The Fire's survivors picked through the smoking ruins of Earth, tired unto death. Petresun refused to let them give up. Almost single-handedly, he would convince the world to unite under the banner of an empire founded on all the noble aspirations of humanity, a "Great Human Empire completely devoted to the defense of Mother Earth.
After The Fire, people slumped into despair. A generation had come of age amid threat of extinction,
knowing nothing of the bright world Prometheus had destroyed. Billons had died, and immense reaction
set in. Bitter souls blamed technology itself for the war. This bitterness flared to a backlash
against higher learning, science, and industry. Nobility and will, it said, were the true assets
that prevailed against the Cybrids, not technology.
This sentiment took on religious momentum. Zealous preachers stood atop fallen machinery of war and spoke of turning back to Mother Gaea, of abandoning the evil god Technos. Young people put down their weapons and flocked to listen. Older and wiser heads bowed in exhaustion, unwilling to argue with their own children. Some few spoke of assisting the colonies, but their words failed to stem the surging Gaean movement.
Self styled "peacechilder" led simple lives, revering music, art, and "natural tools." They roamed from town to town, spreading what they called the lessons of The Fire. Public effort focused on rebuilding agriculture and repairing the war-torn environment. Little was done to recapture previous technological prowess. Humanity had entered an "Age of Isolation"
Praise the flowers, praise the trees
Cast away your iron keys
It's a season for the new
It's a reason to be true
We made it through to morning
- Peacechilde song, 2641
Petresun chafed at the laxity he saw. While people rejected high technology, Earth was vulnerable.
The meta-nations reconstituted themselves with drastically smaller populations.
Smaller groups threatened to break off and form their own countries. Petresun feared a complete collapse into anarchy.
It could not be tolerated, he decided. Prometheus would return, and humanity must be prepared. Enlisting the talent of the Immortal Brotherhood, Petresun agitated for something different, a society dedicated to fostering nobility of character and iron will.
He drew upon the sense of shared purpose that remained from the days of "The Fire" and argued to meta-nat leaders and people of Earth for creation of an "Empire".
Petresun was a war hero, a household word across the world. People listened to this proposals
seriously. The Brotherhood's secret machinations bore fruit; voice took up the cry for Empire. As
support swelled, the question arose as to who would rule.
The meta-nations argued for an Imperial Council, but Petresun proclaimed that supreme authority should vested in a single man: himself.
Then he played his trump card. Petresun declared to the masses that he was Immortal and would survive to lead humanity agaginst the Cybrids. His sheer audacity rallied support. People admired the man's bravado and surprising vigor. Opposition crumbled as hus candidacy gained popular momentum and finally culminated in a worldwide referendum. The pro-Empire side won overwhelmingly, and in the spring of 2652, Solomon Petresun was crowned "Emperor of the Great Human Empire."
Petresun chose the "Imperial Angel" as a metaphor for Mother Earth. Her circular aura meant the beauty of the Earth, her wings symbolized hope, and her flame stood for human courage.
Petresun spent the fifty years following "Empire Day" establish his fledgling Empire. First, he
instituted a new aristocracy. Outstanding service to the Empire could win a family noble status.
However, each generation had to earn the favor anew; the Emperor wanted to spur humanity to excel.
the most common path to nobility was military service. Soon military academies and finishing schools
sprang up everywhere.
At the same time, Petresun worked to reverse anti-technological sentiment. He sent relief missions to Mars and Venus and encouraged development of universities and research facilities. "The Fire" had scarred Earth deeply. The population was still a shadow what it had been during the Age of Hope.
Millions still suffered from nightmares and flashbacks. Humanity needed to heal.
Aristocratic Herc Pilots who served as elite shock troops.
A sense of urgency crept over Petresun with the passing years, as he brooded on the whereabouts of
Prometheus. Finally, in 2717, a deep space probe provided a stark answer: Cybrids were engaged in
construction in Neptune's orbit.
This discovery troubled the Emperor. Humanity faced a bottleneck. Population levels were still too low to support a massive war buildup; decimated colonies needed to rebuild. Petresun made the difficult decision to delay full rearmament, but continued to monitor Cybrid activity carefully.
Gradually, information about the Cybrids was leaked to the citizenry. As humanity absorbed the
sobering facts, Imperial nobles and TDF heroes worked to restore people's spirits. Humanity began to
dig in and prepare for the eventual return of Prometheus.
Anti-technological feeleings faded surprisingly quickly. Memories of "The Fire" were not so dim that people had forgotten the need for Hercs. The Age of Isolation was over.
A cadre of highly trained, physically perfect bodyguard-attendants, the escort played a role that Petresun wryly described as "ceremonial intimidation." The great secret of the escort was that all were Immortal hand-picked by the Emperor. Their skill bordered on the superhuman.
Petresun's vision became reality. Imperial cities blossomed with brightly painted plazas, glittering
fountains, lofty tree-laden parks, and elegant theaters. At night, towers sparkled like castles out
of fairy tales. Knights raised swords in salute to the Imperial banners. People walked with pride
beneath clean skies. Ships of the Imperial Navy swept through the cold void with sensors trimmed for
signs of Cybrid activity. Humanity brimmed with confidence.
The Empire was no monolith. Though its great strength was genuine, it did not reach as deeply as supporters wished to believe. Indeed, many things crucial to the Empire's health threatened to falter. The rock of Empire had cracks.
Imperials valued character and reputation greatly, even to the point of fighting duels to preserve a good name. The Code Duello evolved to regulate this activity, and those who ignored it faced severe consequences.
The Emperor took power for life, and his life lasted long indeed. By the time of the rebellion,
Petresun was over 400 years old. He retained supreme authority and had become an institution. No one
could imagine life without him. Although Petresun had withered to as husk, he still lived. His mind
stayed sharp and undimmed. The faith of billions rested on his leadership.
His longevity carried a price, however. Advanced medical devices took over more of his body's functions each year; he was doomed to become no more than a rag of flesh wrapped around a maze of tubes and wiring. The Immortal Brotherhood watched hun closely for signs of mental imbalance. However, they failed to realize the depth of his hatred for Prometheus. Petresun refused to fail while Prometheus still existed. Such was the depth of his resolve.
Petresun accepted his body as penance, for his failure to destroy Prometheus during the early years. Yet he also enjoyed the freedom of hologram "ghosts" that walked the halls of the Imperial Palace. He reveled in the thousand eyes and ears the palace sensors provided. In his intimate connections to the electronic world, he escaped the tyranny of his decrepitude for short periods of time.
Knights wore this uniform on formal ocassions, traditionally with a sword. The platinum jacket and emerald sash contained jewelthread that gleamed brightly even in dim light. The right arm bore the family crest. Leather gauntlets completed the ensemble. The collar shown here displays the rank of Knight-Captain.
The empire did not enjoy universal approval, even on Earth. A paradoxical result of "The Fire" was
that while people became less prejudiced or racist, they became more fiercely proud of their
individual cultures. Hence, as population recovered, nationalistic groups reappeared and sought
independence. Where these groups turned to armed resistance movements still sprang up around the
world, like seeds sprouting from a fallow field.
Meta-nation politics may have played a role, as terrorists gained unusual access to antique military gear or anti-Cybrid weaponry. Some commentators speculated that the meta-nations sought to undermine Imperial rule. Other observers scoffed at this idea.
The most chilling rumors whispered that the Emperor secretly funded separatists and even allowed them sophisticated arms and training. These rumors said the Emperor needed an enemy to hone his Knights against,or that he meant the resistance movements to become homegrown guerrilla troops. This theory portrayed the entire ongoing troubles as a gigantic, Machiavellian training exercise.
The Brotherhood wormed its members into positions of power and labored to further the Emperor's clandestine plans. Immortals lodged secretly in the upper echelons of the overnment and military, weaving complex webs of spies and rumor. Yet the Brotherhood had its dissenters, too, who believed the Emperor pushed the colonies too hard. These individuals began to operate independently furthering their own shadowy plans.
Imperial citizens continually underestimated the resolve of their colonial brethren. This superior attitude proved a costly mistake. Imperials believed Earth's humans alone had beaten Prometheus, that the colonies were lacking in nobility and will. Yet even as the colonies sacrificed and sweated under oppressive laws, the arrogant Earthborn chased fashion and enjoyed their luxuries. The colonists were not slow to notice the inequity.
In 2755, the Emperor began to mobilize Earth's defenses. But as the Imperial economy thrived and the
population of Earth and the colonies showed signs of robust health, he made the decision to fortify
Earth in earnest.
From Petresun's perspective, the colonies were expendable, but Earth was not. Mars supported human life, but its ecology was fragile. Venus was even more vulnerable, and none of the moon colonies would survive sustained Cybrid attack.
Petresun decided colonists would have to fend for themselves. Earth's defenses would receive top
priority. Accordingly, he issued the "Fortification Proclamation", a radical assertion of Imperial
supremacy that subordinated all colonial economies to Earth's defense. Imperial authorities received
a broad mandate to confiscated colonial resources. To enforce the new law, the Proclamation
dramatically expanded Imperial Police powers.
When the colonists protested, Petresun turned the Empire's strength against them. Dissatisfaction at first took peaceful demonstrations, but as years passed without signs of change, the colonists turned to violence.
The Emperor stayed his course, acutely aware that the Cybrids had begun to show signs of increased activity. He counted on the threat of the Knights, the Empire's finest to keep the lid on the colonies while Earth's defenses were stiffened. Yet the Knights themselves would eventually splinter.
The Fortification Proclamation empowered the Imperial Police to supress colonial resitance to the one-sided policies. It authorized summary trials, expanded use of deadly force, and allowed warrantless searches of colonial citizens.
The year the Emperor issued the Fortification Proclamation, Duke Lancings Weathers of NAP had a son
he named Caanon. Caanon grew into a formidible soldier who displayed uncanny precision, discipline,
and presence of mind. He became a Knight at the unheard-of age of twenty-six, dubbed "Icehawk" for
his calculating demeanor.
The same year Caanon took the oath of Knighthood, his little brother Harabec suffered a near-fatal accident. Only swift intervention by the famous Lazarus clinics saved six-year-old Harabec's life - or so the world believed. In reality, these clinics were a cover for the Immortal Brotherhood, which secretly used them to plant Immortal brains into certain patients.
When the boy emerged from Lazarus, a different mind occupied his body, that of the greatest warrior of the Immortal Brotherhood.
As an Immortal, Harabec took a number of other identities over the years, but always served as a warrior. At one time, he even served as one of the Imperial Escort. As Harabec, he displayed a fierce love of life and freedom. He increasingly disliked and distrusted the machinations of the Brotherhood.
"Harabec" grew into an uncanny pilot and tactician, swiftly displaying skills other Knights spent
years trying to master. Caanon at first taught his brother, then watched in wonder as Harabec's
talent exploded and eclipsed all expectations. Harabec became a Knight at twenty, the deadliest Herc
pilot in history. He distinguished himself in combat, twice surviving situations where others would
surely have perished. His miraculous escapes earned the callsign "Phoenix".
Caanon continued his own meteoric ascent through the ranks of the Knights. Talent and a powerful sense of duty earned him the Emperor's attention, and he achieved the single honor of appointment as Grand Master of the Imperial Knights. The youngest ever to reach that rank, Caanon settled casily into court life and carried out his responsibilities vigorously. That he seemed more devoted to duty than to his wife and three children earned more praise than criticism.
In 2819, The Emperor dispatched Harabec to put down a revolution in Turkhazakistan. TDF predicted swift success. However, rebels staged an unexpectedly effective ambush with advanced anti-Cybrid weaponry, crippling the strikeforce and handing the Knights their first real defeat. The Public wanted a scapegoat, and the media crucified Harabec.
Harabec showed a rebellious streak that complicated his personal life. He quickly developed a
reputation for ignoring protocol and disputing orders. He showed little patience for authority of
discipline, and despite possessing remarkable charisma, refused to marry. He preferred to explore
the wilder side of life, and his passions frequently led him into trouble. The potential for
disgrace worried his family, and Harabec quarreled frequently with those he loved best, especially
After the Turkhazakistan Debacle and the accompanying public hostility against "the Weathers hotshot," tensions mounted further between the brothers. Their arguments came to the attention of the Emperor, and Petresun met briefly with Harabec, ostensibly to heal the rift between these two important Knights. However, the dispute between the brothers intensified, and Harabec abruptly took an extended leave of absence from active service, claiming he ne needed time to let things cool off. Caanon hoped Harabec would mature and return with a better commitment to duty.
But Harabec vanished, and Caanon did not see him again for nearly ten years. When they did meet, it would be under nightmare circumstances neither brother would have chosen.