A Note From the Admiral
Welcome to the 3rd Fleet. You are reading this either because you have been assigned here for your current tour with the Commonwealth Navy, or have been seconded to us as an auxiliary. In either case, we are proud to have you with us.
The 3rd Fleet is the youngest and the smallest division of the Navy. Some think that places us in a lesser position, but those people are mistaken. We are light, nimble, and unladen by weight of procedure. We can go where we are needed and get the job done before the 1st and 2nd even finish waking up.
That flexibility is because of you. You will find no other Starship exactly like you here, no crew with exactly the skills yours has. Through diversity of form and unity of purpose, we protect the Commonwealth from any danger it may face.
And believe me, we face many dangers. The Empire continues to grow its borders. The proliferation of hyperspace weapons threatens to cut us off from faster-than-light travel and return us to the dark ages. And every one of the unaligned powers wants a piece of what we have.
But we do not face these dangers alone. The Commonwealth Stands Together. And together, the Commonwealth Navy, the 3rd Fleet, stand between it and harm. It is an honour to stand with you.
– Ql. Shining Ember, Admiral, Commonwealth Third Fleet
The Commonwealth is a formal alliance of five starfaring peoples: the Iomi, the Kuto, the Terran Diaspora, the Corack, and the Querral. Its primary purpose is the preservation and proliferation of technology necessary for faster-than-light travel, though it also functions as a trade bloc and a mutual defence organization. FTL travel has been completely lost to the galaxy twice in recorded history. The Commonwealth exists to ensure that this never happens again.
It began as an informal cooperation between the Iomi and the Corack, following the invention of modern hyperdrive, with others joining first by mutual agreement and later by formal treaty. Each shares a commitment to the preservation of hyperspace for the use of all, though they have differing views as to how other aspects of their societies should be run.
While there are planets and orbital habitats holding billions within the Commonwealth, all look to their Starships as the lifeblood of their people.
A Starship is, ultimately, two things together: an Intelligence Core and a hyperdrive. Without either of these things, a Starship is not a Starship. A hyperdrive without a Core is a hyperprobe, a Core without a hyperdrive is just a person.
The Intelligence Core is, in a very real sense, you. Your hull and peripheral systems can be reconfigured endlessly, but the Intelligence Core houses your mind and is held inviolate.
The hyperdrive is, as far as anyone knows, the only remaining way of reaching hyperspace, and thus the only means of faster-than-light travel. It is one of the few pieces of technology that varies little between the peoples of the Commonwealth, and any improvements are shared freely and widely.
The Iomi were one of the Commonwealth's founding members. Actually three closely related plant species, they are slow, deliberate, and above all patient. These traits ensure they are held in generally high regard by the other peoples of the Commonwealth.
They are highly unusual in that they had been using slower-than-light nuclear stardrives for quite some time before the discovery of hyperspace, and had managed to settle seven worlds across three star systems by that time.
They are seen as the diplomats and mediators of the Commonwealth, and all new members of the Commonwealth so far have been sponsored by them. In particular, it was the Iomi who argued that the Terran Diaspora be shown leniency in spite of the Earth Empire's continued aggression.
No one but the Kuto know what they originally looked like. All living Kuto are cyborgs, a mixture of bioengineered organs and mechanical parts. As a people, they are incredibly ancient, are widely believed to have invented the first jump gates, ushering in the first interstellar age for most of the galaxy.
Kuto philosophy is one of adaptability. The average Kuto, if such a thing can truly be said to exist, believes that if your body or mind is insufficient for a task, you should build a better one that is.
Despite their important role in galactic history, they only joined the Commonwealth relatively recently. They were believed destroyed in the Gate Wars, and every living Kuto today descends from a malfunctioning colony ship found drifting in deep space by the Commonwealth Navy.
The humans of the Commonwealth refer to themselves as Terrans, after their homeworld New Terra, to distinguish themselves from the militantly anti-synthetic Earth Empire. Humans are among the oldest starfaring peoples still living, being one of the first contacted by early Kuto explorers in the days of the jump gates.
Both the Terrans and the Empire have a rich military history, and within the Commonwealth have a reputation as fierce warriors and sharp tacticians. New Terra joined the Commonwealth out of self-interest, seeking protection from the growing Empire, but they are now the backbone of the Navy's crews and are as much defenders of the Commonwealth as they are defended.
The Corack are insectoid in appearance, highly social, and are one of the founding members of the Commonwealth. After the destruction of the jump gate system at the conclusion of the Gate Wars, they were the first to develop a working hyperdrive based on reverse-engineered jump gate technology.
Upon regaining FTL capability, they sought out others to share the knowledge, so that faster than light travel should never again be lost to the galaxy. After being nearly wiped out for their trouble, they forged an alliance with the Iomi, creating the institutions that would later become the Commonwealth and its Navy.
Each Corack Starship is a settlement in its own right, with populations ranging from the low hundreds to tens of thousands, and few Corack live anywhere else. Decisions are made by consensus, and happen remarkably quickly despite that.
The Querral are an uplifted species, the product of a remarkably successful Empire bioengineering programme. Originally based on a small Earth predator called the ferret, they are small, quick, and far more clever than their creators gave them credit for.
No one would ever have known they existed, except for an unlikely series of events that led to their taking control of the lab ship they were held on and making their escape from Empire space.
After being granted their own planet by the Iomi, they put their own spin on Commonwealth technology and petitioned for membership as a starfaring people in their own right.
The Querral, in general, have an uncanny knack for finding items of value almost anywhere, a trait which was a major factor in the Commonwealth accepting them as full members, following their sponsorship by the Iomi and Terrans.
The Earth Empire
Most humans who did not escape Earth-controlled space to count themselves among the Diaspora live in what is now known as the Earth Empire. Following a successful rebellion against their AI overlords, they live by a hard rule: no one and nothing but a living being shall make a decision for another living being.
They see the very presence of the Commonwealth on their borders, based as it is on Starships run by synthetic intelligences of various types, as an existential threat. A threat they will not hesitate to remove before it has a chance to remove them.
The Empire is more loosely organised than its name might suggest, with the Empress on Earth exercising only loose control over the Empire's other worlds, except in military matters – the Imperial Fleet's command structure answers to her and only to her, the ultimate human-in-the-loop to guard against their machine servants taking too much control.