June 17th 2013
First discovered in 2650, the Orion System was found to contain a single habitable planet, Orion III, which would be named Armitage by the navjumper Joshua Reece, in honor of his youth spent in Staffordshire on Earth. The timing for the discovery of a new habitable world was ideal since proponents of the aging Project Far Star expansion program were looking for something to revive the public’s interest in continued colonization. Using Orion as a rallying point, a strong colonial movement surged through the Human homeworlds as politicians began to extol the virtues of “reaching out for the galaxy.” Within five years, Armitage was a bustling developing world buoyed by the discovery of a profitable lode of precious metals in the system’s asteroid belt.
This all ended on August 9, 2681, when mankind’s greatest menace made their entrance: a heavily armed Vanduul raiding party struck the main post on Armitage and slaughtered the colonists there. The UEE was truly taken by surprise: there had been absolutely no indication of an aggressor species in the region, and contacts among the Banu had failed to mention the Vanduul in any interactions.
The UEE deployed research assets to the region to study the threat, ultimately determining that the Vanduul considered Armitage to be a “feeding world.” Vanduul warrior hordes seem to travel nomadically, occasionally revisiting past areas that they have identified as reservoirs of natural resources. As such, they considered Armitage ‘their’ world. They were either nonplussed at finding a working Human settlement on territory they used for supply … or they were overjoyed at finding a new species of prey.
Vanduul attacks continued with some frequency: in the first year alone, outposts throughout the Orion system had been raided fifteen times and casualties among the colonists were devastating. Building up a military fighting force in Orion proved to be a logistical nightmare. The system was too far away to extend the existing supply chain and and new infrastructure had to be rapidly built up to support the massive amount of personnel needed to defend this distant system. Despite this, the UEE was able to establish a viable force within Orion so that when a major Vanduul clan attacked in 2686, the Navy was able to push them back. That victory would give the government a false sense of confidence. The skirmishes over the next several decades were relatively minor and soon there was talk of launching an offensive to wipe out the Vanduul once and for all as we had the Tevarin. Later military historians would theorize that the Vanduul were using this time to study us. It was on February 16, 2712 that a Kingship entered the system from a previously unknown jump point to the system later coded VS-09 “Vulture.” It was the first one that Humanity had ever encountered, and it left a lasting impression. Nothing had prepared Orion for an attack of this magnitude. The battle was almost over before it began. The Navy forces in the system received one heavy loss after another. Seeing the end in sight, officials called for a complete evacuation of the system in an attempt to protect what precious few survivors remained. The image of UEE fighters escorting a lengthy chain of transport ships away from the system remains ingrained in many memories.
Why visit Orion? Some desperate Humans who make the trip do so in an attempt to salvage the potentially valuable colony remains or the riches to be had in the asteroid belt. Others head to Orion with the hopes of locating new jump points since the system was never fully explored before it was abandoned. And then there are those that arrive in Orion to “blade”, a growing trend of proving your flight prowess by actively engaging Vanduul forces. There are numerous reports every year of foolhardy young pilots perishing while attempting such a dangerous feat.
This charred protoplanet sits too close to Orion’s M-type main-sequence star to be of any use to either Humans or Vanduul.
An atmosphere of sulfuric acid makes this smog planet an unappealing destination. Initial scans of the system picked up unnatural anomalies on the planet surface that at the time could not be explained. However, in light of the Vanduul’s interest in the system, some scientists are theorizing that the anomalies might be the result of some yet unknown xeno-behavior.
Orion III consists of bleak, windswept plains pockmarked with the after-effects of Vanduul antimatter bombardment: blast craters and radioactive zones. Ironically, the ferocity of their attacks completely decimated much of the planet’s indigenous species, which, in turn, reduced the resources available for the Vanduul to harvest. A few abandoned farm modules still stand and the skeletons of several Human cities still exist in the form of wreckage overtaken by natural vegetation. Occasional Vanduul settlement sites can also be found erected by clans foraging the surface.
Surprisingly, the planet is still home to small enclaves of Humans. Living in sealed buildings, blackedout to avoid detection, they are the descendants of colonists who refused to leave when the UEE vacated. A hardy people, they are extremely insular and self-sufficient with little regard for the Empire who they believe abandoned their ancestors.
Deposits of gold and platinum can still be located in the asteroid belt, but prospecting them is time consuming and transporting goods so far from the core worlds is a daunting logistical task.
This gas giant earned its name, Abyss, thanks to its unusual appearance. The planet reflects so little light that it looks like a giant piece of coal. Prior to the Vanduul invasion, Abyss had garnered a cult of admirers in certain sectors of the Empire. Some people even visited the system solely to see this strange planet in person.
The following message is broadcast from beacons at every nav point in the Orion System: “The United Empire of Earth has formally abandoned this star system. The UEE can not guarantee the safety of craft flying through this region. Travel at your own risk.”
“Human expansion throughout the stars is as important today as it was a hundred years ago. In Project Far Star we will not only find the key to our species continued thriving, but something far grander that is at the heart of our very existence – discovery of the unknown.”
- Senator Nina Torrel, Virgil, Address to Senate concerning the Settlement of Orion, 2659.03.10
“I’ve been out to Orion about six times now. Killed four Vanduul. Been shot twice. I’m planning on going back as soon as I have enough creds to fix up my ship.”
- Wes Boyo, excerpt from Blading: A Life on the Edge, 2944