Few people in the Crimson Stars know exactly what vampires are and where they came from. The oldest vampires ruling the dark and foreboding kingdoms far towards the galactic core might, but they’re not telling. The Church of Penitence considers them to be divine punishment for sins committed by a prior galaxy-spanning human civilization, while the official propaganda of the Three Star Alliance claims they’re simply the next step in the evolution of humanity.
What everyone knows is that they exist, that they need to consume human blood to survive, and that they rule over humanity throughout the entirety of the Crimson Stars, wherever you go.
Vampires are physically superior to ordinary humans in almost every way, from strength to endurance, although they still need food, water and oxygen to live – at least, the younger ones do. They also manifest a wide range of abilities, from pyrokinesis to somatomancy, that is, being able to alter their own bodies in various ways. It is rumoured that elder vampires are completely inhuman, godlike beings, capable of devastating entire armies by their mere presence.
Sunlight – and other sources of ultraviolet radiation – remains their only widely known weakness. UV radiation can weaken and even harm vampires – and the older and more powerful the vampire is, the worse they weather it. It is also rumoured that some exotic alloys, dubbed “truesilver”, are also harmful to vampires, but the information on the composition of such alloys and their effects is hard to come by – vampires prefer to conceal their weaknesses.
They are mostly impervious to disease and are extremely resilient, although the extent of that resilience varies with age and potency. Even young vampires can survive wounds that would kill a human and eventually even regenerate lost limbs, but destroying or seriously damaging the brain is usually fatal for most. Extreme blood loss and organ damage will also do the trick, although their regeneration makes it more difficult. Vampires can withstand hostile environments better than humans, and even survive in hard vacuum for a while – although they find the experience profoundly unpleasant.
From a scientific standpoint – to the extent to which ordinary humans are allowed to investigate – vampirism seems to be a hereditary matrilineal trait somehow connected to blood. It is possible for someone born an ordinary human to become a vampire, though the process is unclear to the public and shrouded in mystery – no doubt, deliberately. Information is power, and those who are in power know to guard it well.
Of course, their most defining trait, and one that gives them their name in the first place, is their dependence on human blood. It is widely believed that they will wither and eventually die without it, though nobody ever saw a vampire actually do that, since they tend to go into a state of feeding frenzy much earlier. Any attempts to find an easy substitute using animal or artificial blood have so far proved to be futile. The minimum amount of blood required to get by varies from case to case but usually depends on the age and potency of a given vampire.
Vampires can drink the blood of other vampires, and, in fact, it seems to do more for them than plain human blood ever could, but for social reasons this sort of thing is frowned upon in polite society, and is heavily limited as a result: for example, in the Three Star Alliance it is only officially permitted during wartime towards enemy combatants.
While they are long-lived, vampires are not technically immortal – they have been known to die from old age, although it is unclear how limited their lifespan actually is – powerful vampires like the Supreme Arbiter of the TSA live past 400 years with no sign of ageing, whereas “ordinary” vampires tend to weaken and die off after about 300.
Vampires – and some rare humans, usually called magicians, mages, witches etc – have a range of special abilities. They are usually divided into types or disciplines, such as:
- Electromancy – the ability to generate and direct an electric charge of varying power.
- Pyromancy – the ability to generate and project a liquid that ignites on contact with oxygen.
- Technomancy – almost unheard-of in vampires, the ability to semi-consciously affect complex electronic devices and ancient technology – especially ancient technology.
- Haemomancy – inaccessible to humans, the ability to manipulate your own blood, forming projectiles out of it and so on.
- Somatomancy – another ability exclusive to vampires, allowing them to alter their body shape at will, forming organic blades out of hands and fingers or – for more advanced practitioners – even new organs such as gills.
- Healing – exclusive to human mages, the ability to speed up recovery and even provoke vampire-like regeneration in others.
There’s also radiomancy, topomancy, holomancy, levitation, thermomancy and a few other, rarer disciplines. Predilection towards one type or discipline is usually inheritable in vampires and random chance in humans. However, vampires can, with time and study, at least attempt to master some other discipline they have no inclination towards, whereas human mages are usually limited to whatever power they already have.
The Three Star Alliance
The best place for a human to be born in, at least, according to its own media, the Three Stars Alliance is an interstellar state based around the union of three prosperous worlds – Illyria, Thalassia and Olk Nor. Despite the name, it incorporates way more than three star systems, and in practice is more of a military dictatorship than an alliance – though you probably shouldn’t let the local secret police – the dreaded Fangs of Dawn – hear you say that.
The TSA is famous amongst other polities in the Crimson Stars as one of the few societies where humans and vampires – who prefer to be known as “metahumans”, thank you very much – are supposed to be equal citizens – at least, in theory. The government collects taxes in the form of money or blood donations, with the latter also being a source of income for the poorest stratas of society. The elevated status of “metahumans” is justified by their greater contribution to society, especially in its defence, although the highest positions both in the economy and in politics are invariably occupied by vampires as well.
The leader of the TSA is called the Supreme Arbiter, elected by the General Assembly on Illyria. It is common knowledge that they also represent the Arbiter clan – a gathering of elite vampire families from Illyria that handles internal administration and policing, just like the Right Hand clan from Thalassia handles the Navy and the Left Hand clan from Olk Nor handles the Army. The alliance of the three clans is what really holds the state together.
Ordinary humans – often called “basics” for “baseline human” by their “metahuman” superiors – also have their own among the elites, from government officials on Illyria to the top management of Thalassian corporations or officers in the armed forces. The highest honour that can be bestowed upon them is the much-coveted elevation to the ranks of the superhuman elite, and the so-called “self-made” vampires are often proud of their humble origins.
The TSA is embroiled in almost constant armed conflicts with their more traditionally-minded feudal neighbours, such as the Auric Kingdom. Those older vampires might have more impressive abilities and highly superior technology, but the TSA more or less successfully compensates by fielding vast armies of human soldiery armed with simple but dependable mass-produced weapons.
Those who serve in the TSA military are exempt from the blood tax, which is otherwise mandatory for all human citizens. Standing Order 47 decrees that superiors are prohibited from ordering or otherwise asking their subordinates to donate blood, except under extreme wartime circumstances, to prevent abuses of power.
The official motto of the Three Star Alliance is “Ex statera unitatis” (From balance – unity).
Written and printed documents still exist in the Three Star Alliance, although the material they are made of is not cellulose paper, of course, but some form of plastic polymer sheets – complex hydrocarbons being much easier to obtain in the galaxy than actual wood.
The usual enemy for the TSA’s Army and Navy are the feudal polities ruled by older vampires, located further coreward from the Alliance itself. TSA propaganda often depicts them as horrid dens of iniquity, where the helpless human masses are crushed beneath the iron bootheel of their vampire overlords, treated like cattle and generally suffering.
Whether these tales are true or not, there are certainly little to no baseline humans in the military there – mostly because military service is treated as a feudal obligation, and all fief holders are always vampires. There’s much fewer of them, as well – a baron and their dozen of knights can be a match for a whole TSA mechanised brigade, consisting of more than three thousand human soldiers, dozens of vampire officers and hundreds of armoured vehicles.
The secret of their battlefield strength is not in their superior vampiric abilities – those are formidable, but usually not a match for the firepower of, say, an entire tank battalion – it is in their ancestral arms and armour, precious relics of a lost era of technology, passed through generations. Protective energy fields, particle accelerator weaponry, swarms of combat automata – all of this the TSA has to counter with sweat, blood and the sheer numbers and raw firepower of their ground forces.
The command structure of the elder vampires’ feudal hosts is at once simpler and more complicated than the by-the-book command chain of the TSA. The intricacies of vassalage and interclan relations are such that sometimes one’s worst enemies are one’s superiors or underlings, instead of the army in front of them.
The Charon is a crude, but effective, mass-produced troop transport, and as such it doesn’t have fancy artificial gravity technology, relying instead on rotation of its main cylinder to provide gravity for the living quarters located in its outer sections.
DSV stands for “Dextra Space Vehicle”, “Dextra” being a fancy word to denote that it belongs to the Right Hand Clan. The Army, in turn, belongs to the Left Hand Clan, and therefore any spaceships owned and operated by them (the few that actually exist) would have the prefix SSV, for “Sinistra Space Vehicle”. Arbiter Clan spaceships use an unimaginative designation “ASV” – “Arbiter Space Vehicle”.
The Charon‘s central cylinder rotates to create approximately 1g on its outer decks, while sections close to the main shaft for all practical purposes have a zero-G environment. This would be inconvenient (and medically detrimental) to live in, but perfect for cargo and vehicle storage. Therefore, most of the brigade’s supplies and vehicles are stored in huge holds along the main shaft, so that they can easily be transferred between holds and from the main cylinder to the dropships.
TSA Armed Forces
Interservice fraternization between humans is frowned upon much less than that between vampires, since vampires from the Army and the Navy belong to different clans. Any unauthorized links between them are not welcome, especially by the Arbiter clan.
The various branches of the Army are color-coded, with the rank strip on the front of the uniform and the left shoulder patch denoting the branch a service member belongs to:
- Purple – Headquarters
- Orange – Supply and Engineers
- Red – Armour (mostly tanks)
- Green – Infantry
- Black – Artillery (including Anti-Air)
- Gray – Mechsuits
- Light Blue – Army Aerospace Forces (they exist)
- White – Medical
A lot of Army personnel tend to look down on people with orange patches, because of the number of rear-echelon specialists in that category. “Turning orange” and similar expressions are sometimes used as euphemism for cowardice, which, in turn, extremely annoys combat engineers, AKA assault pioneers or simply sappers, whose temper is often as short as their life expectancy.