodline survivors, fleet commanders, scientists, and advisors named Asheer ul'Jinholor as The Serenity XVIII. With her ascent, Serenity ul'Jinholor began plans for a flagship, intended to be a symbol of hope for a crumbling culture. A reminder of what was lost, and what her people could accomplish, in the face of such adversity.

A decade later, and with her Empire's reach reduced nearly by half as rebellion and revolution consumed the outer reaches like a paper who's edges had all been set alight, the Grace was completed, and the remaining Empire fleets released from their watch to regain order. Serenity XVIII maintained a personal fleet of over two thousand ships as escort to the massive flagship that resembled nothing so much as a mobile planet in its own right. Knowing that such an accomplishment meant little without a continuing supply of resources and the safety of a star system to settle in and rebuild from, Serenity focused on the relatively recent discovery of a small green and blue world, referred to by its natives as Terra.

The system bore eleven worlds, all of which the native culture had rendered habitable. What amazed her in that, was that this Sol System had done so completely without Empire assistance, growing out of an ancient colony thought lost. Perhaps even that assumption was incorrect, as there were many differences in the humans of the Empire, and these spilling forth from Terra to populate their neighboring planets. These Terran ancestors bore shorter lives, though they compensated with a drive and ingenuity that lead to their rapid advancement wholly out of the Empire's original projections or experience.

Serenity needed that, and appealed to her advisors. She believed that in its long life, the Empire had grown fat and lazy with its grasp of Logical Science and Immaterial Metrics. Lives were long, and spent in pursuit of artistic expression, experience, and sensation. There was no great drive for the betterment of the culture, she claimed, because they believed themselves the epitome of what that potential could result in. War was the only lapse in that view, as the Empire could not stand by and let other, lesser cultures wallow in their ignorance. They brought justice, enlightenment, and the freedom from conflict to those they encompassed, but the cost for that was a loss of this intoxicating drive she'd rediscovered. If she could somehow absorb that quality into her Empire, make it a driving aspect that was passed on, rebuilding the greatness of its reach would be assured. The stagnation of the Empire would cease, and they could build themselves even higher, possibly even above the need for war in any form.

A Silver Empire, she proposed, displaying its supremacy by existing within an imperturbable Millennium of peace. She would establish this new incarnation of her Empire, at any cost. Once done, that resultant peace, she believed, would be so sublime, that simply by existing, it would inspire and spread like the shockwave of a supernova.

In her deepest heart, Serenity knew this was the right course.

Under Serenity's order, The Grace moved with implacable determination for its new home.

Sexy Lexicon:

Naming conventions: (given name) (birth order) ' (House). Birth order prefixes function as follows:
order determinant: -n, firstborn; -l secondborn; -r thirdborn; -ral, -rlen, -rlet, etc.
u+order determinant: female of the line.
i+order determinant: male of the line

Known holders of the title "Serenity":
Halasiir un'Garave, Serenity XVII
Asheer ul'Jinholor, Serenity XVIII
Usagi un'(Jinholor?), Serenity XIX

Empire Home System (At time of Settling War):
Je'en (star, F7IV class [bright yellow-white star nearing yellow class, of subgiant size]),
Isenth (chthonian planet, uninhabitable),
Hrall (destroyed, Hrall asteroid field depleted by mining efforts),
Spiras (uninhabitable, catastrophic impact event),
Korova (destroyed, singularity event – no field remnant),
Genhr (biosphere lost, terraforming engines destroyed through sabotage),
Balareth (suspension islands lost, no biosphere present – gas giant)

Sol System (Pre-Settling War):
Sol (star G2V class [yellow star two-tenths class divergence from orange, of a main sequence variety]),
Mercury (limited subterranean habitations, originally maintenance systems for a planet-scale cultivated silicon computer, based in the planetary crust),
Venus (controlled, cultivated biosphere, utilizing large-scale sulfur-binding though engineered vegetation.),
Terra (Earth. Origination point of Sol System life),
Mars (oceanic world, with artificial, sometimes mobile islands. Permanent habitats situated around induced volcanic islands),
Ceres (rocky world, with no magnetosphere. incapable of holding an atmosphere. utilized as a station-world, for the construction and testing of high technology, use as a shipyard, and as a shared military base. domed habitats and deep-core mining)
Jupiter (gas giant. 'cloud-cities' made viable via tuned suspension arrays, feeding off atmospheric turbulence, density, and surface tension between layers. multiple settled satellites),
Saturn (see Jupiter)
Uranus (hot planet due to very active core dynamo. extensive planetary terraforming focusing on atmospheric reduction.),
Neptune (tranquil oceanic world, with low temperatures and habitats buried under mantle ice. extensive subterranean tunnel networks),
Pluto (artificial world, created as an ongoing experimental laboratory for time-space sciences. hollow, Dyson Sphere with central low-yield singularity. lowest population),
Nemesis (rock and ice world. extensive use of subterranean habitats and artificial environments. technical habitat world to Pluto, with both locked into synchronous, nearby orbit. second lowest population.)

ELE: Extinction Level Event. Planetary crisis drastic enough that it results in a sharp decrease in the diversity and abundance of macroscopic life.

ZPG weaponry: Contained, deployable, short-lifetime, miniature black holes used in counter-planetary warfare. Typical 'humane' use involved measuring planetary mass and calculating the number of warheads needed to cause core-collapse of a planetary body, rendering the target into a asteroid field, capable of later mining.

Singularity Compounding: Collapse of small black holes into one another, increasing the mass effect and event horizon of the phenomenon. Decreases singularity lifespan due to quantum spin dissonance. The larger the Singularity Compounding initiated, the shorter the overall effect. Basic to the calculation for use of ZPG weaponry, as the ideal effect is to annihilate a planet's core, causing mantle collapse, which disrupts the pressure principals required to maintain the body's shape. Spin mechanics then tear the deformed planet apart, as its internal gravity and density no longer match the current rotational forces applied against them.

Synthesium: A meditation chamber with technological assistance. Conductive to quick trips into a trance-like state for accelerated thinking. Improper use is addictive, as it induces a euphoric dissociation. Theorized to assist psychic sensitives in various ways.

Immaterial Metrics: Magic, insomuch as it was high enough technology to appear as magic. Speaking specifically of the movement of power, focuses, origins, and effects essentially parallel to the Senshi powers, simplifying the concept to simply 'magic' is sufficient.

Guardian Force: Senshi, for all practical purposes, just not those of Empire systems. Most often used in describing distinctly non-human equivalents.

Gah. Next arc in production. And yes, there is a reason for so much space-opera type material...