A. Walker Scott

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INTRODUCTION


     The history of the InterStellar Commonwealth dates back several hundred years before Humanity joined. We are considered among the so-called Middle Group of races, neither among the Founders or even the Old Group, nor among the New Group consisting mostly of races who have been members for less than two or three generations, though this varies some according to the longevity typical of a race.


ORIGINS


     The Commonwealth traces its origin to an accident. The Varktis ship Sarvnik was on its way to colonize the third new world for the Varktis when it intercepted a signal of alien origin. The signal was from the Talamikar Shelei.  This first meeting eventually resulted in the Mutual Friendship and Defense Treaty between the Vraktis and the Talamikar Shelei which was signed in Earth year A.D. 1728. The signing of this treaty is counted as the beginning of Standard Year 1 (SY1).


     The Varktis had been a spacefaring race for nearly 80 years when they accidentally happened upon a signal which the Talamikar Shelei had beamed into space as part of their earliest investigations of their own solar system. The Varktis colony ship which detected the signal determined that it had come from a star approximately 85 ly distant from their position and 115 ly from their destination, but this was their first contact with an alien civilization, so they changed course to investigate. Ten years later, this original contact resulted in the Mutual Friendship and Defense Treaty. Eight years of prosperity were followed by first contact with the Dwelek.


FIRST DWELEK WAR


     The Dwelek were first contacted on the far edge of Talamikar Shelei space. This first contact was followed, eight months later, by the first attack on a Sheleian outpost. Within three years, half of the Sheleian worlds, including their home world, had been overrun by the Dwelek and the Sheleian populations of those worlds mostly or completely exterminated.  Before the Varktis managed to push back the invading waves of Dwelek warships, 60% of the Sheleian's original population had been exterminated, and the Varktis had lost 20% of their own.


     The Varktis began assisting the two remaining colony worlds of the Talamikar Shelei to rebuild and absorb the refugees when, in Earth year 1749 (two Standard years after the war had ended), news reached the outer limits of Varktis space that a rebellion had broken out against the Dwelek. A subject race known as Chiurdoun had organized three other races in a revolt against their Dwelek oppressors.


SECOND DWELEK WAR


     The Varktis and the remnants of the Talamikar Shelei went to their aid and after five Standard years, vanquished the foe, freeing the original four rebels plus three more races. To secure their new-found freedom and assist each other in rebuilding, the Mutual Friendship and Defense Treaty was expanded from the original two member races to include the seven new races (Chiurdoun, Madrindiu, Traiqi, Shar, Talchin, Kirianchat and Tilet Thel) for a total of nine races, known as the Founders. In 1758 this solidified as the InterStellar Commonwealth of Sentient Races, later shortened to the InterStelar Commonwealth (ISC).


THIRD DWELEK WAR

     In SY34 (1772) disaster once again struck the Talamikar Shelei when the star hosting one of their two remaining worlds suddenly destabilized. Only 20% of the population survived. Some were killed in the chaos before the evacuation could begin. Some died in the transports while fleeing, but most were obliterated on the ground when their sun went nova. The Dwelek claimed responsibility, but ISC researchers, whether historical or scientific, have never come to a consensus as to whether or not this claim is supported by the evidence. After the nova, only 2.1 billion Shelei were left from a population that had been over 40 billion before the First Dwelek War. Resettling all the remaining survivors, some of which were already refugees from other Sheleian worlds, on the one remaining colony world increased its population by nearly half. This was a serious strain on the infrastructure of a colony world that had been only marginally self-sufficient before the disaster that left it as the only remaining outpost of Sheleian civilization.


   In 1774, the final chapter began to unfold for the Talamikar Shelei. The Dwelek conducted a sneak attack irradiating 10 of the Sheleian's largest cities, killing an estimated 300 million. In the next ten days, a "flash plague," which proved to be engineered by the Dwelek, swept the planet killing half a billion females and sterilizing another 200 million. A second wave of the plague killed another 50 million and sterilized another 75 million. Fatalities were far fewer among the male population, and the after effects were negligible. This left the Sheleians with a population imbalance of 8:1 in favor of males, in a total population of about 775 millions.


     The Third Dwelek War lasted ten years and resulted in the destruction of the Dwelek homeworld and total dissolution of the Dwelek Empire (1789). All its colonies were taken as spoils by the former slave races, most of whom expelled all Dweleks from their new possessions, often giving the Dwelek as little as a tenday to evacuate. Some populations were exterminated. The evacuees were treated as paraiahs and allowed no port of call. Most eventually perished in space.


By war's end, repeated waves of the plague and battle casualties had reduced the Sheleian population to less than 430 millions, and the population of fertile females had declined to less than 20 millions. Within a decade the population of fertile females had dropped to less than half that, and the ratio of live births had become 20:1 in favor of males. Though much of the ISC budget over the next 85 years went to research carried out on all nine member worlds, no cure for the Dwelek plague was ever found, and the Sheleian birth rate dropped to zero. The last known Talamikar Shelei died in the Commonwealth Senate chambers in his seat, which has been preserved as the Empty Chair, within the chamber to this day.

EARLY EXPANSION

     The next fifteen years or so, following the third war, the fledgling ISC was mostly occupied with recovering from the traumas. Seven races had just been freed from slavery and were struggling to establish themselves as free societies, reclaiming traditional ways of life that had been crushed by servitude, and attempting to integrate into a trans-species, multi-system society. One race was struggling valiantly to cling to existence. And another was struggling to come to terms with its part in those events, including the punishment of the aggressors. A further preoccupation in those years was random terrorist-style attacks by refugee populations of Dweleks.  But this period also saw the establishment of the standardizations that have facilitated interaction among the races throughout Commonwealth history: decimal time, the standard day (created by averaging the days of the members' homeworlds), the standard year of 500 days, and spoken Standard (created for ease of pronunciation).

     Exploration was a distinctly lower tier priority, or rather it was no priority at all, but while the ISC was absorbed with rebuilding and establishing a solid framework for future cooperation and success, races just beyond its borders were exploring and expanding. In the years between SY52 and SY93, a string of new races made contact or were contacted, mostly by accident. The Hiyadi, Hiltar, Shimai and Takradi were all first encountered in this period and all but the Shimai quickly joined. The Shimai waited nearly twenty-five years before choosing to apply for membership. 

     SY93 and SY102 saw first contact with the Lrahran and the Aeu. These were the first races for whom Standard was simply not a workable fit for a trade language. All the other species who had joined, up until now, were able to make more-or-less efficient use of the ISC's artificial language of trade and governance, but the Larahran simply couldn't pronounce most of the consonants of Standard, and the Aue didn't have the physical apparatus to make any of them. The founders had done their best to put everyone on an equal footing for communication, but that effort had reached the limits of its success. The Aeu attempted to negotiate a restructuring of Standard, making it an all vowel language like all of their own languages, but with over 100 standard years of tradition behind the extant language, and huge libraries of law and treaties already written in Standard, enthusiasm for such a change was close to nonexistent. Eventually the Aeu, bowed to reality and accepted the necessity of using voders to translate all spoken communication when they joined in SY111.

     The last of the so called Old Races, the Celau Okikwe were contacted in 128, just before the death of the last Sheleian senator in SY129. But their application to join was not complete until somewhat after that event. Thus the Celau Okikwe, last of the Old Races were both the last race to meet the Sheleians, and the first to be seated in the Chamber wherein the Empty Chair is preserved. 

THE GREAT GAP

     These early days were characterized by frequent contacts with new races, and other than the belligerent Dwelek, all joined the kaleidoscopic union. But the period between SY130 and SY176 saw very few new contacts, and no new members of the ISC. First contact with the Imthiqoraqar and Ryan, in 119, had resulted in the first encounter with the Gravgurdan Stronghold. In fact, the reason for the Imthiqoraqar and Ryang joing the ISC so swiftly after first contact was to avoid being absorbed by the Stronghold. The Imthiqoraqar and Ryang had successfully hidden this fact from the ISC teams sent to negotiate their entries. Their admission ensured prickly relations with the Gravgurdan who were on the verge of annexing these two neighbors when they joined the ISC. Border skirmishes were common for about a decade. In SY130, a major diplomatic mission was sent to the Gravgurdan Stronghold to negotiate an acceptable resolution of the numerous grievances that had accumulated on both sides. The result was open war starting in SY131 and lasting for almost 6 years. At the end, nothing was achieved but a return to the status quo ante bellum. A general state of hostility, with occasional flare ups, continued for most of then next hundred years, with a few short-lived thawings of relations.
     A few years after the end of the First Gravgurdan War, contact was made with the Taisiran Imperial Dominion. The Taisirans were a minor interstellar power, with several colony worlds and a couple of client species, which were not technically ruled by the Taisirans, but were bound by less-than-advantageous treaties to the Taisiran government. The then-emperor, Hte-Kaln of the Nde-blooming Branch, was interested in joining, or at least cooperating with, the ISC, but the matter of the status of the client species, which would have had to be allowed to choose to join, or not join, the ISC on an equal footing with the Tisirans, was unacceptable to the court. Less than five years later, the Gravgurdan instigated a border clash with the Taisirans, and "acquired" a colony world under preparation. This was a blow to the Taisiran economy and to the prestige of the throne. A brief period of diplomatic wrangling, in which ISC representatives failed to negotiate a workable peace solution, resulted in a war between the Gravgurdan and the Taisirans, with the ISC providing some aid, but little else, to the Taisiran government. At the end of the conflict, the Taisiran emperor signed a treaty with the Gravgurdan kratarch which put the Taisiran Empire firmly within the Gravgurdan sphere of influence, and surrendered one of the two client species to Stronghold jurisdiction, but fell significantly short of annexing the Taisirans. This was mostly because the kratarch at the time wanted the Taisiran sphere as a buffer zone between the Stronghold and the Commonwealth, but didn't want to significantly increase the area of the border between the two powers.
     The next few years were relatively quiet, with no new contacts. A new wave of first contacts began in SY176 with the first encounter with the Iridians. They were the first race subject to the new ten-year minimum waiting period before joining, which had been instituted after the entanglements proceeding from the rushed admissions of the Imthiqoraqar and Ryang.