Star Control - Fall of the Milieu

A plot by Roberto Aguirre Maturana. All pictures original source is copyright of their respective authors.
Based on the characters and events depicted in the game "Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters".

The story begins a couple weeks before the events leading to the attack of Qapf, Taalo's homeworld, by the rest of the races of the Sentient Milieu, under control of the Dnyarri.

Gaabro, both a pacifist and a skilled pilot, is torn apart by the impending battle between the Taalo and the rest of the Sentient Milieu. While arguing with its mentor and member of the High Council, master Shoshoon, about the dangers of requesting help from the Carassi, a mysterious unaligned race which has cut any contact with the Milieu for the last 200 years, a distress call is received from a drall freighter, claiming to be carrying refugees, and being pursued by destroyers. A rescue team is sent to the last known coordinates of the freighter, and Gaabro is requested to join them little after.

The rescue team lead by Commander Dyoor has found the gravity well of the massive freighter and abandons hyperspace. The Drall captain greets them, and claims that the distress call was a misunderstanding. Suspecting that he is not telling the truth, Dyoor ask the Drall captain to open the cargo bay and be prepared for an inspection. The captain accomplishes, but suddenly adopts an aggressive attitude. Right after Dyoor warns the rescue team of a hostile situation, a weapon is fired from the interior of the cargo bay, destroying his ship.

A large number of ships emerge from the cargo bay. They are "Peacemaker" class prototype fighters, of Ur-Quan design. The leader of the squadron is Commodore 63, an Ur-Quan. The Taalo tries to reason with him, appealing to their friendship and how proud and independent the Ur-Quan are. Yet it's obvious that he and the rest of the pilots are under Dnyarri control.

A space battle begins. The Taalo fight bravely, yet they are outnumbered by the Ur-Quan. Taalo arrives to the battle, and despite his efforts is evident that they will be defeated by the superior numbers of the Ur-Quan. At that moment, Gaabro realizes that the enemy ships never get too far from the freighter, then he infers that the Dnyarri are not onboard the fighters, but on the freighter. Gaabro and the remaining survivors of the rescue team attempt to cross the defensive line of the freighter, buy only Gaabro, with his ship heavily damaged, manage to survive and get close enough to hit the main reactor. As expected, all Ur-Quan fighters are returned to the freighter in a desperate attempt of the Dnyarri to get away before the impending detonation. Gaabro gets into hyperspace right in time before a devastating explosion seemingly destroys the Dnyarri and the fighters.

With his ship too damaged to return to Qapf, Gaabro risk to travel to the forbidden Carassi homeworld. However, the planet seems to have been suddenly abandoned, as the scans show no signal of activity, except for an energy anomaly at some point in the surface. When Taalo is prepared to descend, his ship is attacked again. He has been followed by Commodore 63, who carries onboard a Dnyarri who managed to escape from the freighter.

Just when Commodore 63 is about to destroy Gaabro's ship, it's hit by something resembling a meteor, sending the Ur-quan ship away, seemingly disabled. The menacing meteor then moves closer to the Taalo ship. When the blazing shine on its surface dims, a ship is revealed. The captain of the mysterious ship appears on Gaabro's main screen. It belongs to an unknown species, vaguely resembling the anatomy of female dralls. When asked about her race, she answer: "I am Orz!" Later, when asked about what happened to the Carassi, she speaks in a very unorthodox way about how they are *silly*, and not *happy campers*, and encourage Taalo never ask about the Carassi again.

Suddenly, the Ur-Quan ship returns and the Dnyarri on board tries to use its psychic powers on the Orz captain. Unexpectedly, both the Dnyarri and the Orz scream in agony, and the Orz fell unconscious. The Ur-Quan captain is set free of the psychic compulsion, and right when the Dnyarri starts to regain control, he bravely self-destruct the ship.

A couple minutes later, the mysterious alien awakes. She has no memory of the events that lead her to this planet, which she identifies as Gamma Mira II. She introduces herself as an Androsynth, and her name is Eve. She talks about the history of her species, the enslaving by Humans, the Revolt of 2085, and how they joined the Ur-Quan to defeat their enslavers. She also explains that she is the first Androsynth woman, the result of the genetic experiments of her people, all male, to be able to sexually reproduce in order to increase the diversity of their genetic pool. She also speaks about the experiments of her race with IDF, and how her last memories are about the attack of a mysterious species that identified itself as the Orz. Based on Eve's description, Gaabro recognizes the Orz as the Carassi. Even more surprisingly, they also learn that according to the star map, Eve came from about 22,000 years in the future.

Eve learns about "current" events, including the fact that Ur-Quans of this time are quite different from the ones that subdued her race, so she decides to join Gaabro on his effort to liberate the Milieu from Dnyarri slavery. Exchanging information of their data banks in search for some useful information, Gaabro is intrigued by references to an unusual rock formation on Delta Vulpeculae IIc, the Taalo homeworld in the future, which seems rather familiar. Searching its own database, he discovers that it matches an early draft of a shield being designed by the Council, intended to grant psychic immunity to species under Dnyarri control. Aware that such device is far from completion, Gaabro concludes that if they discover how Eve managed to travel in time and retrieve the device, they could defeat the Dnyarri.

They suspect that the key must be in the energy anomaly previously detected by Gaabro on the planet surface. After Eve take some rest and Gaabro make some repairs on his ship, they descent into the surface.

When approaching to the energy anomaly, they detect more Androsynth ships approaching to them. Looking for answers, and against Gaabro advice, Eve rushes into their encounter, only to find that they are Orz, who take them as prisoners.

They are escorted to a massive structure of Carassi design, resembling a portal, which the Orz describe as a *slippery place* made by the *holy worms*, and now they are going to *Pretty Space* where *dessert* will be served. They are forced to get inside, and right when they cross the portal, they feel as if their minds are dragged out of their physical bodies.

They are on an incorporeal state where they can understand the true nature of the Orz, as They describe themselves: The Orz are a collective of immaterial minds, inhabiting the *outside* dimension of *bellow*. Its oldest memories are from a time when it was just a mind contemplating itself. It existed for an unquantifiable period of time in such state until, as the Orz recollect, it asked the First Question: is it me all that existed? As the Orz recalls "it was as if that simple question created the external reality", and for the first time it was aware of its own place in *below*.

For another undefined interval of time, the Orz mind attempted seemingly in vain to explore the surroundings, but without any frame of reference, *below* is just like an infinite space of emptiness. That's when it asked its Second Question: am I moving or am I not? But this time, the question has no effect, as far as could tell. Yet for the first time, the Orz become aware of a defining part of its world: it´s boring. So boring it *hurts*.

For what seemed to be an eternity, the Orz remained in the dark, trying to keep its mind together in the monotony of its own existence. Then suddenly, the Third Question germinated on its mind: am I alone? And right at that moment, the Orz collided with something. It seems that the Orz had been moving after all.

The contact gives the Orz a new awareness of its own self. He tries to increase the experience of feeling the touch of the strange entity with every part of its own self, and by doing so he feels like *expanding*. The object is so *heavy* compared to the emptiness of the surrounding space, yet at the same time so perfectly *smooth*. Then it came the Four Question: what is *inside* that? And then the Orz noticed that in some places, there are tiny openings in the surface, big enough as to try to insert a small protrusion of its own self, a *finger*. They are scarce, they are hard to find, and most of the time they are just too stretch. But in some rare occasions, The Orz can *smell* a *slippery place*…

The Orz continue giving details of it story. Gaabro and Eve learn that when a *slippery place* is opened from *inside*, the Orz have the opportunity to *slide* their *fingers* through. *below* has its own *fast time*, so the Orz can contact simultaneously with different points in *slow time* across different *slippery places*. Soon the Orz learns that it has the ability to replicate the mental patterns of sentient beings, and incorporate their novelty on its own collective mind.

But the Orz immaterial self cannot adventure *inside* without a physical support for its mind, neither objects of the material world can enter *below*. However, there is a place *in between* where the immaterial mind and physical objects can interact. Gaabro and Eve are told that this is the place where their bodies are right now.

They also learn what happened with the Carassi. They mysteriously isolated themselves from the Milieu about 200 years before the invasion of the Dnyarri, when they were one of the most promising young races. The last thing known about them was that they were reformulating the theoretical background of hyperspace physics. But unknown to the Milieu, the Carassi were actually trying to open a "Path to the Afterlife", following their religious beliefs. When they apparently succeeded, their entire civilization voluntarily walked into the portal, never looking back, and their mental patterns were incorporated to the Orz.

But then, the terrible truth becomes manifest for Gaabro and Eve: when the Orz replicates the mind of a sentient being, the original mind is destroyed in the process, and the Orz occupy the empty carcass with its own *fingers*. So when the Carassi entered the Path to the Afterlife, they not just vanished into oblivion, but provided the Orz with an unlimited supply of physical bodies left *in between*, available to *slide* into the *inside*. That resulted quite useful, considering that not all the sentient beings are so willing to abandon their own self as the Carassi, as they discovered when the Androsynth tried to close their own *slippery place*. At that moment, the Orz decides that They won't risk to be confined never again in *below*, so they *pulled* the Androsynth by force, using the *GO! GO!* ground troops of the Carassi.

The Orz are aware that they have to hide both the Carassi and the Androsynth from any other sentient species that may have contact them in the past. Luckily for the Orz, Vulpeculae - Mira is unique in that it has two *slippery places* close enough among each other that it allows for the Orz to put their *fingers* simultaneously in both of them, what makes it the perfect *playground* to hide. To do so, they relocate the remaining Androsynths to the Carassi homeworld, while the Carassi are spreaded all over Vulpeculae, establishing their homeworld in Gamma Vulpeculae I.

Aware that the Orz will never allow them to return to *inside*, Eve tries to *slide* back to *in between* and return to its own body. But her mind is unable to move by its own means. The Orz absorbs Eve, and her mind disappears. Gaabro managed to move, but is quickly surrounded by the Orz. Gaabro awaits for its impending finale…then nothing happens. The unique mind of the Taalo, which is immune to Dnyarri compulsion, also happens to be impervious to the Orz, who temporarily retreats in surprise, as Gaabro manages to *slide* into the deep of *below*.

For a while, Gaabro wanders around, lost, in search of its own physical form. Eventualy he finds his way back to *in between*, and managed to upload itself into its body. Next to him is the body of Eve. It seems that the Orz hasn't taken control of it, probably since the last time it was rejected when the Dnyarri tried to control her. Gaabro suspects something and drags Eva's corpse back into *inside*, where after a short time she awakes. Again, her last memory is from right before their entrance into the "Path to Afterlife". Eve explains then what Gaabro already suspected, since the incident with the Dnyarri: Androsynths have an implant on their heads, a backup system, which triggers in case of a disruption in brain activity.

They reentered *inside* across a different *slippery space*. Eve burst into tears when she recognizes the place as the devastated remains of the capital city in Eta Vulpeculae II, the Androsynth homeworld. They manage to sneak inside an operational Androsynth ship. Again, the Star Map reveals that they are about 5 years in the future respect to the last time Eve was here.

They discuss their options. Gaabro still holds to the idea of retrieving the Taalo Shield, and bring it back to Qapf. Eve, on the other hand, believes that their best option is to return to Qapf right now, and lead the Taalo to the "Path to Afterlife" before the impending attack of the other races of the Milieu begins. Finally Eve concedes, and follows Gaabro in what he believes is the only chance to save not only its own people, but the entire Milieu.

Piloted by Eve, they both travel in the direction of Delta Vulpeculae IIc. Suddenly, they are intercepted by a ship of a different species. Eve identifies the ship as Arilou, yet its design seems to be rather different from the usual Arilou Skiff. The Arilou says that he was expecting them, and invites them on board to discuss an urgent matter. Gaabro accepts, but Eve distrusts the sympathy of the Arilou with Humans, and remains in the Androsynth ship.

To Gaabro's surprise, the Arilou ship seems to be bigger on the inside than on the outside. The Arilou captain explains the current situation:

In the middle of XX Century, Arilou were researching a way to transmit messages across time dimension. After some decades of development, they came with a theoretical background regarding the transmission of messages to the past. However, every attempt to apply this technology was useless, and this technology remained as a mere scientific curiosity, despite the fact that research continued.

More than One hundred years later, they discovered how to receive messages from the future. In the very same moment they put on practice this new improvement of the theory, they started to receive data from themselves in the future. Since the amounts of energy required by Transchronic Communication were enormous, the reception of data from the future was a very slow process. However, it allowed some very important technological advances, and perhaps more importantly, some degree of insight about events to come.

A direct consequence of TC is the fact that the source time of a message is modified in the very same moment the message is received. Comparing reply messages originated on the very same instant of time in the future, it is possible to measure how current events will affect the future.

The Arilou discovered that significant discrepancies where observed in messages originated from the present time. More importantly, it seemed that messages from the future ceased right after that time, so, it seemed that some catastrophic event will affect the Arilous from the future. A thorough analysis of the transmissions from the future allowed them to pinpoint the time-space area were the discrepancy originated.

The Arilou ends: "We don´t know what is that you are about to do, but it will change this event strand in such a way that, if the wrong decision is taken, will endanger every free sentient race in the galaxy".

Gaabro and Eve discuss the situation. If they manage to get the Taalo Shield and bring it on time to Qapf, they will be able to take control of the Dnyarri and liberate the Milieu. Besides, as Eve points out, they can force the Dnyarri to release the Androsynth of Gamma Mira II from Orz control, in the same way Eve was released the first time.

Suddenly, a squadron of ships abandons hyperspace close to them. Gaabro recognizes them as Carassi in design. The Arilou ship manage to escape, yet the Androsynth ship is boarded by *GO! GO!* troops, who manage to bring Eve on board one of the Carassi ships. The Arilou manage to intercept the communications of the troops. "You are going back with your *herd*", "you *smell* good, you can be *dessert* again".

Outraged by this attack on a Human by the Orz, the Arilou tells Gaabro that he has the technology to *slide* and rescue Eve before she is assimilated by the Orz, but tells Gaabro that he has to continue with its mission. Gaabro boards the still functional Androsynth ship and leaves in the direction of the former Taalo homeworld, while the Arilou sets course to Eta Vulpeculae II.

Gaabro arrives to the exact coordinates of the Taalo Shield. After a brave combat, he managed to defeat a small patrol of Carassi ships and descend. However, he discovers that the place has been recently scavenged, and there are no signs of the Shield. Yet he recognize some remains from Androsynth data banks. "Humans!", thinks Gaabro, hardly containing its anger. He managed to find a survivor of the recent battle, who confirms that the Shield was taken by the *happy campers*. He also indicates that, since served with the Earthlings very recently, he is aware that something very important will happen in Delta Crateris, and surely the Shield has already been taken there.

Gaabro rushes to Delta Crateris. Despite the far distance he can sense the presence of the Shield, and feels relieved for a moment, but is already too late. He sees a huge explosion in the distance, and the presence of the Shield disappears. The last chance to save the Milieu has been destroyed. Gaabro's body shines in anger right when the shock wave hits him, and looses consciousness…

Epilogue 1 – Santorini Island, 22,000 BCE

Eve is standing on the shore, looking into the horizon. Somehow she feels at home, safe, despite the occasional tremors in the ground, and the fact that she cannot remember how did she arrived there. Strange images of cyclopean monsters, rock giants, snake-like creatures and fire in the sky came to her mind, yet she is unable to discern if they are dreams or real memories.

She raises her eyes, and sees a bright light moving effortlessly across the stars. It's not the first time she has seen it, yet she still don't know what it could be.

Then suddenly, a song of distant times comes to her mind. She don´t know where did she learn it, or what that it means, yet it somehow feels as the right song to sing. And so she does, with a whisper: "There's a Starman waiting in the sky…"

Epilogue 2 – On an undisclosed location

The number of Kohr-Ah and Kzer-Za ships gathering around the small, battered Androsynth Guardian, is counted into the thousands. It's been two weeks since one of the survivors of Delta Crateris found it. When a badly injured, yet alive Taalo was found, it was taken to a safe location, and become revered as a relic by the Ur-Quan, who saw the arrival of the Taalo in their hour of greatest need almost as a prophecy.

Now, for the first time, the Taalo will speak to them. His face is crossed by a deep crack, yet it is fully recovered. Except that he is no longer the same he was before witnessing how the last hope of an entire civilization was shattered into pieces. He takes a last look to the data recovered from its ship, and the detailed research on IDF of the Androsynth. Then he opens a channel, and speaks to the multitude:

"My brothers, Humans and their allies have twisted the fate of entire sentient races for the last time. The day of revenge has arrived, and this is how we are going to do it…"

TO BE CONTINUED…