The two Hiigaran races – Kushan and Taiidan – grew up in parallel in the fields of evolution. They were cousins on the great tree of genetics and teammates in the game of life, both growing and maturing together. Fire, religion, art; the two species were linked with an unbreakable bond. The nimble and numerous Kushan tribesmen would hunt, eat and pray with the bigger and sturdier Taiidan. Archaeologists have found, hundreds of times over, families of Kushan and Taiidan living as one in prehistory, united. With the dawn of agriculture these biracial tribes began to settle into budding civilisations, mixed and equal.
Then came the Plague. A bacterial disease endemic in primate populations jumped to the hominids. The evolution of the disease would prove catastrophic. The Plague had no effect on the Taiidan; the bacterial colonies that the pathogen formed in the mouth were weakened by the strong Taiidan enzymes in their saliva. But when they exhaled the bacteria were transferred through the air to their Kushan counterparts; and there, it caused chaos. The bacteria were able to multiply rapidly, shutting down the salivary glands and forming large colonies in the mouth, nose and throat that would feast on any food the Kushan attempted to ingest. Disfigurement, nausea, starvation and collapse of the oesophagus caused massive collapse of Kushan populations. The immune Taiidan carried the disease between cities as they traded and prayed for an end to the disease that struck their evolutionary cousins. In the course of just a few years the population of urbanised Kushan fell by as much as 90%, either through death or mass exoduses made by the survivors. In their wake the Taiidan found themselves in half-abandoned cities, and a wave of starvation set in as crops were left unattended. The scattered Taiidan migrated together into the abandoned cities to pool their resources and created the first mono-racial societies. As the Kushan recovered they saw the Taiidan as being thieves who stole their homes.
That was when the reprisal attacks began, and the great racial discord set in. The initial wave of revenge attacks soon became an ingrained cultural feature for both sides. Here and there the Kushan launched massive attacks to reclaim their cities, pushing the Taiidan out until they later returned. This was the very beginning of a cycle of exile and return that would then dominate the entire history of the two races.
Kushan civilisations began to reboot themselves, scattered across Hiigara, only this time they prayed only for the benefit of their own race. They saw the Taiidan as demons, unleashed onto the world as a punishment for their sins. Throughout history empires and crusades would be founded on the simple basis of destroying these invaders in the name of divine righteousness.
But the Taiidan were equally bitter of the revenge attacks. Their initial counterattacks, raiding Kushan livestock and crops, soon grew into organised wars of their own. The early post-Plague generations of Kushan died off while the long-lived Taiidan still remembered the start of the conflict; but they lived in a world short of resources and where simple survival, let alone civilisation, was a struggle, and any threats had to be brutally crushed, whether or not they had once been friends. As the time of bronze and iron passed cultural inertia would amplify the divisions between the two races until reconciliation was a heretical notion.
For thousands of years, the two species of Hiigaran sapients found themselves in eternal loops of invasion, exodus and return to ever-shifting homelands. The racial conflict burned. The Kushan fought tooth-and-nail with their overwhelming numbers and their rapid reproduction rates; the Taiidan fought with cunning and technology to make up for their slim numbers. Only the discovery of germ theory and the eugenic culling of those not immune to the Plague under the fascist regimes of industrialised Kushan cooled the fires. Very slowly reason began to return and understandings were reached, overcoming thousands of years of cultural programming. This was the foundation of the first reintegrated societies, but even then the hatred was almost mentally etched.
Yet even these fell, as both long-lasting cultural differences split these new societies from within, and rabidly racist nations punished their own kind for association with the other. In an era of total war and high technology the conflicts grew to even greater proportions. The battles soon raged into space. The Angel Moon was the target of millions of Kushan refugees fleeing the Taiidan theocracy of Assam. On the Arak peninsula Taiidani would find themselves cloistered into arcology-ghettos. When these became targets for random artillery bombardments inspired by simple racial hate, many fled to the moons of Shelob seeking refuge. Nearly a century later the Arak peninsula would be reclaimed by the Assamite Theocracy and settlers from the Shelob moons would be welcomed home and housed in the homes of Kushan populations who had been sent to extermination camps. Yet the entire Theocracy of Assam would be annihilated under a massive thermobaric attack, its surviving assets obliterated by inter-atmospheric warships from the Angel Moon. This course of events was just one minor portion of a system-wide warzone that claimed hundreds of millions of lives to nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.
For a few brief decades, peace fell. One of the few surviving integrated civilisations, the Oligarchy of North Sha’a, had launched an expedition into deep space and returned, triumphantly, with the Second Core. The original Kushan crew had been replaced by descendants several generation removed, but a few of the original Taiidani crew had, in their longevity, survived the entire mission. The gift brought back from both would show, far a little while, that there was an alternative to the warring and, together, the Hiigaran peoples rebuilt and set off together into galactic society, united around their core.
But the tension was always there and, after many years, it boiled over. The Second Core had become, to the two races, their identity in the galaxy, as much as their homeworld. Yet both sides wanted the core, the homeworld, and racial dominance. The system plunged into war and across the nearby stars terraforming projects faltered as the resources were poured into new war machines. Defenceless and ignored border colonies were ravaged by raiders, their only solace found in weapons sold to them by the Bentusi – at classically exorbitant prices by the enigmatic space hegemons.
As the newfound wonders of the galaxy were choked off by war, support and morale began to falter for both sides. After a long and hard conflict the two sides were battered into peace negotiations, deciding once and for all the future of the races. The end result was much like the situation at the armistice that began the diplomacy: the Kushan held Hiigara and the homeworld system, but the Taiidani held the Core. The diplomats worked hard to see how peace could be restored but eventually it was found there could be only one acceptable long-term compromise: the Taiidan would have the gift of space, and all its wonders; but Hiigara was to remain in Kushan hands and Kushan hands only.
But even as the Taiidan were loaded onto transports to take them to the out-system colonies, the Kushan ruling council, the Maxarchy, plotted a coup de grace. The Maxarchy, being composed of the military leaders of the Kushan, still desired a final and total victory, and they got it. As the Taiidan were escorted to beyond what had been defined as Hiigaran space, they were wrenched from warp as the Hiigarans deployed a secret prototype gravity well over the planet of Ellebade. The Taiidan, surprised and scattered, were set upon by their Kushan escorts and the flotilla over Ellebade. The Taiidan navy was ripped apart by prepared defences; the primary Taiidan refugee ship, which carried the Second Core, was boarded. The Core was crudely ripped out and dragged away by the Kushan to safety, who set off back to Hiigara in a state of total victory. Smug and powerful, they flaunted one final term of the treaty and set off to build their own empire.
The Taiidan, helpless and adrift, were forced to put down on Ellebade and make the best of what could be found on the craggy, rainy, windswept world. But their memories burned strongly of the betrayal. The rebuilt and recouped their losses and, with their fleet gathered together, set off on their short-jump drives. They turned nomadic, vassalising nearby systems and establishing their capital over whichever world their Mothership happened to be orbiting. They rebuilt; they became armed and learned. Cloning technology was used to bolster their ranks and make up for their slow birth rates. Top-notch warships were developed, using parts scavenged and captured from wherever they could be found. Heavy weapons were procured from the Bentusi Exchange. The size of the Taiidan fleet grew into a huge cavalcade of armed and armoured vessels. The Suzerain Emperor of the Taiidan, eventually holding the loyalty of some thirty worlds, eventually grew to have the power base with which to challenge the Kushan – who now styled themselves simply as Hiigarans.
The Hiigarans were well aware of the Taiidan threat but remained confident of a victory under any circumstances. Their economy was tugging at the Taiidan vassals and their war fleets were experienced and dependable from long wars to flush out the pirates and raiders that had moved in following the Core War. Terraforming projects matured, enabling huge population booms, and at the end of the day, their control of the Core allowed them the ability to strike the Taiidan fleet at leisure.
Then came the Frerrn War and its massive political implications. The Hiigarans were diplomatically isolated, reviled for having brashly settled worlds well inside the Frerrn Republic’s territory. Their military was stretched and proven to be a good counter-insurgency force but poor at industrialised, broad-front warfare. Even the Bentusi were bearing down on the Hiigarans. The Taiidani suddenly were in the perfect position to strike – and they did. Their short-jump drives were powered up and they leapt through Hiigaran space. Where the planets were purely Kushan-held – such as those settled after the Core War – they were simply pressed into vassalage and their ships confiscated. But the worlds that had once hosted the Taiidan were ruthlessly attacked, neutron bombs annihilating the Kushan ‘usurpers’. This magnitude of slaughter only rose higher as the massive Taiidan war fleet advanced on the densely-populated inner worlds of the Hiigaran Empire. Chaos and confusion rocked the Kushan as whole worlds suddenly went dark, and before they knew what was going on the Taiidan were establishing themselves in the abandoned fortresses over Hiigara, long-forgotten relics of the old wars.
Their demands were clear: Hiigara and the Core. In return they would recall a swarm of neutron bombs scattering throughout the system. The Hiigarans had no choice; their garrison fleets were repulsed by the firepower of the Taiidan warships that had established themselves in the orbital fortresses. The only way to dislodge the Taiidan would be to recall the main war fleet from combat on the Frerrn border. A desperate call was made and, minutes later, the Hiigaran First Navy dropped out of hyperspace in close proximity to the Taiidan fleet, immediately opening fire. Their military assets – the Sajuuk’s Wrath, their mobile citadel – promised victory.
While on paper the Taiidan fleet was outmatched, the Taiidan people were not. In careful coordination the civilian portion of the fleet short-jumped to the Sajuuk’s Wrath, which was hanging back behind the main battle line. The Hiigarans were confused by the move but when the civilian fleet began to deploy skyhooks and docking clamps to maintain a hold on the vessel their plan grew clear. To their horror the Hiigarans found the Wrath locked down by a gravity well, one the Taiidani had reverse-engineered from the battle debris over Ellebade decades ago. The flagship was unable to move as hundreds of civilian craft latched onto the hull and bored inside. The complement of marines aboard the citadel was unable to cope as thousands upon thousands of rage-filled Taiidani swarmed aboard, armed with arc-welders, kitchen knives and Molotov cocktails. The sheer unpredictability and mob-mindedness of the Taiidani swarm overcame the defenders and the entire vessel – and the crucial Core within – fell into Taiidan hands.
Freed from lockdown, the captured Sajuuk’s Wrath powered up its weapons and annihilated the wave of vessels dispatched from the main battle line that had been intending to rescue the flagship. The Core was activated and the citadel began to flit across the battlefield. Its crews were all seasoned starship operators and had plenty of excellent gunners between them. In a moment of triumph for the common Taiidan worker, this impromptu crew managed to slice apart the best warships of the First Navy and whittle it down to a handful of pitiful pockets of resistance. Even these received no mercy.
The battle was won and the Hiigarans stood defenceless. The Taiidan stood in orbit, their weapons primed and the neutron bombs still en route to targets across the Hiigaran system. Isolated from their remaining war fleets and besieged, the Kushan had no choice but to beg for mercy. Even so, they did not immediately receive it, and over two million died as the moons of Shelob were neutron-bombed out of mere spite. Only the intervention of the Galactic Council prevented a neutron bomb holocaust across the rest of the system that would have been the final word in ethnic cleansing.
The Taiidani laid down their claim to Hiigara and with their fleet poised for battle none were in a position to decline. The Hiigaran Emperor and the Maxarchy were forced to swear fealty and perpetual service to the Suzerain Emperor of the Taiidan. But the punishment didn’t end there – the Taiidani demanded the exile of all Kushan from their space. The Kushan protested – the Taiidan had reclaimed the Core that they had been promised all the while ago and should have been satisfied – but with bombing platforms over every city on Hiigara the Emperor, the Maxarchy and the Galactic Council were forced to submit.
Unsurprisingly the Taiidani had their way. A very careful demilitarisation followed and the population of Hiigara was shipped away. They would be joined by refugees from across their former empire, including the handful of survivors from the Frerrn border who had managed to escape gleeful Frerrn vengeance – the disputed border had been entirely ceded by the Taiidan in the name of friendship and the Frerrn were taking their own revenge. The process of settlement and expansion by the Taiidan on the reclaimed worlds continued to push the Kushan out. Eventually they were clustered in a single massive fleet on the borders of Karos – as the Taiidani wished.
The Sajuuk’s Wrath and its battle fleet left hyperspace near the fleet, ostensibly to abandon it, along with the Hiigaran warships, in the Graveyard. In reality it was there to commit a final genocide and as it closed for attack range Taiidan firepower was unleashed upon the defenceless Kushan fleet. Two hundred thousand died in the first minutes of attack. The Bentusi, alerted to the disaster, arrived and ordered the Taiidan to back down, threatening to unleash their own forbidden firepower if the genocide did not stop. The Taiidan were angry and confident but the Suzerain Emperor, now installed in his capital of Assam on Hiigara, decided that all they had reclaimed was not worth the risk of Bentusi wrath. As Bentusi reinforcements arrived they made it clear that this devastating issue would be finally and eternally resolved: the Core would be given to the Kushan and they would be immediately flung to the far side of the Core. None would follow or help them, and the Kushan would never be allowed back for fear of upsetting what seemed to finally be a stable situation in the Galactic Core. The Taiidan were satiated and the decision was made. The Kushan disappeared.
The Taiidan, their own homeworld reclaimed and presiding over a massive empire, grew by leaps and bounds before stagnation set in. Some historians would look almost wistfully on the days of the Kushan, and argued that at least with them around they had prompted huge advances in technology that, if replicated in the modern day, would prevent the stagnation that was setting into the Taiidan Imperium. But most were satisfied that the devastating genocides of the past were over. Three thousand years later, of course, the cycle of exile and return would once again be resumed as the Kushan blazed back and destroyed the Taiidan power. But in that time the culture of revenge had died, the historical animosity blown away like the sands of Kharak in the desert wind. The Homeworld was joint capital, for a time, of both the Taiidan Republic and the Hiigaran Defence Zone. A hundred years after the Kushan homecoming both races had joined together enough to see themselves as a single Hiigaran race. There was only one threat to this peace: the Taiidan Remnants using the Vaygr as a means to reclaim Hiigara. But the Vaygr were defeated, peace was restored, and it seemed that at long, long last the cycle of exile and return was finally broken.
So there's a bit of a different take on Homeworld for you guys, inspired by someone's throwaway comment on Homeworld being 'a cycle of exile and return' long long ago. Read, enjoy, comment and criticise!