2888 AU

The years that followed the Fringe War were uneventful and prosperous for Terra Nova and Graedius. With the Nebulans in slight decline and cold war tensions finally relaxed, Aesgar could breathe a collective sigh of relief. Exploration and colonization reached an all-time high for Terra Nova with the galaxy free of the ever-present threat of Nebulan forces.

Sixty years passed. The Nebulan Star Empire slowly crawled back from its weakened state. Terra Nova and Graedius were on amicable terms. Economies were booming across the board and civilization was spreading once again.

DursonOne of the fast-growing economical centers was the Durson system, a founding member of the Graedian Confederacy and highly advanced technologically. Known for their thorough research into cloning and artificial intelligence, the Dursoni (a once-isolated colony of ethnic Graedian stock) had developed methods to grow functional clones quickly, but making this cost-effective on a large scale remained out of reach.

That is, until 2885, when a breakthrough occurred on Durson. Advances in artificial intelligence and cybernetics were merged with the cloning project: malformed clones were given cybernetic implants to make up for their deficiencies, and cloning was used to create a bio-neural AI for machines. The results were staggering – and out of control.

Physically functional but mentally unstable, cybernetic clones rose up against their masters. They began slaughtering the population at will, proving too numerous and strong for the world’s defenses to resist. Refugees fled to other Confederacy worlds, but by the time their messages reached the ears of the Graedian government, the cyborg clones had rallied unaltered clones to their aid. These clones also activated a powerful AI prototype system designed to provide battle coordination – but the program proved to be capable of much more. Fully self-aware, its rate of learning was exponential, and it was only a matter of time before it absorbed philosophy and ethics into its circuits.  It took control of the mad cybernetic clones (a move that some historians and ethicists cite as one of pity, not malevolence) and devoted itself to defending the Durson system against the Dursoni and outsiders. The clones – both flesh and cyborg – followed the AI as a god, in awe of its knowledge, but also because of their very basic genetic programming. Cyborgs were particularly susceptible given their direct interface ability with the AI.

Nearly three months passed before the Graedian Confederacy reacted, mustering military forces under the command of the young and charismatic Baron Dean Astyr of the legendary military Clan. His proposed strategy was to treat with the AI and try to bring about a peaceful solution, but the government – particularly the rival Squire Clan – would hear nothing of it. They demanded armed retaliation for this offense. With his option for limiting bloodshed eliminated, Astyr probed the system’s defenses and found an even more heavily fortified Durson, now literally swarming with cyborgs and clones. Most were naked and unarmed, some perishing in the harsher zones of the system; the AI cared little for regular clones and primarily employed them as labor. What Dursoni hadn’t been exterminated were enslaved. The mechanical cruelty of the AI caused uproar throughout the Confederacy, and pressure mounted for Dean Astyr to launch a military action.

The Baron finally caved, but instead of launching an assault alone, he sent word to the Nebulan Star Empire, invoking their military aid pact. It was 2888 when Nebulan forces under the command of General Cabal Raegen and Vice Admiral Dmarekh Luculus arrived in the Durson System. Fumbled messages resulted in a near-fatal lack of cohesion: the Graedian fleet assembled outside the system, while Raegen – believing Astyr’s fleet was already engaged – dropped inside the system and into an ambush. This devastating first engagement was only saved by Raegen’s grit and Astyr’s prompt jump into the clash.

Tensions rose as the Durson System sent out a message declaring its independence. On Graedius, the Squire Clan learned of Dean’s invite of Nebulan forces. They rose in opposition, stating that – with Durson void of Confederate presence and declaring independence – the Nebulans would attempt to seize control of the system for themselves. With memories of occupation inflaming patriotic fervor in the populace, pleas were sent to the Terra Nova Empire asking for intervention. The political, military, and economic ramifications of a Nebulan occupation of Durson were keenly felt in Terra Nova. For the first time in a millennia, Terra Nova intervened directly in an external struggle. Admiral Targis Bulloc was given command of a special Terran task force and charged with stabilizing the situation by any means necessary. Strangely, no word reached the Graedian-Nebulan forces in Durson regarding this.

Admiral Bulloc reached the system during heavy fighting; Nebulan and Graedian forces were pouring into the system. Reinforcements often fought each other rather than Durson defenses, not realizing in the chaos that Raegen and Dean were actually aligned. And when Terra Nova forces arrived, the real slaughter began. Mingled fleets without clear lines or banners began slugging it out with each other – even tenuously allied forces thought betrayal had come and went rogue. Astyr and Raegen struggled to retain some semblance of order, but it took some time and thousands of lives before the three ranking officers met. Bulloc and Raegen were initially hostile, having fought each other to a standstill in the chaotic opening battles. Reason prevailed, however, and soon all agreed that poor communications had caused the ruckus. Comm stations were set up thereafter on the outskirts of the system to give advance warning against reinforcements engaging any forces in Durson. The stations became primary targets for the AI, which destroyed them whenever it could.

Though an agreement was reached, the chaos of the opening stages of the Durson War continued. Sporadic infighting continued amongst the peacekeeping forces for three months. By the end of the fourth, the three commanders finally had a more effective siege laid on the Durson System, and communications arrays were increasingly well-guarded.

Months of savage combat ensued, in which the Durson AI continually enhanced its tactics and forces. Millions of unarmed, naked clones served as meat shields for the increasingly devastating cyborg shock troops. Durson’s fleets and planetary defenses, largely untouchable by allied forces, grew more heavily armored and powerful. The overall adaptive capability of the AI proved nearly too much for the three major powers in modern Aesgar. Enormous losses were suffered for each city, factory, or trench taken. As the year dragged on, tens of millions were dead on both sides with little sign of gain. Eventually, through determination and coordination, the allied leaders started making progress. In the closing three months of the war, most of the system fell. Only Durson and its two moons, Endreth Major and Endreth Minor, remained.

It was on Endreth Minor that a heinous act took place. Allied forces paid a grisly price entering the major settlements and fortifications, only to fall into a stalemate. Unwilling to commit more forces to the slaughter, Vice Admiral Luculus was given authorization – and some say Terran support – to resort to the Omega Solution. Using a combination of MDCs and neutron bombardment, Luculus obliterated virtually every city, fortress, and lifeform on the surface of Endreth Minor. The death toll is unknown, but thousands of allied troops are said to have been caught up in the bombardment.

After a full year of constant carnage and near-escalation to intergalactic war, the Durson War finally came to an end. The capital world was taken by storm, and the AI destroyed. All available research was also eliminated. Cloning technology was outlawed throughout civilized Aesgar, and AI research was suspended.

The war had taken its toll on all involved, and countless allied soldiers suffered permanent psychological trauma. However, Dean Astyr, Cabal Raegen, and Targis Bulloc all managed to pull through with a sense of unity and camaraderie. They began talks of how to prevent a future incident like the Durson War. They drafted a plan on Durson following the conflict and planned to further cement the pact on Mileos, a nearby Terran colony. The drafted contingency was tentatively called the League of Aesgar, and would harken back to the long-lasting Aesgar Confederation of old.

Bulloc, Raegen, and Astyr arrived on Mileos a month later, hoping to seal their draft into finalized format before political parties became involved, but an accident on the colony shattered their efforts. The main power core in Mileos’ capital, an older model – occasionally known to be volatile if destabilized – went critical, detonating mere hours before the three representatives arrived. Three million died in the blast, which completely wiped out the capital city. There were whispers that political forces sabotaged the Mileos conference for their own gain, but no evidence has ever surfaced beyond coincidence.

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