A New Dawn
“A fallen race obsessed with halting their final decent into the great black”
- Terran documentary The Decline of Altair and What They Can Learn From Us
Alterrans tend to be physically fit, attractive and educated as a rule. The physical illusion of agelessness is only contradicted by the depth of existence seen in their eyes. The eyes of a race who were old before many races first entered the stars.
Alterrans are often mistaken for the people of the much smaller and unsophisticated planet Earth. It is a special oddity that Alterrans have a nearly identical genetic makeup as Terrans, but neither race has any historical record of contact prior to that which immediately proceeded the current alliance. It is unknown why Terrans and Alterrans have such a similar genetic legacy nor why many of the plants on Alterra resemble those of Earth. Earth exists some distance inside what was formerly the border of a small but tenacious rival empire (currently extinct) that was never conquered by the Alterrans.
Alterrans admit that much knowledge has been lost and forgotten in the intervening millennia since the legacy event. Terrans deny any direct link to Alterrans and refer to the coincidence as a stellar oddity of tabloid worthy notoriety. Terrans commonly cite that the terran chimpanzee is 2.7% genetically different to the standard terran to which Alterrans often reply, ‘that much?’
Alterrans find it curious that the small genetic difference between themselves and Terrans prevents the legacy virus from implanting itself, rendering Terrans immune to its effects. It has been speculatively pointed out (by tabloid journalists) that in High Altair (the language of the Alterrans at the height of the empire prior to the legacy event), Tannis is the word for remote or secret outpost and the prefix Al- denotes ownership or control by the Empire of Alterra. Thus, a remote outpost of the Empire of Alterra would be known as Al’ Tannis, a word oddly similar to the mythical terran city of the name Atlantis.
It is been 6000 years since the Legacy event. Though their technological achievement has reached dizzying heights, much of what they have learned was deposited in great data vaults. This information has been, for practical purposes, lost because there exists no one to care for, or sift through the vast repositories rich in history, culture, and scientific achievement of over 1000 worlds and thousands of years. The Alterrans have become an insular society, utilizing drones and automation as much as possible to make up for their cripplingly depleted numbers. The race possesses a single goal which is to ensure its own survival and find a way to counteract the effects of the Legacy virus. The society is essentially stable. The level of automation achieved means that any individual has rapid access to anything that they require, psychosis are rapidly diagnosed and dealt with, and each citizen possesses a nearly ageless body with amazing resilience to disease and a rapid recovery from damage.
The average age of a citizen is 3600 years. There are still many that recall the time before the event, and very few were born after. The Alterrans were fortunate in that none of their nearest galactic neighbors were able to seize upon their decline due to self-destructive, genocidal internal conflicts essentially wiping themselves out in the process of racial “purification”. This sector of space is a vast silent mausoleum bearing many long dead and forgotten peoples and the specters of ancient glory.
Very recently reconstruction of the events leading up to the release of the Legacy virus exposed an anomaly. A significant portion of the mass of the research asteroid could not be mathematically accounted for. New mathematical models indicate that the drive section did not catastrophically destroy itself and the station as previously thought, but essentially formed a warm bubble surrounding that portion of the structure and jettisoned it into deep space. This is significant because the most secured and advanced research laboratories, such as the one that developed the Legacy virus, were located in that section of the station. This means it is entirely possible that the key to the survival of this race (the original research for the development of the legacy virus) is intact and has survived somewhere in the vastness of space. This has ended the isolation of the Alterrans and caused them for the first time in millennia to seek contact with those beyond their sealed borders in an attempt to locate the remains of this research station.
Above all else, Alterrans attempt to preserve the life of those that remain. They utilize drones and automation for all smaller ships, while frigates and destroyers are given skeletal crews which are rotated out on a frequent basis to prevent psychological damage due to isolation. All capital ships maintain vast medical and defensive technologies. The preferred battle tactic is to first send in drone ships and bombard with powerful weapons from a distance, then move in and eradicate what remains with overwhelming firepower. For the Alterrans the lives of those that remain are priceless and a crippled cruiser will preferentially leave the battlefield even in the face of imminent victory to protect its crew.
The Alterrans are an old race whose empire once spanned vast sectors of space. Their society was one based on expansion and trade. Alterrans only fought defensive wars analogous to the Roman Empire of ancient Terra, expanding slowly out from their home world due to internal conflicts. Expansion became more rapid once an aristocracy of great houses, major religious orders, and megacorporations coalesced into a single planetary governing entity. The general standard of living was high but society was bisected into the ruling aristocracy and the underclasses it ruled. For much of the citizen body, these two levels of society did not pose limits or constraints that directly affected their lives. The ruling class admirably expanded the empire, successfully prosecuted wars, and enhanced trade at a rate that outstripped demand. However, as the empire became large and matured there were elements of society who, for philosophical reasons resented the fact that so much power, wealth, and admiration was essentially hereditarily retained by so few.
The Legacy Event
For the Aristocracy nothing was beyond their reach, there were no limits except their own mortality. Over time, the technology was developed to not just extend their lives through medical intervention, surgeries, and cybernetics but through subtly altering their genetic code to cause their body to stay young, fit, and healthy indefinitely.
The Legacy virus was designed to overcome the one limitation held by the great aristocracy — that of their own mortality. Developed on a top-secret asteroid research station the Legacy virus was meticulously crafted both to have a near-perfect success implanting into subjects’ genetic material but also staving off genetic degradation. Great work was put into ensuring that all genotypes were equally susceptible to implantation by the vector retrovirus. Though the virus was developed secretly, those that opposed the aristocracy’s absolute power eventually found out and coalesced around the message of free distribution of such genetic enhancement for the general population. This single cause allowed the fractured opposition to merge into a cohesive unit now that these disparate factions possessed a single unified objective. Obtaining the location and ability to access the research station took years of meticulous planning, wealth, and utter dedication by the stalwart few who composed this movement.
At great cost, the operation “Eternal youth” was lanuched. An operative was able to infiltrate the research station as part of a machine replacement supply shipment in suspended animation. The operative obtained a single viable sample of the virus with the intent of having it disseminated amongst the populated worlds of the Alterran Empire. In order to prevent further top-secret research by the aristocracy, the operative sabotaged the advance wormhole drive mechanism being constructed on the same station, essentially causing the station to rip itself apart and scatter its remains through interstellar space by creating multiple unshielded wormholes within the framework of the structure.
The operative was able to slip away in the ensuing chaos reaching the major interstellar transport station on the Alterran home world. In a fatal confrontation, the operative was gunned down by internal security forces but not before releasing a modified airborne version of the virus within the confines of the interstellar transport station. Although the station was sealed off and quarantined, this could not be effected before the virus was able to leave the station. The interstellar transport station was one of the busiest hubs in the Alterran empire and within the span of a mere five weeks the entire populace was infected by the voracious virus. Initially the opposition faction declared victory, however in the ensuing decades the true ramifications of what they had done become apparent.
In their quest to ensure that all the in aristocracy could receive successfully treatment without rejection, the scientist in charge ensured that the vector was not only nearly incorruptible but that it always produced successful infection in its host. The fate of the citizenry was sealed the moment an airborne variant was loosed upon the capital transport station.
What was not known however was that this virus was nearly lethal for developing cells and in more than 99.99% of all cases, pregnancies ended with the death of the fetus. The full enormity of this issue cannot be understated. The society slowly began to decline. Through war, natural disaster, and accidental causes the Alterrans began a slow process of decay. Essentially, a whole society had exchanged his future progeny for its current population.
Over the next several hundred years the populations of the outer planets in the empire fell below those sustainable levels able to maintain their infrastructure. This began a process over the next 2000 years of slow retreat; entire worlds abandoned because there were not enough citizens left to populate them. The destruction of their entire culture was inevitable. Although the process was slowed by great enhancements in automated drone technology losses sustained for any reason were painful for society as a whole. Each time a citizen died several hundred years of experience were lost.
Eventually the entire population relocated to the core system near their home world Alterra. Proper automated self-defense units were left to guard the abandoned worlds and drones remained to maintain abandoned planets. These worlds became known as the Ghost Worlds. Planets pristine with immaculate constructions, beautiful gardens, elegant vistas, and only the memories of the once great civilization.
In a dying society, any children that were successfully born received the utmost attention and care in order to facilitate their psychological development as well as ensure that they can become productive members of society. Each successful birth is a cause for national celebration. All children and their parents are relocated to the home world due to their low numbers. Children are one of the most preciously guarded assets of a once massive empire.