THE ORION SECTOR PART I
The Antaran Hegemony is Forged
A small handful of Antaran systems remained outside of the trans-dimensional prison, cut off from each other and from Antaran Central Command. They worked hard to overcome the limitations of STL travel and find each other in an effort to rebuild the Antaran empire. The confederation of systems around the Dark Zone became known as the Antaran Federation, and over the millennia, they gradually shifted their focus to internal development, building up their planets and establishing defensive (albeit powerful) fleets to protect themselves.
The Antarans trapped within the trans-dimensional prison, however, were free to plan and prepare without interruption. Strangely enough, hyperspace travel was completely normal within the bubble itself, and thus the integrity of the Antaran Empire was preserved. Furthermore, the Antarans had received most of the data on Trans-Dimensional Physics from their spies, and therefore had time to study the research in an attempt to free themselves. And finally, they could build up their systems to the height of efficiency and power, devoting their time to perfecting their environments and leaping ahead in research and technology without wasting time on conflict, for no one could enter their prison any more than they could leave it.
Scientific Note: It was during this time that the Antarans made tremendous strides in the fields of Trans-Dimensional Physics, Wormhole Physics, and Genetic Manipulation. These particular subjects would later aid them in the domination of their corner of the galaxy.
Around 6000 GC, the Antarans finally managed to engineer a breach in the trans-dimensional prison. Using a device they aptly named the "Trans-Dimensional Portal", they could theoretically send material (specifically, warships) from their dimension into the galaxy with minimal difficulty. The first prototype TDP was set up in an uninhabited system populated only by asteroids and tiny barren worlds (Antaran Central Command was slightly concerned that opening a dimensional field within their own dimensional prison could have disastrous consequences, and thus placed the portal as far from inhabited systems as possible). A specially prepared task force consisting of ships equipped with Dimensional Drives (another experimental device which would, in theory, permit the ships to return to the same TDP they had launched from) awaited the opening of the portal. The portal opened without incident, much to the relief of Antaran Central Command, and the Antaran task force that passed through appeared quite unexpectedly in the middle of the thriving Antaran Federation, much to everyone’s surprise.
The reunion was not pleasant, to say the least; almost four thousand cycles of divergent evolutionary paths had taken their toll, and the two groups of Antarans were completely unrecognizable to each other. Federation forces engaged the invading fleet and beat them back; this prompted Antaran Central Command to dispatch a larger fleet the second time. This war continued for several cycles until Federation researchers discovered that their enemies were, in fact, Antarans like themselves. This discovery led to a cease-fire as each side weighed its options. Finally, they settled on a truce, reuniting as two different Antaran states under one banner, and the Antaran Hegemony was born.
Further research allowed the Antarans to refine the TDP system, increase the efficiency of hyperdrives, and even undo the dimensional prison completely. But the forward-thinking Antaran leaders now looked on the prison more as a fortress protecting them from all outside forces, both Orion and otherwise. Only the TDP’s would grant access to the Antaran Sector, and the Hegemony controlled them all. To protect their breakthroughs in Dimensional Physics, all their ships equipped with Dimensional Drives were also equipped with a Quantum Detonator, designed to self-destruct the ship should it take sufficient damage and thus prevent their capture by enemy forces.
Though hyperspace travel was still unstable outside of the trans-dimensional prison, the Antarans built a number of TDP’s to grant them access to a limited radius around the Dark Zone (a range equivalent to the diameter of the spherical dimensional prison; this limit was a side effect of the Long Night and, fortunately for other races in the sector, prevented the Antarans from raiding everyone into extinction). They launched raids into nearby systems once held by the Saiph and the Dubhei, former Orion League members, stealing their resources and technologies and blasting whatever empires had developed into atoms. By eliminating those potential threats, they knew they would be able to concentrate even more on the Mizara one day.
The Antaran Hegemony then took more aggressive steps to improve their standing. Genetic manipulation was to be the next great weapon in their arsenal, and they practiced on numerous developing races within their own and the neighboring sectors. Two of the most noteworthy species that the Antarans "created" were the Ichthytosians and the Ethereans; however, it is suspected that dozens of other local worlds were visited by Antaran genetic engineers and adjusted via similar experiments.
The Ichthytosian Experiment
The purpose of the Ichthytosian experiment was to breed aggressive front-line soldiers to be used in upcoming conflicts as disposable shock troops. A rapid acceleration of the evolution of an aquatic species, tinged with the amplification of aggressive behavioral modifiers, gave rise to the Ichthytosians on the oceanic world of Trilar. The Ichthytosians were, unfortunately, not at all what the Antarans wanted- they became very creative, peaceful, artistic creatures who sought to develop their own culture rather than fight. This century-long endeavor was dismissed as failure in 6311 GC, and the newly evolved Ichthytosians were left alone on Trilar.
Historical Note: Ironically, had the Antarans waited another two centuries, they would have seen the perfect manifestation of their goals. The Ichthytosians advanced swiftly, achieving many advanced technological breakthroughs, and then went through a brutal civil war that destroyed everything they had created in their rapid rise to sentience and power. This War of the Depths lasted for over a century, and in the end, the ruling faction exiled the rebels to the surface of Trilar, a punishment worse than death for the aquatic species. The rebels, trapped in aquadomes built on the few land masses Trilar possessed, felt that there was only one way to escape their eternal imprisonment: evolve from an aquatic species into an amphibian one. The exiles used many radical, dangerous and often untested bioengineering processes to try and change themselves into amphibians. Finally, after a century of lethal experimentation, they succeeded, and the first Saurians were made. They called themselves the Sakkra, and their goals were what the Antarans had programmed them for: conquest and domination. The Sakkra built several colony ships and left Trilar, seeking a new world to call home. This home would be Sssla, located deep within the Orion Sector.
Historical Note: The Saurian experiments did not all end in death. One group of volunteers survived the testing, but instead of changing from aquatic to amphibian, they became something even more ambiguous and amorphous, beings without true form, but capable of replicating other forms that they encountered. The researchers were horrified by the things, and cast the whole lot of them out into space to drift and vanish. These metashifters, trapped in suspended animation, traveled for a long time before their ship piloted itself to a distant habitable world. Once free, they suffered a cultural depression (rejected by those who were themselves rejected from their home; what was their place in the universe?) that led to a psychological shift to vindictiveness: if this was how they were seen, then they would make sure that they earned that reputation. They developed their shapeshifting abilities to mimic any creature flawlessly, mimicking bodies and voices with impeccable precision. Thus was born the Darlok Empire, one of the most feared races in the Orion Sector.
The Etherean Project
The Antarans targeted native life forms within the imprisoned Antaran Sector for the Etherean project, which was supposed to engineer a slave race that could harvest resources from gas giants. Once again, the century-long project failed to give the Antarans the satisfactory results that they wanted- the Ethereans were not the ideal manufacturers that they should have been, and chose to simply float through the gas worlds and develop at their own pace. The Antarans were tempted to exterminate the lot, but that was seen as too much effort for a species that would not offer much of a challenge or threat anytime soon. The Etherean herds were left to their own devices. However, when the Antarans developed the technology to terraform gas giants into usable worlds, the Ethereans took action, stealing an old dimensional portal and throwing themselves through it. They emerged in the Orion Sector, in 6599 GC, took up residence in several gas giants, and continued on with their peaceful development and evolution.
Historical Note: There are no more Ethereans left in the Antaran Sector. The success of the gas giant terraforming project was such that the Hegemony ordered every available gas giant converted to a more usable form. The last herd of Antaran Ethereans were wiped out in 9641 GC. Those who fled to the Orion Sector eventually split into two separate races, the Eoladi and the Imsaeis, and colonized many of the Orion Sector’s gas giants during the Long Night. Their violent opposition to gas giant terraforming technology led them to launch sabotage operations against the local Orion races when they too came upon this knowledge at the end of the second Orion civil war.