a brief history of the chaos, vol. II
In ‘A Brief History of the Chaos, Vol. II‘, Alberich Canderwell documents the Cataclysm Eve and its aftermath, wherein a mysterious energy disturbance evinced events of untold devastation. Zephra meets its ruination in the triune Chaos Epochs, followed by the fabled Contraction and Expansion, from whence our imperfect knowledge of time sickness derives. This horror necessitated the CMC calendar & clock reset which remains to the present day, as well as permanently marring space with the destructive field which ultimately brought about the Colossus Tear.
Chaos Epoch I — The Quickening
On the final night of the fifth solar turn, also known as Cataclysm Eve, a powerful energy current began to form above Zephra’s ancient capital, Zancastle. Over several hours, this energy current increased both in volume and intensity, in the First Chaos Epoch known as the Quickening.
Eyewitness testimony from across the System claimed that the energy seemed to be emanating toward the Zephran surface, as if being pulled or channeled. Official reports from the Zephran regime state that this was a natural gravity storm brought on by the behemoth’s close proximity to the Bohemian Ambit, the like of which is not unheard of for large planets when orbiting through temporally unstable regions. Whatever its origin, during this first epoch the energy front became increasingly unstable as the current gained velocity, culminating in the Second Chaos Epoch, the Crest.
Chaos Epoch II — The Crest
During this second epoch, the energy stream rapidly condensed inward toward the planet’s surface, before exploding outward in a tightly focused eruption column that punched far out into the Zephran Lunarscape. The column collided with Vax Catalla, a then recently extracted minor planet from Zephra’s suborbital Arcane Belt, whereupon it fissioned along multiple trajectories across the Lunarscape. The energy front impacted with the seven annexed planets (all of which had been held in orbital stasis on the far side of Zephra), consuming them in a cosmic inferno that served to sustain and intensify the column, feeding back along a loop current to the energy nexus at Vax Catalla. To my mind, it is impossible to explain what was occurring at this nexus without invoking supernatural ordinance, though the Zephran report cites such vagaries as ‘organic manifestations’ and ‘energetic hyperstimulation’, in what are essentially appeals to the illusory.
At the height of the second epoch the chaos front was it its most potent, with the energy massing at the nexus evolving and shifting into ethereal forms that appeared to resemble a vast city. Shortly after peaking however, the current rapidly destabilised, causing a regional thermal expansion as the searing energy deviated across huge swathes of orbital space. This abrupt fluctuation in temperature triggered a mass-shift cadence, drawing huge tracts of cosmic matter into a densely-packed cluster at the now dangerously unstable nexus, until the pressure became unsustainable and the nexus collapsed in on itself. The result was an explosion of astronomical magnitude, obliterating everything galactic north of Zephra and reducing the behemoth itself to a burning wasteland. Several Coreward planets were also directly impacted by the blast, most notably Enacha, which to this day is still in a critical phase of regeneration.
Chaos Epoch III — The Pulse
This explosion marked the transition into the most pervasive and enduring of the chaos epochs, the Pulse. While the initial detonation eradicated a huge stretch of the Zephran Lunarscape, it was the cosmic reverberation that followed that caused the most extensive devastation. The ensuing wave propagated a thick miasma far across the System, causing widespread damage to everything in its wake. Violent energy storms, abrupt pressure fluctuations, severe biospherical perturbations, axial and orbital shifts, and serious ecological and political disruptions were just some of the phenomena experienced during the cataclysm, the ramifications of which are still felt to this day. However, it was the temporal aberrations elicited by subaural vibrations rippling along the Invisible Landscape that were the most signifiant impact of the Pulse, as major chronometric abnormalities occurred across the System causing unprecedented chaos. It is for this reason that we consider the Pulse as being comprised of two discrete phases: the Rapid Contraction, and the Delayed Expansion.
The Rapid Contraction
The Rapid Contraction was essentially a period of dense temporal compression, during which an expanse of time spanning decades was perceived as having elapsed over mere moments; countless individuals were robbed of their most pivotal existential moments, and an entire generation were deprived of significant portions of their lives (the Lost Generation would play a central role in the astropolitical climate in the immediate years following The Chaos, but such discussion is beyond the scope of this book. For those who are interested, Helevene Vhelder’s Stolen Lives is an excellent primer on the subject).
The Delayed Expansion
The suffering experienced during the Rapid Contraction phase was then further compounded by the Delayed Expansion phase, during which, like the slow uncoiling of a spring, time gradually reverted back to its natural flow, causing innumerable distortions along the way. The political and cultural cost was enormous, not the mention the impact on physiological and ecological processes (Galen’s Anatomy of The Chaos provides a detailed examination of the extent of the damage caused to a range of species across the System). Civilisations collapsed as an epidemic of time sickness engulfed the System: a grave affliction arising from a combination of severe circadian desynchrony and chronic neurological impairment that stemmed from the inability to ground perception to any kind of external constant. The sensation of experiencing time stretching seemingly without limit caused intense feelings of psychological unrest, an unrest that drove profound cognitive deterioration throughout entire populations. By the end of the The Chaos — the point at which time returned to galactic unity — countless lives had been damaged beyond repair.
The temporal dilation of the Delayed Expansion rendered all previous metrics of time virtually meaningless, necessitating an absolute reset of all astronomical clocks (which previously had been calibrated to the dynamic interactions between the Godeye’s exterior rondels) and abandonment by the Coreward and Myopic planets of the previous calendar denomination (in which Bc had been Bravo cycle and followed the orbit of the secondary rondel around the iris, Ec had been Echo cycle and followed the fifth rondel, et cetera) in favour of a new, less convoluted system, Cycles After The Chaos. Starting at year zero, the CATC system was measured as the amount of time it took the capital to complete one orbital cycle around the Godseye, though revolution of the Godseye’s Alpha rondel continued to be used as a means of dividing cycles into twelve equal segments, now termed rotations. CATC was soon reduced simply to AC, after the labour of writing four letters for the date proved too arduous for most people. Meanwhile, Zephra continued to use their own metric — time taken to orbit the Godseye complex once, denoted in years or Y — as, to quote the official report, ‘to adopt this new system would be to acknowledge the spurious claims that we were responsible for The Chaos. Which we were not. And we acknowledge that.’
Whether or not Zephra was responsible for The Chaos (intentionally or otherwise), the decision was ultimately made to disqualify Zephra from the CMC. This was regarded as a weak reaction to what many held to be indisputable evidence of Zephra’s guilt, and there was widespread outcry for the behemoth planet to be held fully accountable for the atrocities that the System had endured. However, the CMC was even weaker than it had been before The Chaos, and was in absolutely no position to undertake any kind of military response. In fact, when considered in terms of the broader context, the disqualification actually bore significant weight. Of the planets that survived the events of The Chaos, Zephra arguably suffered the worst, having been decimated in the initial blast and the global repercussions that followed: almost two-thirds of life on Zephra had been extinguished by the end of The Chaos, and those that survived had to do so in a harsh, ruinous wasteland.
Dismissal from the CMC deprived the crippled behemoth of vital resources needed to rebuild, and of the moons that had been galactic south of Zephra during the second and third Chaos Epochs (thereby being largely protected by the behemoth’s immense mass), only Khasgar, Rhanavar and Himalia remained openly loyal to their governing world. The rest of Zephra’s satellites — both primordial and vassal — either made open motions to secede, or otherwise closed their planetary borders and withdrew entirely. Zephra itself, aside from the initial statements released in the direct aftermath of The Chaos, has remained unprecedentedly quiet in the interceding cycles, which some regard as a sign that the behemoth planet may be reconsidering its interplanetary foreign policy, but other, perhaps more realistic, observers regard as a particularly troubling sign that something altogether more sinister is on the horizon.
An Uncertain Future
After that, the System fell quiet, more quiet than it had been in millennia, as its planets looked inwards toward healing their wounds and plotting the course of the future. Meridia may have known it’s longest period of uninterrupted peace in the cycles since The Chaos, but there is an insidious undercurrent rippling below the calmness of the surface, a calmness that augurs the worst is yet to come.
But that is a discussion for another book.
Image & book cover courtesy of Tharssia St. Alderwit, with permission from the Far Point Expedition Front
A Brief History of the Chaos, Vol. II. 1st Edition. First published on Midhaven in 71AC by Bharvale University Press
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