Star*Drive: Visions of the Verge
In terms of size, age, military strength, and self-opinion, the Thuldan Empire ranks first among the stellar nations. The success of the empire rests on the fierce patriotic spirit that infuses Thuldan society. The Thuldan Empire has proven itself in dozens of conflicts without a defeat; the Second Galactic War is its first battle “lacking a victory.”
In the wake of humanity’s departure from Earth, one of the first space-born cultures to rise was the Thuldan Empire. The beginning of the 23rd century marked an explosion of humanity from the cluster of stars around Sol. In those early days, even a small stardrive facilitated the founding of dozens of colonies. Many of these fledgling colonies maintained strong ties to the Earth-based nations that spawned them; others, funded privately, gained a rogue independence early in their existence.
Gregor Kent had risen to become one of the wealthiest tycoons of the era. Already his power had grown to eclipse governments, and he dictated policy for much of old Europe. As Thuldan legends tell it, Kent was concluding a multitrillion dollar deal to bankroll a stellar expedition when he experienced “the Vision”: For 28 hours Kent lay on the floor of his palatial offices, silent except when refusing offers of water, food, and medical care. When Kent emerged from his darkened chamber, he declared, "I have seen tomorrow: The media mocked his press releases and his predictions of space-based kingdoms and nations. No colony, public opinion held, could survive in space without support from Earth.
Thuldan epics tell the story. Kent despaired of humanity’s folly and lack of foresight. He lamented that in his vision of to- morrow, no one would be able to lead humanity, to guide it for- ward to meet the challenges of space. Kent resolved that if one man could make a difference, he would. Nothing must stand in the way of mankind’s future. Taking control of the stellar expedition he was funding, he poured all of his immense resources into the foundation of a new home where humanity’s next generation of leaders could blossom. For the first time, a fleet of stardrive-equipped vessels left for the stars.
Kent didn’t look back. No Thuldan textbooks point out the inhuman drive that allowed Kent to seize control of the expedition and oust its former administration. Rumors abound about the tactics Kent employed to command his employees and their families to follow him into the unknown.
Traveling more than 50 light-years from Earth, Kent established an independent colony on the planet Thuldan. The empire recognizes Sept. 1, 2263, as Founder’s Day. Coincidentally, the arrival on Thuldan Prime fell on Kent’s 50th birthday. The Thuldan Nation
a decade later the Thuldan Empire was declared, with Kent its leader and eventually its emperor.
The empire grew quickly. 0nly 10 years after the founding of the first colony, five excursion fleets left the planet Thuldan to extend their-Emperor’s sphere of influence. A dozen colonies were accepted into the Thuldan fold after a short period of reeducation. These times of adjustment remained violent; tragically, Emperor Kent observed, many died in the struggle for humanity’s advancement. Rumors abound about the Empire’s early years and the measures needed to establish an independent colony so far from Earth; some even claim that the Thuldans discovered a sentient alien species that helped them survive. In any case, the species has never been seen and its existence remains unproven.
It is a quirk of history that the Thuldan Empire, conceived in a burst of aggressive expansionism, has yet to end. In the First Galactic War, the Empire took on a leadership role among the young stellar nations against the Earth-based Terran Empire. More than 100 systems fell under Thuldan control economically and militarily. When GW1 ended in 2312, the independence and influence of the Thuldan Empire was established. Militarily, the empire was among the strongest of the stellar nations of that period. The influx of hundreds of colonies ensured that the Thuldan Empire would remain forever independent. Emperor Kent died in his sleep in 2317, content that his creation would one day guide all of humanity.
The Second Galactic War
The Empire’s growth continued unabated during the period be- fore the Second Galactic War. Thuldan explorers pushed the borders of the Empire farther and farther away from Old Space, and skirmishes with other stellar nations helped to increase Thuldan holdings. Emperor Decret saw another war on the horizon, and the Thuldan military-industrial complex, al- ready gigantic, consumed world after world of resources. The size of the Thuldan navy and war engine grew.
With the outbreak of war in 2346, the Thuldan Empire be- came an aggressor. By 2356, Sothvec Industries, the Anarchist Union, the Sultanate of Fomalhaut, and the Taurean Star Republic had been swallowed whole, their planets occupied and their populations forced to adapt to Thuldan ways or face imprisonment and extermination. Battle lines were drawn with other stellar nations, especially the newly formed Solar Union, and the Empire’s advance slowed. Two decades into the war, the Weakest stellar nations had been wiped out, and those that survived commanded formidable fleets and armies.
The formation of the great alliances occurred during this period. With his health beginning to fail, Emperor Decret reached an accommodation with one of the Empire’s enemies, the Hatire Community. In return for a cessation of hostilities, the Hatires joined the Thuldans in their campaigns and conceded several contested star systems to the Empire. Meanwhile, Decret revealed his greatest diplomatic coup in 2361; VoidCorp, one of the great powers, allied itself with the Thuldans, as did the Dreth Commonwealth and the Nariac Domain. Decret proclaimed the formation of the Expansion Pentad.
Soon after, the Thuldan Empire reached its greatest extent to date. At its height, the Empire controlled the areas now called Concord Sagittarius and Concord Taurus. But other alliances had formed to oppose the Empire, and Thuldan supply lines were growing very long. In 2415, for the first time, the Empire was pushed back, and the war settled down into a long campaign of attrition.
Emperor Regist rules with an iron hand. All decisions that affect more than a single star system remain the emperor’s to make. For more than a decade, Regist has faced down attempted coups and assassinations following his decision to make peace in the Alkaid Conference of 2465. Much of the Thuldan military was reluctant to accept a war that ended without victory -and to accept the surrender of land the Empire had gained. One of Regist’s most difficult tasks during the seven years between the Alkaid Conference and the signing of the Treaty of Concord was convincing his own people that a cessation in hostilities was necessary, at least in the short term. Today, Regist rules unquestioned. Already 170 years old and still healthy, he is likely to rule for another decade or more. Even so, he has yet to follow tradition and name a successor. Since he has no clear heir, the turmoil following his death could tear the Empire apart.
In strength of arms, the Empire remains the clear leader. Seventeen fortress ships and more than 200 capital ships bear the Thuldan flag. In addition, all driveships built in Thuldan space
from the lowliest freighter to the richest passenger liner must carry armaments of use to the Thuldan military. In terms of sheer manpower, the Empire has enormous reserves. Legally, every Thuldan citizen answers to the military, and all adult Thuldans hold military rank and are subject to military orders.
The capital of the Empire, referred to as Thuldan prime, consists of five habitable planets orbiting a single star. The terraforming effort that altered the orbits of three planets is considered one of the wonders of the galaxy; it nearly bankrupted the Empire during the Interbellum. Home to more than 60 billion men and women, Thuldan Prime serves as the political and intellectual center of the Empire. Thuldan power emanates from the homeworld in a highly centralized pattern; systems farther out from the homeworld receive progressively less attention. Given Thuldan Prime’s location in the heart of Old Space, notions of imperialism central to the Thuldan belief system
spreading Thuldan influence out evenly in all directions meet stiff resistance from other stellar nations. While Thuldans remain interested in exploring new worlds, they are more interested in fulfilling Kent’s Vision. Humanity must be unified.
In service to that destiny, the Thuldans’ definition of humanity has widened. Thuldans see nothing wrong with genetic engineering, as long as these improvements are properly harnessed. The Thuldan military has altered many of its citizens for missions ranging from assassination to terraforming. Thuldan Medical science is the most advanced known.
Thuldan philosophy doesn’t leave room for deviation from the vision’s path. Dissidents, though common in systems far from Thuldan Prime (including those in the Verge), are by definition traitors to humanity’s future. Similarly, the Thuldan attitude toward aliens remains less than liberal. At best, alien species are servants to human destiny. If they do not adapt and accept the Empire’s vision of a unified human state controlling all of the Orion Arm (and one day the galaxy), they will be eliminated.
Playing A Thuldan
Thuldans stride from world to world with pride and patriotism, and More than a bit of arrogance. Thuldans are self-confident as a matter of course; in every conflict and war they’ve ever waged, even the painful Second Galactic War, the Thuldan expansion has continued. Of course, Thuldans can understand that many of their stellar neighbors choose to insult or deprecate the Empire’s goals. Envy is a common human trait.
The reputation that Thuldans have for tough skins, strong arms, and coarse behavior rings true. Few Thuldans go through their first two decades without strenuous physical and military training. Even preschool Thuldan educators have the souls of drill sergeants, quickly orienting their young charges to the methods of the Empire. From an early age, Thuldans are taught the importance of the chain of command, and the absolute need to follow orders from superior officers.
Most Thuldan youths dream of joining the Legions; those who don’t are encouraged to keep their weakness quiet. Epic poems, art, and stories of conquest fill Thuldan society, and the Legionnaires are always shown in a halo of glory as befits Thuldan champions. Indeed, the nation is proud of the Legion’s history of conquering, sometimes destroying, dozens of systems. Of course, few Thuldans ever realize the ambition of becoming Legionnaires. Most Thuldans serve only two years in the military before mustering out. The same military training, however, ensures that proficient and skilled Thuldan mercenaries serve in armies and navies throughout the galaxy.
Fortunately, Thuldan strength stays focused on the goal of Kent’s centuries-old Vision. That the galaxy will be united under solid leadership Thuldans have little doubt, but the recent war has made clear the importance of consolidation. Over the past two decades, the reconstruction of dozens of Thuldan worlds has begun. Meanwhile, Thuldans continue to search for new resources and military technologies. To many in the Empire, the current peace is only a cease-fire.
The reverence in which Thuldans hold their founder and his Vision leaves little room for the cultivation of religious belief. Nevertheless, converts have flocked to the Hatire faith over the past century as its missionaries link concepts of human purity and cultural unification. Today, almost a third of the Thuldan population professes a Hatire faith, and that number continues to grow.