Uncle Jimbo's Bug Huntin' Range
Orthopteroids in the Star*Drive Setting
The Orthopteroids control the core worlds of the orik-t'ha as an independent nation on the borders of the Orlamu Theocracy. They have PL 7 technology slightly less advanced than humans.
In particular, they do not use laser weapons, preferring quantum and mass weapons as their cutting edge personal defence. The Orthopteroid Core has shown significant advances in stealth techniques and can employ the following PL 8 gear: displacer softsuit, stealth softsuit (more often worn as separate units); CE passive array, cloaking unit, cloaked probe, holo array. These advanced devices cause serious quantum resonance effects, which while negligible to Orthopteroids, affect other species as the alien artifact drawback Degeneration (Slight).
Relations between the Orlamus and skaak-kta have sometimes been chilly, due to the aliens' occasionally outspoken derision of Orlamu beliefs. They have an undeserved reputation as mercenary and untrustworthy beings. Few humans care to travel on the Orthopteroids' pitch-dark, cramped, poorly rad-shielded vessels or to visit their ravaged worlds and swarming underground nests. However, Orthopteroids are valued in human space as Tech Ops due to their unique senses. They often work as engineers, occasionally as medics. Some have hired on to other stellar nations as Combat Specs, but Orlamu recruiters tend to suspect their level of commitment to the Theocracy.
The derogatory term "Roaches" is strongly frowned on by Orlamu officialdom and hardly ever used by devout Orlamus. The name is occasionally still used by citizens of other stellar nations. Orthopteroids themselves find this usage mildly amusing, but might take offence if already inclined to dislike the speaker.
The history of human space is dominated by the joint human-fraal development of the stardrive. Likewise, the Orthopteroids have partly developed and partly inherited a drive that allowed them to colonise vast reaches of space, becoming dominant over their own constellation of client species.
While it relies on the same laws of advanced physics as the human-fraal stardrive, the Orthopteroid device uses different technology and has some significant differences in performance. No mass reactors, or other dark matter devices, have ever been found among the orik-t'ha worlds. Instead, their civilisation was powered by the tachyonic collider, drawing near-endless energy from the naturally occurring tachyon flux of the universe. The orik-t'ha made use of many gravitic devices, but never developed the gravity induction engine, which has only recently been perfected by the Orthopteroids.
The heart of the Orthopteroid drive is a singularity chamber. While the singularity is not much larger than that generated by a mass rifle, it is in an unusual metastable state allowing it to persist for several seconds, and has very high, precisely calculated levels of electric charge and spin. This singularity is pumped by a massive instantaneous tachyon surge from the ship's bank of tachyon colliders. Under this enormous concentration of energy, the singularity collapses catastrophically, throwing the ship into a trajectory through drivespace.
Unlike the many-coloured light of a starfall using the human-fraal device, the Orthopteroid drive causes an energy flash displaced towards the more energetic wavelengths. In the visible spectrum, the starfall is less intense and typically blue to violet in colour.
This alternate path to the stardrive has a number of benefits, and some drawbacks. The integration of the tachyon injection and gravitic surge, as well as the more controlled initial conditions of the generated singularity, make the Orthopteroid drive slightly more efficient. It requires only 80% of the power factors that a human stardrive would draw for the same starfall distance.
The Orthopteroid drive does not store tachyons, but relies on amplification of the highest spikes in a natural tachyon flux maximum. This makes it considerably more difficult to predict when a starfall can be made. Each standard day, there is a 1 in 3 chance that a tachyon flux maximum will occur, at a random time of the day or night, with exactly 11 hours warning. Due to this uncertainty, Navigation checks to direct a Orthopteroid drive are made at a +1 penalty.
Orthopteroid physicists have noted that tachyons are slightly affected by gravity, though much less so than tardyons, and thus tachyon flux density increases in regions of concentrated gravity. Within 0.01AU of a Jovian planet or brown dwarf, 0.1AU of a main sequence star, or 1AU of a neutron star or black hole, the daily chance that a Orthopteroid drive can engage is increased to 1 in 2. This increases the drive's Navigation penalty to +2. This phenomenon, of course, also benefits a human-type stardrive, which can recharge its tachyon collector in 2 to 4 days rather than 2 to 5 days. If a Orthopteroid captain is bold or desperate enough to approach such hazardous regions, he can increase his rate of long-distance travel quite remarkably.
For centuries, the elongate Claw Nebula in Lepus had a bad reputation among human frontier explorers, with numerous lost ships and rumours of deadly Black Destroyers lurking in its unknown systems. The narrow bridge of stars connecting the Reticulus irregular cluster to the Orion Arm had never been fully explored.
Throughout the 25th Century, observatories in the outer reaches of the Orlamu Theocracy reported numerous peculiar emission spectra in the Leporis stars. The most sensational theory was that the emissions were derived from hundreds of starrises by dreadnought and fortress-class ships, along with nuclear explosions and other weapon systems that had only been theorised. Other astronomers pointed out that the spectra were quite unlike those typical of a starrise, suggesting that the observations could be explained by some sort of subspace leakage or large-scale gravitic stress. Although there were major contradictions in both theories, no resources could be spared from GW-II to investigate something that could well have caused the destruction of any scouts sent out.
With the signing of the Treaty of Concord, the Orlamu Theocracy was best placed, and most eager by its own nature, to seek out the meaning of these possible drivespace phenomena. A strong naval detachment was sent out to question any independent colonies in the region, and make closer observations of the Claw Nebula.
The Road of Light group, named by historians after its dreadnought-class flagship, discovered a stretch of former colonies which had been wiped out in merciless, apparently unprovoked attacks. The invaders had left almost as little behind as the hapless human colonists, taking nothing and making no attempt to hold the destroyed colonies. At Kerguelen, the task force encountered an alien fleet of three automated destroyer-sized vessels, which attacked immediately, crippling a battlecruiser before being wiped out. The expedition discovered a swarm of combat robots engaged in seemingly senseless destruction of the second planet.
Pressing on under full battle alert, starfall detectors reported movements of several unknown battle groups, each with two or more destroyer-class vessels and a swarm of support ships. The Orlamu admiral decided to intercept the weakest alien battle-group, hoping to capture prisoners and ordnance from the obviously hostile aliens to prepare the Theocracy for a possible conflict.
The fleet fell upon the Veldt system, trapping a frigate of the now-familiar Black Destroyer design and two larger vessels of slightly different make. Unlike the Kerguelen engagement, the three alien vessels manoeuvred desperately to escape. After a keen chase, while the aliens sent numerous unintelligible gravitic transmissions, the Road of Light fired warning shots and forced the alien vessels to halt.
The Orlamus had captured crews of Orthopteroids from the Cluster Coalition, engaged in hunting down the marauding AI warships known to them as Gardeners. After strong protests at their treatment, the Orthopteroids expressed thanks to their alien hosts for destroying the Kerguelen Gardener group, but claimed the Veldt system for themselves by right of their long struggle against the Black Destroyers. With four more, much stronger Orthopteroid formations coming to their comrades' aid, the Road of Light's admiral recognised a perilous and unwinnable situation. He released the captured ships, reserved the question of property rights for higher-level talks, and ran for home to report.
The Theocracy immediately dispatched a task force to secure a fleet base in the area and negotiate with the Orthopteroids from a position of strength. The Orthopteroids' blunt and unceremonious negotiating tactics gained few friends, but some grudging admirers. The two sides were both recovering from long and terrible wars. With long and uncertain supply lines to consider, neither side wanted to fight in the Leporis systems. The two species agreed to resettle the region jointly, and established a series of joint working parties to decide any disputes.
In 2494, the Orlamu Theocracy dispatched a diplomatic working group to the Orthopteroid home system. This remarkable group, while constantly rebuffed and even insulted in their attempts at religious conversion, have secured the Core authorities' cooperation in a major cultural project.
Some centuries ago, the Orthopteroids' first attempts at developing FTL technology produced a device called a drivesender. The technical failings of the drivesender are immense, and led to the device being mothballed by the practical Orthopteroids as soon as something better came along. However, its potential stunned the Orlamu delegation: a PL 6 working model of a jumpgate.
The technical experts of the Orlamu delegation have repowered the four asteroid bases of the 142 Reticulus drivesender. Their carefully calibrated orbits had drifted over the centuries, requiring a heavy construction project to install gravity-induction station-keeping engines and restore the bases' alignment. To the bewilderment of the Orthopteroids, the Orlamus have relocated their embassy to these radiation-blasted asteroids, only 0.1AU from the sun. They continue to reconstruct the ancient machinery and study its principles. After nearly ten years of work, test firing of the drivesender is proposed within the next few months.
After several years of frantic base-building, intelligence gathering and diplomatic manoeuvring by both sides, the Orthopteroid Cluster Coalition announced that they would send a diplomatic mission to meet with the human Concord. In due course, the Orthopteroid-Orlamu Working Group for Fleet Operations approved the passage of four impressive warships, the dreadnought Binding Oath and battlecruisers Recompense, Inward Light and Free Imperative.
It was widely thought that the Orthopteroids had badly outdated information about the Stellar Ring. Rather than a current capital, the diplomatic party announced that they would meet with humanity's leaders at the ruined StarMech home of Delight. Some of the diplomats were later troubled by a Orthopteroid ambassador's comment: "This place isn't so bad. I've seen worse."
The meeting at Delight was historic, highly ceremonial and boasted many stirring speeches by the stellar nations' leaders. Many commentators felt that nothing of importance was announced. It quickly became clear that the four Orthopteroid delegations did not speak with one voice, especially the Union of Betelgeuse ship Inward Light.
From Delight, the Free Imperative carried its cultural delegation rapidly through Orlamu space towards the Orion League. After a barely civil stop at Prophethome, and an apparent Orlamu refusal to allow the ship to visit Kurg, the Orthopteroids made a long tour of the major Orion worlds and established an embassy at Jaeger.
The three larger vessels moved in a group into Concord Taurus. Once again, the Orthopteroids visited a historic but now ruined system, the Taurean Republic homeworld of Gamma Taurus. The fleet met with a large delegation from the Thuldan Empire, and reportedly held trade discussions with Rigunmor representatives and a number of private interests.
The Binding Oath then departed directly for the Reticulus cluster. Both the Recompense and Inward Light travelled on separate routes through Kendai towards the Verge.
The Recompense's trade delegation made a highly publicised visit to Tendril, where they set up a permanent legation on Alaundril. The battlecruiser then proceeded through the major systems of the Verge, even visiting the hazardous region of Hammer's Star and making observations at the infamous Pit. In a final surprise, the Recompense's ambassador announced an offer to the Concord to aid in stabilising the climate of Spes. This initiative has apparently sparked intense discussion in the Concord administration.
The Inward Light passed briefly through Tendril and Aegis, but also visited a number of minor systems - Ignatius, Miyashi, Terivine, and Crow. The mission's final stop was Algemron. The Betelgeusians' motives were much discussed, but they chose to make few official announcements.
With their home stars closer to the Perseus Arm than the territories of any human Stellar Nation, the skaak-kta could be expected to display deep concern at incursions into the Verge by such an obviously aggressive force as attacked Hammer's Star in 2503. Indeed, they have cast in their lot as staunch allies of the Verge colonies.
Orthopteroid ships were first dragged into the External conflict in the lightning dash of the Verge Alliance 2nd Battle Group from Tendril to Ignatius at the beginning of August, 2503. In the confusion, an Orthopteroid destroyer of Orlamu reporting class Xebec, well recognised for "showing the flag" at Tendril, followed the fleet into its most surprising victory, along with two reporting class Dromon refitted destroyers, of which one was lost in the fight to a matter torpedo from Acheron.
The diplomatic vessel, Core Starship Raincheck, remained attached to the Verge Alliance fleet, fighting with distinction in the ill-fated defences of Tendril (September 2503) and Aegis (December 2503).
Based on analysis of the 2498 Mission, several news services have released in-depth profiles of the Orthopteroids. While they have major disagreements, some points are not in dispute.
The Orthopteroids have had their own FTL technology for slightly longer than humanity, but their expansion has been checked by one or more fierce wars, which are not well understood.
The Orthopteroids now in contact with the Orlamus are all from an alliance called the Cluster Coalition, containing the Orthopteroid Core and Union of Betelgeuse. Another nation, the Gik-Ot Dissension, is apparently not on good terms with the Core. (Oddly enough, the embassy at Jaeger has just opened a sort of unofficial cultural discussion group called the Gik-Ot Understanding Mission.) The Vriik Destiny nation is composed of a now independent client species, and has long been in contact with what can only be Wanderer fraal city-ships. Some theorists believe that Outreach is a separate nation, but it may be simply a term for the region of old and resource-poor stars on the outer edge of the Orthopteroid cluster.