Star*Drive: Visions of the Verge
The Orlamu Theocracy marks the latest example of a society born out of the desire for religious freedom. For the Orlamus, the exodus from Earth meant abandoning the clouded views of a planet to embrace the reality of the stars. The Orlamus happily attribute the origin of their society to a scientific advance. Their union of faith and science has been blessed with success.
The stardrive project formed in 2154, a collaboration between the fraal and human representatives from Terran superpowers. The research presented a terrific drain on all of the national economies, but Earth’s scientific community believed
correctly that the marriage of fraal gravity technology and humanity’s ability to harness dark-matter power would prevail. Only through the combined efforts of the world powers was the feat accomplished.
Unknown to all but the research team and a few senior government officials, the first starfall took place on November 11, 2159, almost three years before the first public exhibition. Scientists constructed the prototype stardrive on a satellite orbiting Mars. On the fateful day, engineers began to bombard the activated dark matter with gravitons at 7:01 GMT. Thirty seconds later, the satellite vanished in a spectacular wave of light. Observers witnessed the first recorded starfall. Since the satellite’s projected path was only to the other side of the Sol sys- tem, scientists expected the vessel to reappear after a few moments. The ship vanished, and the wait for its return stretched first to minutes, then hours, then days.
Scientists and researchers panicked. The fate of the satellite was unknown. Would it return? When? Accusations of incompetence and sabotage flew between the superpowers. Exactly 121 hours after its departure, the satellite returned and was immediately surrounded by dozens of scientific and military vessels. The incident was the first instance demonstrating an important rule of stardrive travel: All trips take five days, no matter the distance traveled.
The charismatic Jeff Sendir, engineer for the Indo-African League, was the only crewman aboard the satellite for the surprise journey. Unprepared for a long departure into an unexplored dimension, Commander Sendir struggled to survive. During the five days, the satellite’s sensors drew no readings from drivespace. All measurements and readings reported that the satellite was surrounded by a featureless void.
Sendir’s report was not so silent. On the third day of what he began to third, of as his afterlife, Sendir described a shift in his consciousness. He characterized it as similar to a dream. He had the sudden feeling that he was not alone, although the best efforts of his five senses and the satellite’s instruments could not reveal an intruder. The experience was entirely intangible. Sendir recounts that he felt that his mind was a part of something greater, in direct contact with an intelligence. First he felt as if his own mind was being poured out, as if his own unconscious thoughts and memories had left him. Sendir became aware of something more than himself. Vast, unfathomable ideas floated through his consciousness, and Sendir lost feeling in his own body. A few moments later, the contact abruptly ended, and the next two days passed without event.
The normally stable Sendir had never demonstrated mind- walker talents, and he passed a battery of psychological and physical exams after his return. None of the later test pilots into drivespace reported a similar experience. Many wrote Sendir’s experience off as an anomaly.
Sendir stayed active in the scientific community for another decade, keeping abreast of the development and commercialization of the stardrive. He retired in 2170 at age 45. More than a hundred of his colleagues left their positions to join him in establishing an independent academy for the study of drive- space and dark matter energies. The Orlamu Foundation de- voted itself to unlocking the mysteries of not merely how the stardrive operated, but why. What, Sendir asked, is the true nature of drivespace? From its beginning, the foundation had religious overtones. Even while his strictly scientific pursuits attempted to deepen knowledge of drivespace, Sendir continued to develop religious views and spread them to the scientific community. Even as the Orlamu Foundation assisted many nations in the exploration of space, it continued to develop larger and larger stardrives. In 2213 it claimed several systems for itself; the first of these was Prophethome. Sendir retired to the planet in 2215, taking the headquarters of the Orlamu Foundation with him.
Light-years from Earth, the Orlamu Foundation experienced its final metamorphosis with the official recognition of Sendir’s sainthood. The Orlamu Foundation became the Orlamu Theocracy in 2211, and five years later First Prophet Sendir was succeeded upon his death by First Prophet Walen. Shortly thereafter, the new Theocracy discovered the weren in 2246. Despite the weren’s own never-ending civil war, they were peacefully incorporated into the Orlamu Theocracy over the following years.
The Second Galactic War
The Theocracy avoided activity in both wars as long as possible. In the First Galactic War, it wasn’t until the conflict actually began that the Orlamu Theocracy aligned itself with the stellar powers to oppose the Terran Empire. The decision was almost entirely based on a prediction of the eventual defeat of the Terrans.
The Theocracy opened the Second Galactic War by concluding pacts of non-aggression with its closest neighbors, the StarMech Collective and the Orion League. Still, skirmishes with powers near and far harried the Orlamus, and the appearance of the Expansion Pentad dealt thoughts of Orlamu neutrality a death blow. When the call from the Orions came for the formation of the FreeSpace Alliance, the only regret of the Orlamus was that StarMech could not be persuaded to join.
Fighting along the Orlamu-StarMech border remained light until the Pentad’s defeat at Kendai in 2401, when fighting between the FreeSpace Alliance and Profit began in earnest. Despite its well-established policies of tolerance, the Orlamus became just as aggressive as any of the other stellar nations and survived the war.
The Theocracy’s origins still cast shadows over its interests and strengths, but even its founders could not have foreseen the levels of contradiction that define the Orlamus. More than anything else, drivespace research and stardrive development are the nation’s principal focuses. Much of the Orlamu population !devotes itself to understanding drivespace, or, as they call it, the Divine Unconscious. Oddly, the Theocracy remains a scientific body first and a religious organization second. Only the most radical Orlamists would place their faith over proven scientific fact. At the same time, the religion has become another spur to Orlamu intellects. Only through scientific development can the Orlamist religion answer its adherents’ questions.
This interest in science has propelled the Orlamu economy to a great deal of success. Orlamu stardrives power almost a third of the starships in service, and the reliability of Orlamu drive technology is second to none. The Theocracy has met with the best success in miniaturization and development of stardrive technology, and through high production the Orlamus make a hefty profit in sales of stardrives and the technology to build them. The Orlamu media industry has blossomed since GW2 as more and more humans seek an alternative to the Borealins’ stranglehold on the entertainment industry. In turn, economic success has forged a strong military. Although most military vessels spend most of their time conducting research rather than war, the Orlamu navy has proven itself time and time again, favoring superior technology and training to massive armadas and strike forces.
Intellectual and religious freedom are accepted as a matter of course by the Orlamus, more a matter of tradition than of any written contract. Even as most Orlamus follow the Orlamist faith, most Orlamus hold the theocratic government as a necessary evil, not a divinely inspired power. The Orlamus acknowledge the need for a central power to organize the interests of the stellar nation and see to its common defense, but most of the time theirs is as much of a burdened bureaucracy as any other.
First Prophet Galindus heads this bureaucracy with a practiced hand. Galindus ascended to the highest position in 2474, the chosen successor after the retirement of First Prophet Zachel. Considered a moderate, he spent nine years serving on a stardrive ship, more than twice the time required of Orlamist priests. He left behind the pursuits of science for a career facilitating similar pursuits by others. It is said that even today he keeps himself current on the latest drivespace equations. Galindus controls the Orlamist church and Orlamu state from the world of Prophethome, the capital for both religious and scientific pursuits. The Sendir Cathedral is the seat of the Orlamu government and of most of the hierarchy of the Orlamist faith.
The weren have flourished under Orlamu guidance. Their violent tendencies have made integration difficult, but talented weren are growing more common throughout human regions of space, often preaching the Orlamist faith with a greater zeal than the Orlamus themselves. A few of the most devout have achieved important posts within the church hierarchy.
Playing An Orlamu
Orlamu life is founded on the acceptance of contradiction. The people of the Theocracy maintain a belief in scientific revelations: the tachyon paradox theory of subatomic particles, the grand unified theory of forces, and the Kaidman dark-matter assumption, all of which provide the scientific foundation of knowledge for a stardrive. Along with their allegiance to the most advanced disciplines of science, the Orlamus gaze with wonder at the marvels of the universe -the beautiful balances of energy and matter, and the existence of life itself. And in :these marvels, they see witness of a conscious, divine will.
Unlike followers of older religions, the Orlamus do not find their beliefs and scientific rationalism conflicting. As the Orlamu saying goes, the search for truth demands realism and a trust in the divine. The Orlamu mission is simply to explore the divine itself: in this world, a realm of conscious divine creation, and the Divine Unconscious itself, which others call drivespace.
The Orlamu obsession with drivespace has been established for centuries. Fortunately, it’s proved profitable as well as educational. Orlamu mediums-others simply call them drivespace navigators-travel through the Unconscious regularly, and the Orlamu people hold a great deal of reverence for all things that drivespace touches. The most famous example are the generally honored and pampered Starborne, a group whose members were born in the Unconscious.
The only enemies an Orlamu admits to are the familiar, the tedious, and the boring. The burning desire to discover fills the Orlamu life and soul. It’s common to find Orlamus along the borders of humanity-venturing into the unknown, unsure of what to expect but willing to accept whatever is found.
For the Orlamu people, the Orlamist church and theocratic government are largely accepted as a matter of course. Orlamu missionaries wander the stars, but most seem more devoted to personal explorations and investigation than to making con- versions to the Orlamist faith. After all, the religion poses as many questions to its faithful as it delivers answers.