Rebuild of The Desulti Get in the fucking pouch, Shinji! Artist's impression of a group of Desulti. (Image courtesy of Amfumi) Beneath endless night the irons clang, and like poor galley slaves, We toil and toil, and when we die, will meet an airless grave. But some off-shift, when everything is silent in the base, I'll shoot those tyrants one and all, I'll blast the flogger’s face. I'll give the moon a little shock, remember what I say, And they'll yet regret they've sent Jimjo in chains to Botni-3A. - The Ballad of Jimjo, Desulti Frontier folk song The Desulti are a species that have perplexed many a xenobiologist. Those who do study the Desulti often find themselves in need of a drink, which the Desulti are happy to provide. Hailing from the once dry – and now even drier – world of Tisetora, the Desulti possess a bizarre mix of marsupian and mammalian biologies that is quite unique among sentient species. Sexual dimorphism is fairly standard for a bipedal species, with male Desulti having a larger physical stature and females having two mammaries for feeding their young. Said young are generally born singular, with multiple births being rare but not unheard of. But the key point of divergence is the existence of a ‘pouch’ on the females’ stomachs where infants can be safely held during infancy. Even outside of childrearing, the pouch can be used for a convenient – if eminently private – means of storage. Artist's impression of a male and female Desulti. (Image courtesy of Amfumi) Another notable aspect of Desulti biology is their legs, which are remarkably powerful for a being of the Desulti’s body weight. A Desulti kick can be extremely damaging or harmful, while hopping commonly replaces running as a means of covering long distances on foot. As a result, the Desulti have developed a highly robust athletic culture, often featuring jumping competitions and kick-based martial arts. Society and Culture At present, Desulti society is engaged in a cold civil war between two major powers. The first are the Central Planets, consisting of Tisetora and its most loyal colonies. These are largely controlled by the corrupt Central Government, either directly or through corporations and religious leaders friendly to its rule. The Frontier, comprising a raft of later colonies that have overthrown Central rule, is now largely aligned with the democratic Desulti Parliamentary Republic. While armed conflict between the two is a recent and sore memory, an uneasy peace has emerged, broken only by occasional Central ‘police actions’ and Republic covert operations. Despite the vastly differing politics between the two bodies – and even between individual worlds within them – there are still many common threads. Thanks to their early struggles to survive the parched bushland of Tisetora, the Desulti place a high emphasis on friendship and bonds with their wider community. They also have a competitive streak both individually collectively thanks to a long history of competing over limited resources. While this usually translates to fairly benign pursuits like sport and drinking contests, their history is rife with cutthroat politics, ruthless business practices and civil unrest. Even so, the Desulti attitude towards life tends to be quite free-spirited and adventurous. Many are naturally inclined towards some degree of physical indulgence. Common pastimes often involve sports, exercise or drinking with friends. Storytelling is also fairly widespread, stemming from oral tradition in early Desulti culture, though the exact nature varies from telling new generations ancient stories to exaggerated retellings of real events. History “The years travel fast, and time after time I’ve done the tell. But this ain't my tell. It's the tell of us all, and you've got to listen and remember, because what you hear today you have to tell the newborn tomorrow.” Early Desulti history – and the time that precedes it – is commonly referred to as ‘the Everywhen’. This is not entirely accurate, as the concept is actually far more timeless in nature. Indeed, adherents to the mythology surrounding the Everywhen believe that time is nonlinear (even if living beings can only experience it linearly) and prone to cycling. But the Everywhen does encompass the ancient past of the Desulti, so the term sticks. Many of the Desulti creation myths are based upon specific locations and animal behaviours. For instance, the canyons of the world are said to have been formed by a great duneworm. Poisonous animals are said to have deliberately eaten rotten food to make themselves unappealing for predators. Indeed, stories were – and in some areas still are – used to deliver information or teach moral lessons. These are often crucial to survival in the harsh bushland of Tisetora. During their early history, the Desulti lived a largely nomadic existence, crossing the land as natural factors dictated. The tribes moved where resources were most plentiful, and left when they dwindled. The Desulti existed in this state for countless millennia, with some – known as Walkers – continuing it even as more permanent communities began to settle. "We were going full speed ahead... but facing backwards the whole time..." True civilization formed more or less as it did with other species. Tisetora’s comparatively dry climate meant that water was a top priority for many communities, some of whom permanently settled by rivers and lakes. This gave ample opportunity for agriculture and animal husbandry, supplanting the need for foraging and hunting in the sprawling bushland. And with the reduced need for labour in food production, people were able to develop new crafts and disciplines. Natural disasters and inter-group conflict took their toll, but civilization ultimately flourished. Across the myriad cultures of the planet, community and mateship was typically highly emphasized. While far from the most inhospitable planet in the universe, Tisetora still saw more than its fair share of tough times. Communities were often forced to band together in the face of drought and fire, while being able to unwind became crucial to maintaining morale. Even so, competition – be it between individuals or entire communities – was still common due to scarce resources, though not always violent in nature. Some of the Desulti’s most popular sporting traditions have their foundations in this era. Society progressed as one might expect, with the Desulti reaching such milestones are metalworking, architecture and machinery in due time. Competition remained a constant, as any one city or nation could never quite have enough resources to meet their needs. Trade became an increasingly large focus, with guilds and eventually corporations rising to socioeconomic prominence. Indeed, they were also capable of commanding vast political influence, allowing for favourable laws and coverups of corrupt activity. But no amount of lobbying could have averted what was to come. “It was a time of chaos. Of ruined dreams, in a wasted land…” With the advent of industrialization, the limitations of Tisetora’s ability to support technological civilization gradually became apparent. Crowded cities became choked with smog and haze from pollution. Forests were cut down for soil-ruining industrial farming. Already stressed water supplies were threatened by chemical contamination. But the most devastating was the release of greenhouse gases from industrial activity. The climate of Tisetora – already hot and dry enough to warrant classification as a savanna world – began to warm. The Crash had begun. Weather patterns across the globe were gradually disrupted, threatening food and water security. Rising sea levels saw mass migrations from low-lying areas, resulting in subsequent overcrowding and civil unrest further inland. Some poorly positioned areas fell into anarchy, and even those geographically well-off were forced to take extreme measures to ensure stability. In order to combat the crisis, many of Tisetora’s largest nations banded together into a single polity, commanding the technological and material resources needed to tackle the Crash. But it was clear that there were too many people to sustain, and not enough resources to work with. So the newly-formed Central Government decided to kill two treefliers with one stone and saw about resolving both issues. “So out we went, to the black. And we all knew we weren’t goin’ back.” Space travel had been steadily developed in the years prior to the Crash. Several Desulti nations maintained manned and unmanned satellites, while a serious effort had been underway to colonize the planet’s moon. This project – placed on hold as participating nations shifted priorities to the Crash – was reactivated, with significant help from the private sector. But what was once intended as a scientific mission rapidly became industrial in nature. With Tisetora’s mineral wealth almost depleted, the planet’s moon was opened up for mining operations. Enough oxygen and hydrogen could also be extracted from the lunar regolith to produce air and water for both Desulti consumption and hydroponic farming, allowing the moon to support a permanent population. People volunteered by the thousands to escape Tisetora’s overcrowded cities and refugee camps, driven either by a desire to help their people survive or for the rewards that accompanied the risks of lunar mining. The colonization of the moon was slow and gruelling, but eventually bore fruit. Despite the challenges – including an unusually high rate of disappearances among the Erchius crystal miners – a steady stream of materials was set up to Tisetora. The Central Government was able to make some progress halting the Crash, but it would not be enough. They needed more resources to stabilize the planet, and they needed to get more people off it to ease the pressure of overpopulation. So, they simply decided to look further afield. Using discoveries made from the study of Erchius crystals, the Desulti were able to devise a rudimentary form of faster-than-light travel. One that was potent enough to not only open up the rest of their star system to industry, but surrounding star systems as well. Some of these even had life-bearing planets, able to sustain large populations of Desulti even if the worst came to pass on Tisetora. As countless people were resettled – either as part of colonial programs or ‘correctional relocation’ – Tisetora began to stabilize. Farmland once needed to feed the burgeoning population could be turned to reforestation, while water supplies began to regenerate as consumption dropped. Life would continue on Tisetora. But not necessarily for the better. “A lot of stories would just end there. But that’s the thing with life. Never stops. No matter how much we might wish it.” For all the successes of the Central Government, it had not worked alone. As economies collapsed, smaller business were hit the hardest. Many were ultimately bought out by corporations large enough to weather the crises. Monopolies formed across all major industries on Tisetora and only grew as they established a presence in the colonies. These same corporations had worked very closely with the Government to the point of being difficult to tell where one began and the other ended. While not all in the government were happy with the arrangement, those that were stood the most to gain. And so power began to shift, with the Enterprise Party and Development Party – both key players in parliament and its backrooms – merging to consolidate power. Numerous parties opposed, but quickly found themselves receiving increasingly more critical coverage in the Desulti media landscape. Solutions to corporate overreach were not in the best financial interests of the media companies, after all. As the corporate stranglehold over Desulti politics continued, the impact slowly reached the Frontier – the catch-all name given to the diaspora of Desulti colonies outside of their home starsystem. Many of the major colonies were at least partially run by corporations, who were given free reign by the Central Government’s deregulatory agenda. Corruption, pollution and inequality ran rampant. But a line was crossed when the violence began. Unions and labour movements were violently suppressed by corporate security or the Government’s Aerospace Force, with media companies usually ignoring such events or labeling the victims as ‘terrorists’. This was not enough to stop word from spreading, or to stop the discontent that steadily grew. The Frontier grew to become a powderkeg in the face of a corrupt government, a thuggish military and greedy corporations. The spark that lit the Frontier came as the CDP’s major opposition parties announced that they would be launching their own private colonial endeavour. Drawing from every resource they could, from minor corporations struggling to compete against Government-friendly monopolies to the Frontier’s embattled labour unions, they would found a colony completely free from the Government’s tyranny. Backlash from the Government and media were immediate and unprecedented, in doing so showing their true colours to many across Desulti space. Despite objections and acts of sabotage – whose culprits were never officially found – the Desulti Star-Ship Concord was launched from Tisetora’s orbit, to a mixture of celebration and disdain from various groups. Fearful of a threat to their authority, the Government turned to some of their most elite enforcers. The Aerospace Force’s First Frontier Police Fleet had been led by Commander Shila against numerous insurgencies, strikes, protests and other threats to the Government. But after all Shila and her officers had seen, they were beginning to seriously doubt their superiors and become aware just how disastrous a situation the Desulti people had found themselves in. Receiving orders to destroy the DSS Concord was the final straw, and after deliberation with the fleet’s crews – many of whom realized that their families were only going to suffer under continued Government rule – the Fleet reached a consensus that their orders would be disobeyed. After covertly smuggling their families aboard, the Fleet set off after the DSS Concord to the planet New Tisetora, where the colonists had just begun to settle. The arrival of an Aerospace Force warfleet in orbit was eventually met with fear, which soon turned to trepidation as Shila requested a face-to-face meeting with New Tisetora’s leadership. The two sides came to strike a deal: New Tisetora would accept the families of the Fleet’s crews, and in turn the Fleet would protect the fledgling colony. “Now we’ll never have to be under the heel of nobody ever again. No matter how long the arm of the Government might get, we'll just get ourselves a little further.” Of course, Shila’s forces – now calling themselves the Colonial Rangers – were not ignored by the Central Government. A response by the Aerospace Force was swift, brutal, and a complete failure. The Battle of New Tisetora remains the costliest space battle in Desulti history, thanks in no small part to various collaborators within the Force sabotaging the assault. The Rangers’ loses were replenished by defecting crews and salvaged vessels, and they turned their eyes back to the injustices of the Frontier. The Government’s grip was only tightening, and the suffering increasing. What followed was a two-pronged campaign to liberate the Frontier. New Tisetora – the seat of the newly-formed Desulti Parliamentary Republic – would make overt and covert diplomatic overtures to the struggling colonies while the Rangers would step in where heavy firepower was needed. Whether it was fending off the Aerospace Force or overthrowing corporate authorities, the forces of the Colonial Rangers became a symbol of hope across Desulti space. With daring raids on military shipyards and recruitment drives among the disaffected, their strength only grew. Now, the Frontier is largely Republic territory either directly or indirectly. The ‘old guard’ colonies dating back to the earliest colonization waves remain under the Government’s firm control, and are – along with Tisetora and its star system – known as the Central Planets. The Republic is considered an active rebellion by the Central Government, but the two sides have fallen into an effective state of cold war. While the Government has strength of numbers, it has been spread thin by smaller insurgencies and covert strikes against critical targets by Republic agents. Meanwhile, the Republic scrambles for any advantage it can secure, from building up defenses using local expertise to recruiting disaffected scientists fleeing the Central Planets. The future of the Desulti still lies in question. Neither side has a clear path to total victory. For the time being, an uneasy peace settles over the Frontier as it enjoys a second lease on life. Finally free to grow and prosper, the Frontier has become a place of opportunity and adventure where anyone – Desulti or otherwise – can forge their own future. Politics The Central Planets Symbol of the Central Government, depicting The Great Arrow - a constellation common in Desulti culture and religion. The Central Government “And who paid to save Tisetora? We knew who came up with the designs, and who built the geoengineering plants. But plans need funding. Workers need salary. To dismiss the private sector’s role in resolving the crisis is utterly irresponsible. And to actively commit terrorism against their operations in the colonies is an insult to all those who gave their lives to save Desultikind.” Prime Minister Attul, parliamentary debate Tisetora remains firmly in control of the Central Government, headed by the Enterprise-Development Party (a merger of two large parties of the same name). Ostensibly a democratic republic, the Government is in fact closer to an illiberal democracy and effective one-party state. Through backroom alliances with mass media – working with friendly communication monopolies – the EDP is able to both influence political opinions and demonize political opposition with biased reporting. Combined with restrictive voting laws and the marginalization of low-income groups that might oppose them, the EDP remains firmly in power, free to pursue its agenda of ensuring a free market and developing the planet’s infrastructure. In reality, this had led to stifling monopolies and ecological deterioration. That is not to say that the Government is utterly suicidal on the environmental front. Since the Crash, it has taken genuine steps to stabilize the planet’s ecosystems. However, the benefit has been hampered due to corruption and short-sightedness. For every tonne of greenhouse gas removed from the atmosphere, another is released by melting permafrost. For every forest planted, another burns to the ground in uncontrollable wildfires. For every genetically-modified superfish introduced to the acidified oceans, another is hunted to extinction when it comes in vogue to eat. While the Government’s image hinges on the assertion that Tisetora’s situation isn’t getting worse, many believe – or fear – that the planet’s relevance is dwindling. Some even maintain that it might face total ecological collapse under the right circumstances. In the meantime, life on Tisetora and its loyal colonies continues in a way that vaguely resembles before the Crash, at least for those who benefit. There is order where there was once chaos, as long as one toes the line and doesn’t ask questions. There is opportunity where there was once despair, though only those with the right governmental or corporate connections will be able to truly flourish. There is a future where it once seemed there wasn’t one, but every record-breaking natural disaster is a painful reminder that said future is not set in stone. The Aerospace Force “We manned the guns and redoubts that stood tall above the shore. Help was seven days away, but we had supplies enough for four. Invaders thinned our numbers with both hand grenade and gun, But no man in our ranks would dare betray their mates and run. We held fast against the barbarians who tried to take our lands, And yet no ground was given or pried from blood-soaked hands. When all hope was lost to us reinforcements came just in time; By the day they’d reached us, we’d been holding out for nine.” Soldier Nel, The Beachhead The Desulti military has undergone many changes during and since the Crash, especially with the advent of space colonization. Military starships and interplanetary campaigns diminished the need for maritime vessels, leading to the navy’s merger with the regular army. So too was the air force combined with the space force, as increasingly advanced spacecraft became capable of operating both inside and outside of a planet’s atmosphere. At present, the Desulti Army serves in a largely defensive capacity, acting as a garrison force for loyal planets and only likely to be deployed elsewhere in the event of total war. The Aerospace Force, commanding a sizeable fleet of warships and divisions of elite shock troops, serves is the more aggressive component of the military. Its task is to secure the Frontier and, eventually, put an end to the rebellion. It has not succeeded. While the headquarters of the Aerospace Force is officially Tisetora, the Force maintains its largest presence on Bastion Ilanara. The planet was chosen for its strategic value over any form of habitability. It is a life-bearing world, but its conditions are unpleasant and its wildlife particularly hostile. Not only does this make it an ideal training ground, but it is located squarely between Central and Republic space. It is thus the Aerospace Force’s primary staging area, capable of protecting Central space while equally launching ‘police actions’ into the Frontier. Bastion Ilanara is also noteworthy in its significant civilian population, mostly consisting of military families. The Aerospace Force has led an ambitious initiative to instill a sense of discipline and loyalty among the population through educational programs, ostensibly in response to the ‘lawlessness’ of the Frontier and the ‘disloyalty’ of the Republic. Considering this loyalty emphasizes military service above all, some are inclined to question whether it is for the Government’s benefit or the Aerospace Force’s alone. These doubts are just enough for the Republic to launch a highly-effective propaganda campaign claiming that the Aerospace Force seeks to usurp the Central Government. A series of high-profile disagreements between the leadership of the two has done little to dissuade the claims. The High Church of the First Desulti “From the time that the First Desulti first walked the plains of Tisetora, it was a world meant to test Him just as it has us. And for all we have lost, we have succeeded. Some may say we have our Creator to thank. But we must not sell ourselves short. We survived through our resilience as a community and our willingness to make sacrifices for it. Was that not how the First Desulti and His Mob tamed the lands that we now call home? And is that not how we will tame new lands to save our own?” High Priest Zada, The Collected Sermons Desulti religions have come and gone over the years. Everywhen mythology remains observed in certain circles, but in recent centuries many have come to view it as superstition at best and heretical paganism or spiritualist tree-hugging at worst. The most dominant religion in Tisetora society takes a far more anthropocentric view of the world than the more naturalistic Everywhen, asserting that the Desulti were created in the form of their Creator. The gospel maintains that world is theirs to use as they see fit, provided they show devotion by giving back the fruits of their own creation. In modern times this has taken the form of tithing to one’s local priest, who – depending on sect affiliation, doctrinal interpretation, or outright theological gymnastics – may spend it on anything from charitable endeavours to their own personal gain. While the High Church and the Central Government have marched in lockstep due to multiple shared values, they still make for strange bedfellows. Even the Church has spoken out against the Government over what it perceives as excessive materialism and a lack of respect for the Creator’s natural gifts. In an effort to curry favour with religious voters, the Government has handed several desirable planets over to the Church, all while waiving numerous colonial laws. As a result, a number of Central Planets are governed largely theocratically. Some are arguably more loyal to the High Church than to the Central Government. On the religious colonies, life is often simple and austere, filled with hard work, community bonding, and devoted prayer. But it is not a life that appeals to all. Gender roles are enforced strictly; men are required to perform gruelling physical labour or risk their lives in military service, while women cannot aspire to anything more than childrearing and homemaking. Those unable or unwilling to follow these roles – particularly nonbelievers or non-heterosexual individuals – are subject to ostracization, exile or outright violence. Many have sought asylum in the Republic to flee persecution at the hand of religious zealots, and the High Church has been the subject of a great deal of ire on the Frontier – not least of all from moderate followers of the First Desulti. The Department of Corrections “My grandfather didn’t talk much about the Crash. But he kept his old unit’s flag, and I once read up on what they did during their service. They were the ones who guarded the Milah Peninsula’s evac routes from the road-warriors. Half of them went on be to be killed protecting the refugee camps from the cannibal raids. After all the horrors that our people have faced, I make no apology for seeing the law enforced to its fullest extent. I would give my life before I let anarchy prevail once more.” - Minister of Corrections Walpan, address to the Botni Inquiry Members of the Colonial Rangers are issued with packs of playing cards depicting various members of the Central Government and Aerospace Force in order of strategic value. Of these, a considerable number are affiliated with the Department of Corrections. It is a branch of the Government that is particularly loathed in the Frontier, largely on account of the Department’s loose standards about what constitutes a criminal. A number of Central Planets are operated as penal colonies, using convict labourers for farming, mining and manufacturing work. Conditions are universally atrocious, with no concern for worker safety or rights. But most appallingly, many of the convicts are guilty of very little. Some are homeless or displaced Desulti charged with vagrancy just to meet the demand for convict labour. Others are outspoken critics of the Government arrested on trumped-up charges to silence them. Many of the Central Government’s corporate allies are able to draw upon this pool of cheap labour for their own gain, especially for dangerous tasks. As far as the Republic is concerned, the actions of the Department of Corrections are sentient rights violations of the highest order. Numerous Ranger raids have targeted penal colonies, freeing Government opponents and the unlawfully imprisoned. These raids are notable in that they show an uncharacteristic degree of brutality than the Republic is typically associated with, often resulting in summary execution of the colonies’ guards. But despite the media’s attempts to spin this to their favour, public opinion of the Department of Corrections has been rapidly deteriorating for years. The Frontier Symbol of the Desulti Parliamentary Republic, depicting an evolutionary ancestor of the Desulti - often associated with freedom. The Desulti Parliamentary Republic “I wish to echo the Prime Minister’s statement. The Republic has come far, and it will go farther still. But just as this is a day of celebration, it is also one of remembrance. For the Republic was not just born of its guiding principles, but forged in the fires of battle. The Desulti people remain divided, and billions of its people suffer under the whip of tyrants. And countless more sentients live in anguish beyond our borders, from the Human refugee camps to the Apex city-fortresses to the Avian sacrificial towers. The light of the Protectorate may have been dimmed, but it remains our duty to carry its embers.” Deputy Prime Minister Llewelyn Stephenson, Republic Day address Born of the Central Government’s exiled opposition parties, the Republic is the beating heart of the free Frontier. The government is a true democracy and styles itself as a new start for the Desulti people. Pluralism, freedom and humanitarianism (or Desultitarianism, as the case may be) are its core values, in stark contrast to the Central Government’s relentless pursuit of wealth and power. The Republic may not have the economic might or political will of its rival, but it is a far more equitable society where everyone – no matter the size of their wallet – has a voice. It strives to meet the needs of even the poorest among them, be it through government programs, charitable organizations, or simple community goodwill, with varying success. Contrary to Central Government propaganda, the Republic is far from anarchic. While it does value freedom, it also enforces laws, regulations and taxes to the best of its (sometimes limited) abilities. The Republic’s internal economy is highly competitive and free of monopolies, with anyone able to start a business, develop innovative products, and reap the rewards of their success. But Republic bureaucracy and taxation means that they may not benefit as much as they might like. Many still defend this system, however, arguing that some degree of regulation is needed to avoid the exploitation, wastefulness and stratification seen on Tisetora. Others disagree, or believe that certain restrictions should be relaxed. Given the Republic’s emphasis on political freedom and participation, many a fierce debate has been held in its parliament over where the line should be drawn. But the threat of Central aggression keeps them from growing too disunited. The more recent destruction of Earth has further galvanized the Republic, as it comes to realize that they may end up facing far greater threats than the Central Planets could ever muster. In terms of holdings, membership in the Republic varies. Some planets are directly governed through it, observing its laws and enjoying integration into its common market. Others manage themselves largely independently while receiving military protection and a voice in parliament. The level of development on its member planets also differs greatly, ranging from sparse frontier settlements to teeming metropolises. The capital world of New Tisetora is second only to Tisetora itself in terms of infrastructure and amenities, even if it is far more cruder and makeshift. But the only thing prized higher than working hard on the Frontier is playing harder, and a vibrant – if rowdy – culture has taken root. While the Republic’s members may not always get along, there’s no place they’d rather be. The Walkers “And so the Great Duneworm burrowed on blindly, leaving the surface of Tisetora pockmarked with canyons as he surfaced. But he wasn’t the only one to leave his mark, was he? The coastlines aren’t where we left them. The deserts got greedy and snapped up half our farmland. And we Desulti have only themselves to blame for that. Why? Blindness. We were blind to ourselves. We were blind to our world. And you better believe we were blind to the direction we were moving.” Elder Urella, Our Stories Not all Desulti were so quick to embrace modern ways. Even before the advent of industrialization, nomadic tribes remained peppered across Tisetora, living off the land more or less as their ancestors once had during the Everywhen. Some even left society to join them, or formed their own off-grid communities inspired by their example. These tribes are commonly referred to as Walkers due to their nomadic nature, alongside the common custom of young adults going on a ‘Worldwalk’ to see new lands and communities while discovering themselves spiritually. But while the Walkers were able to weather the Crash better than many thanks to their mobile and self-sufficient nature, hardship was by no means a stranger to them. And eventually, even they could see the writing on the wall about Tisetora’s future. A loose collection of tribes banded together to petition the Government for their own colony. By making just enough noise to make themselves nuisances, the Government played right into their hands by being all to glad to get rid of them. The Walkers were sent to a life-rich world deep in the Frontier to serve as farm labourers, accompanied by a small group of Government botanists and Force guards. It wasn’t long before these personnel met a grisly fate at the hands of the local wildlife, with a little sabotage of their compound’s sonic fences and defense matrix. With the nascent Republic on the rise, the Walkers ultimately threw in their lot to ensure they could live their lives in some degree of peace. Walker life is not too far from what it was on Tisetora. They’ve had to adapt, and learn how the native life on their new world – among many others on the Frontier – works. But their ability to understand and harness alien life is matchless in Desulti space. The revival of the Worldwalk tradition has helped in this regard, with young adult Walkers often visiting numerous planets in their pilgrimage. While Walker settlements may look primitive and lack certain amenities, they often more than make up for it through clever use of native plants and animals. Understandably, this does not appeal to everyone. Nor do the Walkers look fondly upon those who would repeat Tisetora’s mistakes by squandering the natural gifts of the universe. More than one ship of illegal poachers or wildcat miners have been lost after Walker saboteurs snuck a dartwasp hive or seven onboard. The Faculty “It is beyond debate that we owe our salvation as a species to the scientific principle. Where deluded politics and wishful prayer failed, it was the scientists and engineers who saved us from ourselves. Will we once more walk the bloody path of irrationality? Of puppets, and preacher-men? Or will we engage with objective reality, free from the delusions that almost killed us?” - Dean Gadin, The Universe Laid Bare Education holds a strange position in modern Desulti society. Obviously, as a technologically-advanced civilization beset by ecological crises, a highly-education workforce is sorely needed. But at the same time, an educated person is more likely to question the Government’s authority. Whether it was by releasing inconvenient research findings or participating in activism, many students, academics and scientists found themselves facing everything from media attacks to departmental funding cuts to outright criminal charges. Recognizing their skills, many of these troublesome intellectuals were ‘reassigned’ to a research base on the frigid world of Rilnalla, where they were put to work studying ancient ruins under the watchful eye of Aerospace Force guards. How the base came to be overthrown is largely a mystery. A leaked security recording of the night only raises more questions than it answers, featuring everything from panicked reports of a containment breach in the nanotech lab to a monotone announcement from the base’s commander ordering all Government personnel to the medical bay. Most chillingly, it appears as though the guards and personnel still live, and continue their work and patrols as if nothing had ever happened. They respond to conversation jovially and helpfully, but fall eerily silent when asked about the implants grafted to their skulls. Free from their shackles both literally and academically, the Faculty continues its research unabated. Naturally, this has led to a highly technocratic society on Rilnalla, where scientific and technical prowess is the main measure of a Desulti. Tasks considered beneath them are largely automated by robots and artificial intelligence, leaving them free to focus on education and research. Inter-discipline rivalry is commonplace (though usually good-natured), but the Faculty’s leadership still makes a conscious effort to support all fields of research and study, including the humanities (or Desultities, as the case may be). But the biggest slice of the resource pie often goes towards fields with military applications, namely physics, engineering and computing. While the Faculty and Republic have butted heads numerous times over academic freedom and allegations of misconduct, the Faculty’s contributions to the Colonial Rangers has been enough to maintain a begrudging alliance. For even the Faculty’s most vocal critics have at one point or another expressed curiosity about what else might be learned from the ancient ruins left behind on Rilnalla. Especially the ones depicting a tentacle not unlike the one that attacked Earth. The Colonial Rangers The standard uniforms of Ranger infantry and officers, respectively. (Image courtesy of Newominus) “I swear my service to defending the Desulti Parliamentary Republic and its people. I will uphold the Constitution of New Tisetora and the Charter of Sentient Rights, and I will act as a beacon of their values. I will serve with humility those any who require my aid and protection no matter their race or creed. This I swear with strength of heart and force of will, for as long as I shall live.” - Oath of the Rangers If the Republic is the heart of the Frontier, the Rangers are its fists. Sometimes known as ‘Dippers’ (based on the Desulti Parliamentary Republic’s acronym ‘DPR’), the Rangers are a combined military and peacekeeping force born of the Aerospace Force defectors that helped found the Republic. Under Commander Shila’s leadership, these brave men and women have held fast against everything from pirate attacks to Aerospace Force ‘police actions’. Over the years they have come to be supplemented by civilian recruits and trained colonial militias. While said militias make up the bulk of the Republic’s armed forces, they are primarily focused on local defense. More intensive – or aggressive – actions are left to the Rangers. While they do hold themselves to a high degree of professionalism, the Rangers are a far more informal bunch than their Force opponents and frequently utilize asymmetric tactics to gain an upper hand. They often use Walker trackers to help them get the lay of the land for perfect ambush sites, or have Faculty hacktivists sabotage enemy technology from afar. Indeed, their Faculty allies have helped ensure they stay competitive with the Central Government’s military-industrial complex technologically, with help in the form of the odd tamed animal or battle-meditation ritual from the Walkers. Most Rangers operate more or less as a normal military, assigned to tight-knit squads or highly-customized warships. Others are attached to settlements and stations to serve as law enforcement and garrison in equal parts. The most feared and respected, though, are the Greencoats. Clad in distinctive if informal uniforms, these elite veterans wander Frontier space, righting wrongs and training colonists wherever they’re needed. Many a colony owe their survival to a Greencoat’s timely intervention, and their increasingly mythical exploits are frequently shared in crowded bars. As harsh as life can be on the frontier, it would be far worse were it not for the Rangers. Neutral It should be noted that the Frontier is not exclusively Republic territory. Some colonies reject Central authority while not entirely agreeing with the Republic. Some of these neutral colonies are still highly important due to their status as free ports, material providers, or hubs of exploration activity. Others adopt a more isolationist stance, with some colonies – particularly the more cultlike – being considered outright dangerous to visit. Whatever the case, neutral colonies walk a fine line in avoiding Central aggression, even if they are not particularly sympathetic towards the Republic. Of course, the freedom of the Frontier does attract the unscrupulous. Smuggling and piracy are constant issues for the Republic and Central Government, even with both sides making tremendous progress shoring up their defences and patrolling their territories. But there still exist many under-guarded trade routes that may be exploited, either for moving contraband or plundering cargo. Given the harsh nature of life on the Frontier, violent criminals are often subject to capital punishment if arrested. As a result, many would rather fight to the death rather than be captured. Diplomatic Relations Terrene Protectorate The Central Government tolerates the Protectorate at most. It will pay lip service to Protectorate ideals and allow Protectors within its space, but that is where the relationship ends. Behind closed doors, they consider the Protectorate to be a threat to their power over the Desulti people. Too many in marginalized communities or downtrodden colonies have found relief from the Protectors, often proceeding to criticize the Government for its failure to act sooner. If it weren’t for the emergence of the Ruin, the Protectorate’s decline might have been welcomed by the Government. Instead, they consider the loss of billions of lives to be an unparalleled tragedy. In its first sitting after Earth’s destruction, Tisetora’s parliament held a minute’s silence out of respect for the victims. In the Frontier, it is said that no Protector ever needs to buy their own drinks. With numerous colonies rebuilding after years of oppression, and many others constantly expanding, the aid of any Protector worth their Matter Manipulator is more than welcome. The Republic holds the Protectorate (or at least its memory) in high esteem, and there have been talks of it establishing some sort of successor organization. The Faculty has certainly shown a great deal of interest in the inner workings of the Matter Manipulator, even if they have yet to replicate them. Humans Despite their misgivings over the Protectorate, the Central Government has accepted a large number of Human refugees fleeing from the Ruin. Many Desulti suspect that this may have been for propaganda purposes, attempting to challenge the belief that they – unlike the Republic – are indifferent towards humanitarianism. But the gesture does appear to be genuine. Humans are largely treated as equals across the Central Planets and can even apply for citizenship. However, this does often leave them facing the same hardships as Desulti do. Several hardline members of the High Church have also made controversial statements about Humanity’s inferiority to the Desulti, going as far as claiming that the destruction of Earth was divine punishment. These comments were met with criticism from the Central Government as well as mainline faithful, but not before destroying much of the goodwill Human refugees might have held towards the High Church. A few Humans are reported to have vandalized Church property as a result, but authorities have little information to go on other than the perpetrators wearing purple clothing. The Frontier, on the other hand, has proven far more welcoming. The inquisitiveness and adventurousness so many Humans display make them perfect fits for Frontier life, and the Republic already had a sizeable Human population before Earth fell. These Humans were quick to rally the Republic to assist those who managed to flee the Sol system, leading to a sizeable aid campaign. The Republic has accepted even more Human refugees than the Central Government, with many colonies pulling together to ‘adopt’ Human families or help new Human colonies get off the ground. Humans have since become a common sight across the Frontier, from the ranks of the Rangers to the seats of Parliament. Apex For all its authoritarian undercurrents, the Central Government has long held disdain for the MiniKnog. While the two powers are too geographically separate for this to have much impact, the Desulti did come onto the MiniKnog radar after a Desulti company was allegedly caught selling weapons to the Apex Rebellion. While the Central Government has no love of rebels, it had long decided that the Rebellion is the lesser of two evils. They ultimately defended the company and refused to investigate further, citing its commitment to free trade. But ever since, it has been watchful for MiniKnog spies in its midst, and the Aerospace Force has run several simulated wargames repelling an Apex incursion. Meanwhile, the Republic had been accepting Apex refugees long before the fall of Earth, garnering a reputation as a friendly (if distant) safe haven. In fact, the Faculty has been particularly welcoming of those fleeing the regime, hoping to garner whatever titbits they can about cutting-edge Apex technology. The Rangers are also a common home for Apex, with many enlisting to defend their new home. There have even been talks of starting a training programme for Apex rebels to help bolster their rebellion against the MiniKnog, though fear of reprisal means that this has yet to materialize. At least publicly, if the rumours are to be believed. Avians While numerous Avians have visited or even migrated to the Core Planets, they are not held in the highest regard. The dominant First Desulti faith takes a dim view of atheists as much as other religions, with both categories encompassing the Avian Grounded and Stargazers respectively. However, secularism has gained enough of a foothold in Desulti society that the Grounded can go about their lives with little issue, provided they avoid the more religious colonies and areas. Stargazers, on the other hand, are more openly held in contempt by the Desulti. The few missionaries who have attempted to convert them failed miserably. Much like the Apex, many Avians found a home for themselves on the Frontier. Whether it was fleeing the Stargazers or simply drifting as the solar winds took them, a fair number of Grounded sought out the Republic. There has been some distrust between the Grounded and local religions, particularly the Walkers and followers of the First Desulti. However, both faiths have proven themselves to be a far cry from the Stargazers, helping thaw relations somewhat. Not committing live sacrifices certainly helps. Florans At present, Floran are prohibited from Central Government space. Their history of consuming other sentients – as well as their attack on the Hylotl homeworld – has created a great deal of mistrust between the Floran and the Desulti. Any Florans caught entering Central space are escorted out by the Aerospace Force, with repeat offenders liable to be fired upon if hostility is suspected. Only once has violence ever broken out, when a drifting Floran wreck was found to be more inhabited than scanners suggested. For their brave actions defending the salvage team from starving Floran cannibals, the 23rd Aerospace Infantry are still affectionately nicknamed ‘the Weed Whackers’ to this day. The Frontier is slightly more open-minded to the Florans, but still maintain a cautious attitude. The Republic has a much more stringent immigration process for Florans than other races, though few outside the Florans complain. The few Florans who do make their way into Republic space generally adapt fairly well, with a number even taking interest in the Walker way of life. But recent attacks by Floran pirates have soured relations somewhat, though several Florans have joined the Rangers with the explicit intention of proving their trustworthinessss. Glitch Artificial intelligence is a very controversial subject in the Central Planets. The Central Government does not recognize AI as sentient, thanks in no small part to the stance of the High Church on the matter. As far as the Government is concerned, even an Outcast Glitch who has broken their programming is little more than a malfunctioning animatronic. Most Glitch avoid the Central Planets for fear of disassembly. While the AI debate extends to the Frontier, it’s more in the context of potential technological unemployment stemming from mass application of the technology. Outcast Glitch are classified as sentient by the Republic and thus eligible for both residency and citizenship. Some have been hired by the Faculty for non-invasive testing to further their AI and robotics knowledge, which has led to a few minor advancements. But most notable is the Glitch settlement of Castle Cove on New Tisetora, a seaside town built entirely in the traditional Medieval style. It is one of the planet’s most popular tourist attractions, much to the amusement and occasional annoyance of the locals. Hylotl The Desulti and Hylotl have a slightly strained relationship. Many Hylotl view the Desulti as reckless and undisciplined, while many Desulti view the Hylotl as smug and elitist. A handful of Hylotl missionaries have attempted to establish themselves in the Central Planets, with little success at spreading their philosophy and receiving a few smarmy comments from the High Church in the process. The more modern elements of Hylotl culture have had better luck, however. Hylotl media and products are commonly available throughout the Central Planets, with the Letheia Corporation an active player in the economy. Most Hylotl missionaries eventually give up on the Central Planets and move on to try their luck on the Frontier. There, they’ve had a little more success, attracting a small but dedicated following. Hylotl cuisine and meditation are gaining some mainstream attraction, even if those Hylotl introducing it are frustrated by their culture being reduced to consumerist fads. Again, modern Hylotl culture has a strong presence as well, particularly on the music scene. However, the Letheia Corporation has yet to establish a major presence due to a series of high-profile spats with the Republic’s authorities over corporate regulation. Allegations of abusive working conditions in Letheia facilities elsewhere in the universe has also soured the company’s public opinion, forcing it to operate through local intermediaries. Novakid The Novakid are considered kindred spirits to the Desulti, even in the Central Planets. Their carefree attitude makes them popular drinking buddies despite their aptitude for whacky hijinks. The Central Government takes a dim view of them for their trouble-making, but the Novakid’s rarity and popularity among the general population has made the Government reluctant to actually do anything about them. Indeed, the most significant action they’ve made against the Novakid is issuing a memo to all local law enforcement chiefs to keep an eye on them when they’re around. As if they weren’t already. The Frontier, however, is paradise for the Novakid. Not only does it resemble their own culture in its pioneering nature, but the exploration and adventuring that goes on there is right up their alley. The arrival of a Novakid in town almost always heralds some degree of revelry, possibly followed by some sort of drunken adventure. While the Novakid are likely to forget soon after, their exploits will live on in bar-room yarns. Technology and Aesthetic As relative newcomers to interstellar affairs, and having only recently survived a near-apocalyptic crisis, the Desulti are not exactly on the bleeding edge of technology. Trade with other races has helped them catch up in their most lacking areas, but most native equipment is geared more towards functionality and efficiency over unnecessary bells and whistles. Said equipment also tends to be highly customized by its owner, often taking its mundane appearance even more ramshackle. Indeed, technology is not applied equally across society. The average citizen will have access to at least a computer and a basic communicator, while a well-connected corporate or governmental figure will have robotic servants and the latest in virtual entertainment. Some Desulti actively reject technology or limit its use, particularly for religious purposes among Walkers or followers of the First Desulti. Others go the exact opposite route, deliberately incorporating it in their lives as much as possible. This is highly common in the Faculty, with members making heavy use of computers, robots and pixel printers for both work and play. Desulti design philosophy extends to their military technology, which is not known for its finesse. Projectile weapons remain commonplace both on a personnel and vehicular level, though modern firearms use magnetic acceleration in place of primitive propellants. Energy weapons are comparatively new, used on a limited basis for technological and budgetary reasons. Starships tend to be a little more advanced, not to mention aerodynamic for the purposes of atmospheric operation, but still feature various external hardpoints occupied by bulky weapons and engines. A basic Treeflier-class starship, commonly used by both the Aerospace Force and the Colonial Rangers. (Image courtesy of UnsoundM) Architecturally, the Desulti make very heavy use of prefabricated buildings. These were already a common sight in Tisetora, becoming widespread after mass migrations and loss of infrastructure during the Crash. Many designs have simply been adapted to use in space colonization, often being highly modular in nature. This not only leads to countless combinations of buildings and add-ons, but also a high degree of makeshift customization. All across the colonies, settlements usually consist of prefabricated buildings that receive various DIY additions over the years, expanding as the needs of the occupants and their community do. An entire subculture about documenting people’s use of prefabs has emerged, and it is said that no two buildings of the same product number end up looking alike. The center of a small Desulti colony, complete with structural cutaways, including residential shelters, a public house (combined town hall and bar), landing pad, and barbecue area. But for all its anachronisms and oddities, Desulti technology is surprisingly reliable and can usually get the job done. One simply needs to clean some rust off occasionally and give it a good thump when needed. Armor General Theme: Stereotypical outback clothes, coupled with makeshift armor. Tier 1 – Bushwhacker (Image courtesy of Newominus) Bushwhacker’s Hat: From the wastelands of Tisetora to the untamed Frontier, protecting one’s eyes from the sun is essential. Bushwhacker’s Jacket: Tisetora and its colonies are teeming with dangerous wildlife, making wilderness survival a matter of life or death. Bushwhacker’s Jeans: As rough and ready as the people who wear them. Tier 2 – Settler (Image courtesy of Newominus) Settler’s Hat: It’s a long-standing tradition for Desulti to tie corks on strings to their hats to ward off insects. Settler’s Jacket: The disordered nature of life on the Frontier means even civilians should consider some basic protection. Settler’s Jeans: Thick enough to offer protection, but light enough to allow for a good bounce. Tier 3 – Frontiersman Settler’s Goggles: A simple cloth mask and protective goggles meant for protection against smog and dust-storms. Settler’s Armor: This improvised armor resembles the sort used by bandit gangs during the more anarchic years of the Crash. Settler’s Guards: As useful for leg protection during sports as they are during combat. Tier 4 – Freelancer Freelancer’s Helmet: An old biker’s helmet repurposed for some basic protection. Freelancer’s Armor: Despite the Republic’s best efforts, much of the Frontier remains a dangerous place. It pays to be ready. Freelancer’s Guards: Making a living on the Frontier often depends upon mobility as much as personal protection. General Theme: Colonial Ranger uniforms. The Ranger outfit resembles traditional Australian military fatigues (and the iconic slouch hat), while the Greencoat is loosely based on the Rangers from Fallout: New Vegas. Tier 5 – Ranger (Image courtesy of Newominus) Ranger’s Hat: The slouch hat of the Colonial Rangers are a symbol of hope for many across the Frontier. Ranger’s Fatigues: The standard-issue uniform of the Colonial Rangers are deliberately made to look flimsier than they actually are. Ranger’s Trousers: With their focus on asymmetric conflict, the Colonial Rangers emphasize manoeuvrability on the battlefield. Tier 6 – Greencoat Greencoat’s Headgear: The helmet and gas mask of the Greencoats protect them from the deadliest threats of the Frontier, be they natural or Desulti-made. Greencoat’s Battlecoat: The Greencoats are named after the distinctive cloaks they wear over their armor, protecting them from the elements in their travels. Greencoat’s Greaves: The Greencoats traverse the Frontier as wandering lawmen, making the comfort of these leg guards a top priority. General Theme: Cyberpunk-style clothing adorned with technology, and backed by simple armor (e.g. ballistic vests, limb guards, etc.). Tier 5 – Hacktivist Hacktivist’s Headset: Armed with the latest ICE breakers, this virtual reality headset is the bane of corporate and military cyberdefenses. Hacktivist’s Getup: The Faculty’s computer hackers are a motley bunch, often pairing garish pop-culture clothing with military-grade protection. Hacktivist’s Leggings: The pockets on these thick trousers contain terrabytes of storage drives and enough network cables to connect a small city. Tier 6 – Cyberlarrikin Cyberlarrikin’s Interface: This non-invasive interface allows wearers to visualize computer networks in augmented reality. Cyberlarrikin’s Trenchcoat: A discretely-armoured coat that hides a number of wearable computing devices and hacking tools. Cyberlarrikin’s Leggings: The keyboards built into these leggings may not be practical, but they look cool. General Theme: Clothing and armor adorned with symbols and adornings based on Indigenous Australian culture. Tier 5 – Worldwalker Worldwalker’s Headband: This strip of cloth is good for keeping the fur out of one’s eyes while travelling. Worldwalker’s Garments: In addition to normal protection, this light armor is adorned with sacred symbols to ward off evil spirits. Worldwalker’s Trousers: A key ceremony for any young Walker is their Worldwalk, where they journey far and wide before returning as adults. Tier 6 – Bladedancer Bladedancer’s Mask: The animalistic visage of this mask strikes terror in the hearts of even the most professional foes. Bladedancer’s Armor: Bladedancers are traditional Walker warriors, equally adept at fighting and dancing with little distinction between the two. Bladedancer’s Trousers: Modern Bladedancers are protected by a mixture of animal leathers and modern materials for maximum survivability. Author’s Notes This is a reboot of an old suggestion I made many, many years ago. The old version of the Desulti was very heavily based on contemporary Australia, but in a way that was very superficial in retrospect. Aside from some talk about immigration and domestic terrorism, there wasn’t much reflection of issues facing contemporary Australia. Recently, I got to thinking about how I might have done it differently given how my writing abilities and understanding of Australian society have evolved over the years, so I decided to put this together for a bit of fun. The basis for the new vision of the Desulti is the Larrikin-Wowser Nexus – an ongoing phenomenon in Australian culture involving struggles between freespirited ‘larrikins’ and paternalistic ‘wowsers’. I’ve also taken inspiration from Sid Meir’s Alpha Centauri to have factions that embody particular ideologies, in this case expanded to social, political and cultural elements of Australia accompanied by lore that provides a more in-depth look at issues permeating it. As such, the core of the Desulti lore is the struggle between the larrikin Frontier and the wowser Central Planets, with each made up of several entities with varying degrees of cooperation. And in the spirit of Alpha Centauri, I’ve endeavoured to make each group – including ones that are decidedly positioned as antagonists – have their sympathetic elements. In terms of style, in order to keep the Desulti distinct from the Novakid I’ve made them focused more on the ‘space’ part of ‘space Western’. While they may share many thematic elements about settling the frontier with the Novakid, the ongoing civil war provides a unique flavour to the lore. The Desulti also stray far away from the low-tech Western aesthetic of the Novakid, instead utilizing a more high-tech (if industrial or outright ramshackle) look. Their bases were strongly inspired by Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, in which many civilian settlements are built from prefabricated buildings due to Tiberium-induced mass migrations. Given the status of Starbound, I’m doubtful that this suggestion will actually lead to anything. I am looking at getting into modding, though I have a lot to learn and brush up on before a race mod becomes remotely feasible. But if nothing else, this has been a good writing exercise, and interesting to compare how far my writing skills have come. Additional Images Sample spritework by Newominus. Early concept by TheGoldenPlague.