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|“||The mystery of a thousand thousand lifetimes.||”|
Titania is a Super-HydroJovian world in the Taishibeth system, erroneously classed as a double-system. It was discovered by the Argus array during the Second Collapse.
Titania orbits a white dwarf star named Taishibeth. No other planetary bodies have been detected. A major ring system of Hadaen, Cerean, and Vestian planetoids numbering in the upper billions orbits out at between four to five astronomical units and spans an AU in relative size. Remnants of an orbital ring can be detected 0.75 AU from the heliosphere.
Titania orbits its primary at a distance of eight hundred astronomical units, 120 billion kilometers at its greatest major semi-axis. It has an eccentricity of 0.7, an inclination of 35°, and an argument of periastron of 150°. It has an orbital period of between 10000 and 20000 Terran years and a rotational period of 72 hours.
It is the only major planetary body of the Taishibethi system.
Titania features an extensive ring-system stretching approximately four hundred million kilometers (2.673 AU) in diameter. Gaps in the ring system indicate the orbits of numerous satellites, over two hundred of which rival, or are double, the size of Mars; the rest average from between several dozens of kilometers to mere centimeters.
Two civilizations have arisen within the system, the Crystalien Hierarchy of Hierarchies within the depths of the Jovian itself, and the chthonic Hiver species upon Oberon. A refugee fleet made up of survivors from The Last City and The Reef has settled in orbit around the Obelisk.
- Oberon: the second largest and most closest of these satellites, measuring at 6000 kilometers in size, it is tectonically active and possesses a sulphurous atmosphere. It is especially rich in volatiles. It is approximately four hundred thousand kilometers from Titania.
- Peasblossom: similar in composition to Oberon, it is another world just shy of 5,000 km. It possesses no atmosphere but features active cryovolcanoes shooting volatiles from the subglacial ocean. It has great quantities of organic compounds and material. It is approximately sixteen million kilometers from Titania.
- Cobweb: a tiny world of barely 2,000 km, it is locked in a Trojan orbit with Moth. It has little significance apart from a subglacial ocean system and groups of methane lakes on the surface. It is approximately fifty million kilometers from Titania.
- Moth: the smallest of the five moons, it is in a Trojan orbit with Cobweb. It is rich in minerals and useful material for orbital construction. It possesses no atmosphere and is approximately fifty million kilometers from Titania.
- Ariel: a minor world measuring at 4000 kilometers, it it tectonically active, possesses water ice on its poles, and is otherwise barren. It was chosen for its proximity to The Obelisk to be settled.
- Mustardseed: originally misclassed as a rocky world due to its great distance, further expeditions showed that it is in fact a MicroJovian (or a Gas dwarf) of almost 14000 kilometers in diameter, or a third of Titania's observed size, and has cleared a gap of nearly two hundred thousand kilometers in the rings, the largest yet, and is approximately seventy five million kilometers from Titania. There are no signs of life recorded anywhere on the planet. It possesses two moons.
- Puck: a tiny orbital, measuring twenty-odd kilometers in size, and has the appearance of 67P/C-G.
- Ghosh: another tiny orbital, measuring twelve kilometers, lumpy and pitted with craters.
- The Obelisk: an ancient artifact of xenosophont origin, believed to have been left by the Traveler as a marker for a return visit. It is a lengthily object measuring twenty kilometers in size and is totally black, emitting nothing on the infrared or electromagnetic scales.
- Derelict Pyramid: discovered in the far reaches of the Titano ring system, this seemingly disabled Pyramid is still potent.
Titania's atmosphere is predominantly hydrogen with trace elements of nitrogen, oxygen, methane, ammonia and argon making up less than five percent of the total. It has a relative Jovian mass averaging 12.5, suggesting that it is close to that of a Y-type, or ultra-cool, brown dwarf; its physical size is actually five times Earth's radii.
It has an average surface temperature of 300 Kelvin, or a warm summer’s day of approximately 80° Fahrenheit. It is colder towards the poles and warmer towards the equator, made possible by immense and violent windstorms that consume the planet. The planet’s physical coloration is a brilliant sky-blue from Rayleigh scattering and has an albedo of 0.12.
Titania can be divided, roughly, into three layers: the atmosphere, extensively hydrogen with pockets of trace gasses; the oceans, liquid water, ammonia, and methane; and the crust, rock in varying states and metallic hydrogen.
The atmosphere, when measured from the surface to the point where true space begins, is approximately 24000 kilometers thick. This keeps the surface, and the oceans below, warm, heated by the dual processes of the greenhouse effect and the immense pressures on the planetary core from its gravity. Despite violent storms wracking the planet on the super-continental scale there exists life aplenty drifting along the turbulent currents. Many of these are collective organisms, resembling enormous floating jellyfish. They feed on aerial colonies of plankton and algae. Others follow the lightning storms, feasting on the energy discharges. Others are massive winged entities, some of these reaching wingspans of ten kilometers or more, hunting the floaters. The most notable of these are a species of enormous bird-like creatures, tentatively termed “rocs”, apparently at the top of the food chain. Incredibly there exist floating continents, solidifed hydrogen and other gasses that have formed on the canopies of some of the most massive of the floaters, which can measure up to twenty kilometers around. Upon these alien continents live entirely unique ecosystems of wholly unique organisms similar to Terran species, not unlike the Galapagos Islands.
The surface, meanwhile, is hostile to all forms of known life in spite of the relatively balmy temperatures of 300 K prevalent upon it. Lighting storms frequently cover large swathes of the surface, pouring hydrogen and methane rain upon the scarred and pitted ground. Mountains are blasted into rounded mounds with no discernable features; caves exists on the leeward side, but are seldom protected for long. Cryovolcanoes and hydrothermal vents are common, adding their erupting plumes to join the stormy fray. Great canyons and vents honeycomb the "land", cutting across the shallow seas and join with vast underground cave systems which penetrate deep into the subglacial oceans below. The largest, and most stable, of these is called Cronus, providing a direct link between the blasted overworld and the peaceful underworld.
The subglacial oceans beneath, spanning a mere eighty kilometers deep at their most extreme, are largely walled off from the surface by shifting cave systems and crushing ice packs; seldom are these tunnels stable, the great tectonic currents of the mountains below pushing and squeezing any sort of escape. The seas are ice water mixed liberally with ammonia, methane, liquid hydrogen, and trace elements. Vast mountainous chains break up the ocean floor, anchoring the continents above; offshoots of the surface volcanoes are plentiful, and are host to vast and complex ecosystems that live near poisonous and concentrated salt oceans. Upside-down waterfalls are common sights. The spaces between the mountain ranges and volcanoes are perilous, full of supercritical fluids hostile to even chemoautotrophic life, the haunt of predators capable of surviving there.
At the very bottom is the ocean floor, a mixture of metallic hydrogen and superheated rock, provoked into searing heat by the crushing power of Titania's own gravity. Even here life has made a home. Most life native to Titania lives in the oceans. Chemotrophs make up the food web, their entire biosphere and global biodiversity built to live inside the ocean. Every species observed is bioluminescent.
Owing to lower genetic diversity around ninety percent of extant species exist in symbiotic relationships, forming the enormous forests of coral and seaweed that cover the slopes and hillsides of underground mountain ranges and vast drifting swarms of plankton and algaes. The other ten percent is estimated to be ordinary invertebrates, vertebrates, and other individual animals. These range from massive herbivorous beasts stretching almost a kilometer in size in their wingspan (from abyssal gigantism) to tiny predators less than a foot in size. They feed off of hydrocarbons for nourishment, such as acetylene, and either directly from other organisms or from the environment.
The Ancient Past
Millions upon millions of years ago, long before the Traveler visited Earth, the Taishibethi system was the home to an advanced starfaring power called the Hierarchy of Hierarchies. Made up of the enigmatic Crystaliens, originating from a Panthallassic superterrestial called Titania, and the insectoid Hivers, from a trio of worlds, the Hierarchy engaged itself in immense megascale engineering projects and stellar transformation. Their system was located in a portion of the galaxy where metallicity was low, with the only major concentration being located in their star, and so they had embarked upon a starlifting project designed to harvest their star of its resources.
One day their long-range telescopes detected movement in the deepest parts of the Oort cloud. Focusing one of their arrays towards a distant icy planetoid, they caught sight of an enormous alien fleet of mobile planetcraft and their escorts, ten thousand ships to a moon, all bristling with weapons; and moving towards the inner system. Panic struck the Hierarchy—they had only a small fleet of ships, none armed with weapons to battle an enemy. A decision was quickly reached and the Hierarchy redirected their starlifter—an equilateral band of statites—into a polar orbit and "fired" their sun's mass at the aliens. The stellar explosion blasted forth at near lightspeed, funneling outwards, entrapping the fleet, and quickly obliterated them. When radiation levels went back to normal Hierarchical ships investigated the remnants—and discovered the Traveler. It had suffered extensive damage from unknown causes, their star quickly being ruled out, but it was "bleeding out" from their attack all the same. The ships gently guided the Traveler into orbit near Titania and initiated contact.
The Traveler did not speak in words but in dreams. Every single Hierarchical that reached out went instantly catatonic, including most of the Great Council, the ruling body of the Hierarchy of Hierarchies. For the second time the Hierarchy panicked but this time the situation was under control. The Hive Monarch forbade any further contact until those afflicted awoke. Months later they did, and announced to the entire system that the Traveler was god(dess) and needed their help desperately to heal. Without delay the reconstruction of the Traveler's body commenced. Isotope analysis determined it was made of neutronium, which confused their scientists greatly as there was no material that dense close by. Nonetheless they labored, extracting huge amounts of material from their home sun—which grew dimmer and dimmer as it lost more mass—and converted it via immense pressure into neutronium plates to replace the Traveler's shell. As the construction demanded ever more material the inner system was demolished, the Hivers sacrificing their homeworlds for the project, and the outer system of all gas and ice taken, the Oort cloud depleted and the four Jovians drained dry. What was left was added to Titania, which slowly began to change as the light of their star left it, and it ceased to be an ocean world.
Finally, after many centuries and centuries of careful work, the pristine surface of the Traveler was whole again—at the cost of Taishibeth becoming a white dwarf, the conversion of Titania into a SuperJovian with all remaining material and the collation of every remaining planetary body deemed unessential to construction in its orbit. Those who were left who originally had contacted the Traveler, now immensely old, deemed the god(dess) healed and whole.
The Traveler sent out a pulse of paracausal power. It washed through the entire system at a speed which defied physics—and time itself turned backwards. Taishibeth was restored to its youth, three more Jovians and their attendant satellite systems joined the rest in the outer system, and the Hivers' three homeworlds were reborn, free of all scarring and pollution. Titania was left as it was, for the Crystalien species had modified themselves to exist in this new world and most had forgotten how the old had been, but was gifted an enormous ring system and many satellites. Their starlifter was no more but in its place were metal rich planetoids and bodies in a new and gargantuan ring system that lay between the Hiver homeworlds and Titania. Last, but not least, was the fleet which had pursued the Traveler, empty and cleansed of all evil influence. The Hierarchy had enough material to last them endless millennia.
The Traveler then gestated a marker, a black obelisk that spoke with the voice of a woman, to remind the Taishibethi that one day it would return home; and then it left, moving out into the void for new adventures.
The enrichment of the Hierarchy led to profound sociological and technological changes. The expensive starlifter was dismantled, but its original arrays left in place for future projects. Colonization of the outer system began, and new colonies and their dependents were created. A thriving confederation of planets was born, and the Hierarchy became diverse and widespread. Industry developed at immense rates, the construction of a powerful fleet of warships was underfoot—the threat of the alien fleet had never left them—and last of all, the slow evolution of a great mind was underway.
The Hierarchy had never forgotten the Traveler or its gift to them, and were greatly sorrowed by its departure. Their most dominant religious cult had added the Traveler to the pantheon of divine powers, over the objections of conservative factions, which saw the Traveler instead as a divine agent or an avatar of their deities and not a deity in of itself. But this did not stop the most radical from going further—if the Traveler could not be with them, they would make a Traveler.
Turning to one of the Jovians of the outer system, the outermost by an order of many thousands of AU, the Hierarchy laid the foundations for the construction of a Jupiter brain, a mainframe designed to hold the greatest intelligence ever birthed by a psionic species. After centuries of construction the Jupiter brain was finished, and Lyt Ahn awoke.
Lyt Ahn was an archailect, an intelligence so great it collectively surpassed the entire species by orders of magnitude. It was designed for one thing—to substitute the Traveler. The J-brain hummed with an invisible symphony, its moon-nodes alight with synaptic fire and electric thought, and the Hierarchy rejoiced. At last their god(dess) was with them. But its birth was a cataclysmic affair. The conservatives viewed Lyt Ahn as blasphemous, and continually warned it would bring damnation to the Crystaliens. The societal rifts were riven deep but only just. For a collective consciousness defined by willing separation the seeds of doubt were more pernicious than any non-psionic species. Every objection, every uncertainty, left a scar—and these all went unaddressed. Within a few centuries of Lyt Ahn's creation the Taishibethi system was embroiled in civil war, the Jovian civilizations warring amongst themselves over matters of theology and blasphemy. Lyt Ahn had fortuitously declared itself neutral in these internecine conflicts, only acting when it was under threat, and those disaffected or loyal to the archailect fled toward its shelter.
In the depths of interstellar space the birth of the archailect summoned the Black Fleet. They turned their sleepless eyes towards Taishibeth. They could sense the seething turmoil of the Hierarchical divisions, and could subtly influence it from afar as they made their approach. In their wake came the Hive, already an ancient race, and the Vex, following the lingering influences of Darkness.
In the midst of civil war Lyt Ahn discovered the Black Fleet long before any Hierarchical eye thought to, the methods and sciences of the archailect already quite strange. It rallied the warring fleets of the system, overriding their masters' will, and mustered for the attack. But when the attack came, it was everywhere. The Hive made the first assault, led by an unnamed son of the Taken King. They smashed the Hivers' homeworlds to pieces and waged war upon the system's star, breaking apart its arrays and orbitals, killing billions of sophonts. The Vex followed, causing havoc on Titania itself, and disrupted the Jovians. Last of all the Black Fleet's hammer broke upon the shield of the archailect. For centuries the war raged onwards—repeatedly the Hive were beaten back, the Crystaliens using the raw power of their psionics to launch endless noopathic assaults; the Vex smashed apart by esoteric warmachines designed by the archailect; and the Black Fleet clashed with the collective might of the Hierarchy in both realspace and on the Ascendant plane.
But it was all for naught. A witch of the Hive infected the archailect's systems with a Vex virus, and caused Lyt Ahn to go mad. The backlash broke the Crystalien fleets to nothingness. The way clear, the Black Fleet took advantage of Lyt Ahn's madness, located the source of the Traveler's gift, and used the obelisk to focus their dark might upon the sun—with a burst of paracausal might it detonated, and laid waste to the entire system. The Jovians evaporated as the timeline reset, countless trillions lost to the ether, and Titania was ejected into the distant wastes of the outer system. Their mission complete, the Black Fleet departed.
Reduced to mere millions the surviving Crystaliens and Hivers forsook all advanced technologies and sciences, retreating to simpler methods, and buried themselves into their worlds. The damage was done, their civilization was no more.
Evacuation of Earth
Following the Second Collapse of Earth, and the loss of much of the solar system to Darkness, a ragtag fleet of some two hundred and twenty ships arrived in Titania's orbit. Among their number were Cabal and Fallen vessels. At their van was the shattered hemisphere of the Traveler, broken beyond repair. They settled into orbit around the Obelisk and converted the fleet and the Traveler's corpse into a space station—the last surviving refuge for humanity and its allies. A governing council was established and expeditions to harvest resources began.
It was almost by accident that the Alliance discovered the system's native inhabitants. A Hunter-Warlock pair had begun exploring the strange ruins scattered upon Oberon, investigating the strange flows of time about the warped structures, when they came across the Hivers. Alone the Hivers were little more than mindless beasts, deliberately so, but enough of them congregated about the pair that they formed an overwhelming consciousness. This consciousness demanded to know their purpose; unfortunately this contact did not go well. The Guardians assumed they were under attack and retaliated. Wisely their Ghosts hide themselves away as the Hivers tore apart the two then retreated into the shadows of their dead world; the Guardians revived they too retreated, as each exercise of the Light was more taxing than even during the Red War.
The Council was informed of the attack and they prepared for an invasion. Ikora and Elise decided to go explore themselves and make contact with the strange aliens. The same meeting occurred, and ended more amicably. The Hiver intelligence demanded to know why they trespassed on their world; Ikora explained their history. After deliberation the Hiver intelligence gave them leave to visit Oberon, but to not touch anything. They refused to answer questions about their past or why they attacked two Guardians.
The next contact occurred two years later—this time in the depths of Titania. An Allied scoopship, piloted by Eliksni and Exo engineers, plumbed the atmosphere of the Jovian to harvest the hydrogen there. A psionic burst rendered the Eliksni unconscious and the Exo struggled to maintain control of the craft as a noopathic assault attempted to overwhelm their minds. Before the last one blacked out they sent out a distress signal, prompting the dispatch of a Ketch, four Proas, and a Guardian jumpship. The scoopship was found drifting deeper into the atmosphere, dangerously close to a major stormsystem. The craft was undamaged, which puzzled the first responders, but was able to be towed out. When revived aboard the Ketch, the engineers explained that a mental transmission had warned them to depart. This time the Alliance was ready, and a team of Warlocks attempted to contact the alien intelligence within Titania. After receiving no response they contacted instead the Hivers, inquiring about any other alien species that lived in their system. The Hivers were reluctant to talk and gradually said it was something greater than they, and refused any further information. Undaunted the Warlocks tried a second time—and got an answer.
A single ship boosted itself out of Titania's atmosphere and came within knife-fighting distance of Sanctuary. In appearance it resembled an ice comet, which made up most of its body, with angled motors clustered behind it. Halfway down a tether was a block filled with radiation shielding, and at the extreme end was a small habitat, containing a single organism. This was not a Crystalien but one of their engineered hyperturing AI. It formally initiated First Contact by apologizing for the defensive measures its people had taken upon the scoopship operators, then offered to give a brief overview of their history if the Alliance would respond in kind. The city leaders gave an annotated history of the Traveler's arrival, the Golden Age, Collapse, subsequent Dark Age, and finally the City Age, ending with the Second Collapse and the reason they were here. The hyperturing offered sympathy for their plight and assured them that the Crystaliens would not force the refugees to leave. It then explained the Hierarchy's history and experience with the Traveler, telling them of their mortal sin to emulate a god(dess), and the punishment which resulted from it. Contact ended after the Alliance offered a formal embassy with the Hierarchy. The hyperturing accepted, but warned them to not approach Titania for their protection, as it was the Crystaliens' home and would not appreciate atmospheric mining. In exchange the Hierarchy would provide them with resources to settle one of their many moons in an approximation of their homeworlds, Earth, Torobatl, and Riis. Its mission finished, the hyperturing departed.
Settling a New World
Despite the misgivings of the council, a suitable satellite was chosen, named Ariel by the Hierarchy, and a colony was set up. It was primitive, constructed out of some of their few surviving Cabal carriers too heavily damaged for resource gathering, meaning the colony became mostly populated with Cabal. Additional settlements were created for the Eliksni. Magnetic accelerators were built on the planet's surface to launch material and other useful resources into space. Slowly, the new multispecies civilization grew larger.
During this time, some fifty years of peace and rebuilding had passed, and the girl known as Mallory Bertha was born to a mixed Awoken/human couple. Members of the council settled down and started their own families. Communications was kept open with the Hierarchy and their Hiver servants.