In the vast expanse of space, no one can hear you scream; it is a place dangerous, the final proving ground, where on a grand stage the future of races is decided, often with coherent light and nuclear fire.
While those lacking sufficient might and unity to withstand an external threat often vanish from the pages of history, for some, violence is not the be-all end-all solution at hand, but a final recourse when reason has failed.
So it is for the Kiranti, a species attracted to other pursuits than war, despite being forced to battle far too often for their taste. Not wishing to waste the lives of their citizens in armed conflict, this frail species has for years been the most resilient supporter of diplomacy amongst those who sail the black silk between the stars.
"United we stand, divided we fall"
Never has the need for a united frontier been more pressing than today, with races more prolific and less enlightened than us pressing forward across space, to claim what is not theirs. Shall their spawn inherit what we invested the sweat of our brow into? Shall they claim what our spirits gave birth to? Shall the flame of culture be trod into the ground and another Long Night come to pass whenever a madman amasses an army and sends it rampaging across space?
Never has a shouted ‘NO!’ been more fitting that now.
Never has it been more important than in the days to come to know your friends, and keep them close, for alone we might not weather the storm to come. Know that the next time your instruments come ablaze with the light of hostile contacts, you will fare far better if you nurtured loyalty and friendship, lest you be forced to extinguish every malevolent light alone. You, Kel’Regar, you are fractioned; we can help to unite you. Humans, you suffer from liars and parasites in your midst; we will help you weed them out. Oraki, you are few; we will help you grow.
Let us not mistake pride and folly for dignity and independence. The nay-sayers may mutter from their holes, but we shall forge a legacy for the future, a new order made by our hands, for our kin, something we can be justifiably proud of. Within this Alliance, we shall prevail - unbent, unspent, unbroken.
And the Alliance arose, and they saw it was good.
While keeping such a league of vastly different beings from jumping at each other’s throats is a task akin to herding fleas, the Kiranti diplomatic corps shun no effort to reinforce the Alliance and forge new bonds. This is no altruistic endeavor - having experienced several close calls in their early interstellar wars, they wish to keep as many allies between themselves and blood-thirsty aliens; when their allies flourish, it’s even better.
As one of the hallmarks of this new league, they have constructed the Haven of Voices, a flashy and safe place for the dignitaries to meet.
We’re headed for Singal, then Trennen. Those little munchkins there just love the sweets and spices weve got in our hold. I am going to sleep, you take the helm. Dangers? None - except for our customers. Just don’t steer towards that yellow worm hole, or they will shoot us to bits. Yes, yellow. I know they usually are not, this one is. From what I heard, it would break our ship up anyway. Just steer towards the planet, and wake me when we’re there.
Two wormhole openings terminate in the neighboring Singal and Trennen systems, unusual in their properties. Long were they deemed not navigable, for no ship to head into them ever returned. After the Kiranti founded colonies there, excessive research into their nature was conducted; the potential danger or bounty behind them could not be ignored.
The generally rather inefficient Maiani Conversion Drive was the answer; it charges up with ambient energy to remove a ship from reality and rematerialize it some distance away. While in most situations, the charging process takes excessive amounts of time, it was only used as a secondary defensive measure, an one-time teleport, on some experimental battleships; its exceedingly high cost and maintenance requirements make it useless for everyday use. To sail along the Golden Path, that mysterious wormhole, it is suited best: the wild energies of the anomaly, which shredded any ship trying to pass, charge the drive within seconds after entering, and the wormhole propels it unerringly to its destination. Any traveler fortunate enough to witness this voyage will be delighted by the radiant patterns and shapes appearing in the wormhole’s walls. Everyone claims to have seen something different, surreal yet personal; Kessia, a navy pilot who traversed the Path dozens of times, put her visions into paintings, which she assembled in a collection named "the Aura of Dreams".
What allows their ships to travel the Golden Path the Kiranti keep secret; few would suspect a dead-end failed drive tech being used to accomplish that feat.
The Hidden Sun
What might the mysterious destination of the Golden Paths be? It is a system lonely, wrapped in a fold or bubble of space, sequestered save the two wormholes. Around a small, mellow orange star, three tiny planets wander, one of them gifted with water and life; the most distinctive feature are the vast nebulae that fill up most of this region of space, set ablaze by internal discharges and the rays of the sun, to play with colors that are hard to imagine.
On Havena II, sentient life has flourished, attaining a pre-starflight society. The natives call themselves Daumar, and are a curious breed, tall asymmetrical creatures, with one armored side bearing a strong clawed arm and one eye sensitive to motion hidden between armored ridges, and a less bulky side with two dextrous appendages and three eyes sensitive to various light bands. Three sturdy legs carry them along.
A standard 20 amino acid biosphere (the Johnnies and their Appleseeds got even here!) allows the Daumar to provide foodstuffs for the station, while their industry supplies many a part. The Kiranti are working on fast-tracking their development in turn, to allow them to join the star-faring collective when they are ready.
Beyond the third planetary orbit, the Haven of Voices spins - a space station with the purpose of housing the meetings of the Alliance in safety. Needing little in the way of military defenses, it features crystalline domes and transparent walkways, a sparkling shield protecting them from meteors and radiation. Indeed, the whole inside of the station’s ring is transparent, with a sphere filled with ionized gas located in the middle, shining resembling a sun. All of its surface is a giant canvas for the artists of Venria, covered in delicate patterns and beautiful images from nature and mythology, as well as adaptations of their allies’ great works. Carefully tended gardens provide an excellent background to calm tempers; they also house the meeting halls and accommodations. The service and engineering sections are hidden and off limits, built compactly and hard to navigate for anyone who is taller than five feet, or is of wider girth.
In all public spaces, newsfeeds from all of the Alliance are displayed on large wall screens, and projected on the clouds in space, with the emphasis carefully chosen to highlight the problems at hand.
All personnel is either robotic, displaying artistic and extravagant designs, or consists of educated, well-mannered Kiranti, many of whom actually belong to the diplomatic/espionage corps; their intelligence gathering is very unobtrusive and subtle, for they do not wish to evoke even the smallest bit of suspicion. Most often, they will appear to be naught but pleasant, cute girly service staff, going about their business. The Daumar are present in small numbers, acting as security personell, while receiving education in turn.
Likewise well concealed is all surveillance equipment, while obvious security cameras and their likes in some places are meant to draw away suspicion. The information they glean is usually used to learn how to handle the individual dignitaries (one can usually persuade a person better if his needs and wishes are provided for excellently, his allergy to fish is respected and a glass of his favorite wine sits in his hand).
Meanwhile, claiming logistic problems (they pretend only a few ships, of limited size, can cross the Golden Path) the Kiranti restrict the movement of less-than-important outsiders to the system and station, to increase security and make visitors more dependant on their host’s staff. None-the-less, the percentage of aliens residing on the station is steadily increasing, much to the worry of the security staff.
In areas intended for socialization, one can find a varied display of the best from Kiranti culture - music, theatre, art exhibits, cuisine and traditional sports are but a few aspects of how the hosts present themselves in a favorable light.
To honor their allies and guests, there are halls dedicated to each of them - one with assembled artifacts from Earth-that-was and an abundance of replicas, with the hosts performing musical pieces from great composers as if they were earthlings themselves; one with imported plants from Regar, assembled inside the dome as if they were a sphere cut from the multi-layered jungle, with Kel’Regar art located in hidden niches to be discovered. Many smaller critters populate the dome, while a few larger ones are kept as well, to provide exercise and challenge should a visitor wish so. A cool, gleaming chamber tells of the history of the Oraki people, with their philosophies and history outlined on the walls, and portraits of some of their heroes, such as Lilith-1, gazing down from steel pillars. While there is a Salvorathan exhibit, most of their number drift towards the small music club located inconspicuously near it; Saiella and her mates who run it are some of the few civilians on the station. The Ssaratha are delighted by the station’s low gravity and thick air, for there, they can easily fly; locales dedicated to their culture are spread out through the gardens.
"This one station is a tribute to our union, a symbol of diversity in unity. Look closely, and it will show you how those who are wildly different can create a whole more beautiful than any of them could alone."
Sweet words aside, the Haven of Voices has begun to serve as a main meeting point for congresses away from the public, encouraged heartily by the Kiranti; it is one of their projects intended to strengthen the Alliance, and receive safety in turn. Others include aiding Terrans and the Oraki in colonizing planets around the fringes of Kiranti space, or offering spare capacities of their vast shipyards for the construction of warships for their friends; during all of this, they stay loyal, cute, harmless, polite.
The Kiranti are less than united on their view of the station - especially the isolationist and supremacist fractions think of it as contraproductive, a waste of resources and source of dangerous contact with species that might exploit and endanger them.
While none of the enemies of the Alliance have been posted on the site yet, we assume there are enough of them to warrant the forging of such an union to defend against them.
*Bite the hand that feeds you: a new dangerous religion has flourished in the ranks of the Daumar, calling for the slaying of the aliens that exploit them and change their society for the worse. Under the guise of merchants, a contingent of armed Daumar infiltrates the station, bent on destruction. The PCs are diplomats, bodyguards, spooks or aides, and have to deal with the situation.
*Trouble in Paradise: involved in diplomatic circles, the PCs must see that the Plot Device gets from one emissary to another without being intercepted and most of all, without causing any disturbance.
*Guardians of the Gate: aboard the Argo, one of the few ships capable of navigating the Path, the PCs are crew. When the Evil Race decides to seize it to assault the Haven, an odyssey ensues.
*The Voices of the Path: on the trek through the wormhole, the ship stalls, and the strange entities that inhabit this subspace manifest on board, alien and threatening. The PCs have to learn how to communicate with these strange beings to gain safe passage, or how to blast them into bits so that they threaten no ship in the future.
*Bad Apple: a Changeling has hidden amongst the diplomatic corps. The PCs, from an elite agency, have to locate and apprehend him without foiling the vital diplomatic talks in progress. For an added twist, perhaps they are not affiliated with the diplomatic corps, and have to sneak aboard the station and secure their objective, and get out again without being caught.
Additional Ideas (1)