Background: the Ver-men, strange new Rebels:
On a small factory planet deep in Ghar space there resides a truly strange race of human morphs understood to be called Ver-men. In an event now forgotten by most, an early Renegade NuHu, name and details unknown or expunged from record, came to this planet with the intention of continuing the genetic experimentation for which they had been expelled from the concord-and that they did. Though the actual purpose to which the race would be put is unknown, what is is that this NuHu wished to create an intentionally flawed servant race by combining basic human DNA with that of rodent-class creatures which had long been used in more legal gene-labs as test creatures due to similarities between their biology and humans. The resultant creatures were primarily based on genes from what was commonly called a ‘rat,’ though many genetic gaps were filled using canine and primate species before the final, stable morph species could be created and left to grow on its own. The creatures were mostly small of stature compared to standard humans, rarely taller than 5’5” or so, and towered over by the NuHu and his small band of associate scientists. The creatures had only about 50% of a human’s muscle mass, and an adult unenhanced intelligence equal to that of a human in their early teens, albeit a good bit more stable. Psychologically the creatures were designed to be docile and subservient, and were easily awestruck by and even fearful of things they did not or could not understand-which is to say, just about everything about their NuHu creator and the technology he could use so casually. Soon after their creation, however, for reasons unrecorded, the species was completely abandoned by the renegade and left to rot in a quiet part of the galaxy far from any gates, and far from anyone who could hold the NuHu accountable. Left on its own, the species proceeded to defy all expectations-though, of course, no one was around to appreciate this- and the new morph flourished and spread across the planet’s main continent, quickly developing its own society based on the worship of the glorious technologies left behind by their creator, which were magical in the eyes of the common Ver-man.
The Ver-men usually only lived to age 40 or so, and bred quite rapidly by comparison to the galaxy’s other sentient species, and it soon became apparent-again, to no one in particular- that the miserable creature described above, though the most common example of the species, was not the limit of the Ver-man genome. About 1 in every 100,000 is born with remarkably good intelligence for the species, coupled with a greater lifespan, and, though truly only equivalent to a normal human intelligence, these specimens began to rise high in VM society through their improved capacity for leadership, stronger curiosity and investigative sense, and better handling of creation-era technology. Soon, these intelligent VM, recognizing each other as the leaders among the various VM sub-societies, banded together to form the tech-priesthood, commonly known as the Synod of the Machine, or just the Synod, monopolizing all knowledge, technology, and invention, and using it to control all of Vermankind through the encouraged worship and practical deification of technology and those who understood it. The priesthood was able to use creator-era and reverse-engineered computers to rig up a basic but effective intelligence test, which they then administered to all young VM at a certain age, taking any they found to be of the proper intelligence capability immediately into the priesthood.
The beyond the priestly class, 2 other unique varieties of VM manifested themselves within the morph. The first, dubbed the ‘Ox’ by the priesthood, numbering about 1 in 10,000, has a curious genetic condition that causes its brain to cease growing after only a few years, but bone structures to continue growing well past the normal time of cessation, and muscle growth to continue on well past even that point, resulting in truly massive, hulking VM creatures later described by the Ghar to be the size of a battlesuit easily, and just as strong, though with a truly miserable lack of mental ability. Due to the size mismatch and malformation of their various internal structures, however, it is often necessary for oxen to require a number of surgeries throughout their long growth period in order to keep their innards arranged in a way that nothing(understood to be important) ends up getting crushed or bursting out of their stretched skin. Without the surgeries, most ox would likely have died young, and many still do due to complications, but any that survive will live a very long time compared to normal VM- close to 100 years! The last and most common of the VM’s unique sub-varieties, dubbed the ‘canine’ by priesthood research, and numbering approximately 1 in every 100, comes from the occasional stacking and manifestation of a large number of originally canine gap-filling genes from the initial experimentation on a single VM specimen, altering their appearance and making them a bit taller and stronger compared to the norm, which is primarily seen in additional speed, agility, and kinesthetic sense, coupled with a slight pack hunting instinct and enhanced tactical sense, and a serious penchant for violence. Unlike common VM who are content to follow and fear and rarely question, canines tend to be angry and rebellious, resentful of orders given by non-canines, and prone to fits of rage which lead them to lash out against anyone or thing around them for a short time, before calming down. The intensity of these events has been found to increase proportionally with the time that has passed since the last event. Naturally, the priesthood experimented with a variety of treatments to better control canines, but most early attemprs either did too little nothing or left the subject somewhere between severely drunk and comatose. Only more recently, after the priesthood got access to freeborn soma grafts, have they had any luck. Currently, the Synod has experimented with modified soma grafts which they can use to control outbursts, and even force the grafts to malfunction, immediately plunging subjects into a severe rage at the whim of the priest in control.
As part of the experimentation process, the VM’s creator also re-introduced his own patchwork breed of common rodent, a creature very similar to the original ‘rat’, but with about as much genetic gap filling as the VM themselves. These creatures flourished after his disappearance as well, and are the only creature on the planet that is more numerous than the Ver-men. The physical resemblance the 2 species share is not lost on the VM, even if they largely do not understand the concept of genetic heritage and common ancestry, and so they often keep the smaller rodents as pets or good luck charms, or use larger specimens for lite domestic work. The common rodents are capable of similar unique varieties to the VM due to similar genetic makeup, and through many years of farmers’ husbandry and more recent Synod-sponsored selective breeding and steroid enhancement, common rats can be made to fill a variety of roles from guard dog to light ploughbeast-anything but food. In VM society, consumtion of common rat is taboo, as the VM equate it to cannibalism.
The planet on which the VM had been left was largely barren on the survace, covered in low craglands and gravelly granite deserts and short chains of mountain. A limited number of reptilian and insectoid species populated the planet, mostly very small, but select varieties of lizards and great beetles could reach up to 4’ in combined length and width, and these, along with similarly larger species of reptilian birds, served as the VM’s primary food source after all that was left behind by the renegade was consumed. The planet had few plants, and most of the breathable atmosphere had been created by the NuHu and was artificially injected into the atmosphere. Likewise did the NuHu provide a number of specially altered plant species to help sustain the new atmosphere, based on the hardy spike cacti and short trees that already clung to the barren planet’s mountains and deserts. It was likely this influx of oxygen into the planet’s originally thin atmosphere that allowed its indigenous species to begin growing to such great proportions as described above. Ver-men are fully omnivorous, and are fully capable of consuming just about any organic matter, and thus found the transition from lab-made nutrient chunks to live food quite easy. In the very early days, just after the VM had been left by their creator, most food was consumed raw, but this practice did not last long after the discovery of a curious alien crystal found deep in the caves that dotted the edges of the planet’s mountains. This crystal, perhaps due to heavy electromagnetic storms in the planet’s past, had developed a unique lattice pattern that allowed to store electricity like a natural capacitor, and the power caused it to glow weakly, which likely contributed to its initial discovery, and gave it its original name, brightstone. Brightstone is usually emerald green, but pale violet and bright orange varieties are not unheard of. The unique structure had a slight side effect of making the crystal quite brittle, meaning that even a light strike from a hard enough object could break pieces off, and the crystals themselves were prone to chipping when knocked against things. This chipping or shattering was accompanied by the immediate release of whatever electricity had been stored in the now-disrupted latticework, which could be deadly depending on how large of a break occurred, but also meant the crystal could be harvested by hand if one had found a way to do so without being ‘stung’. Initially it was used as a light source and a way to cook meals(by dousing them in water and slamming a piece of brightstone on top of them, frying them instantly), but it was soon found to be an effective weapon, able to be tied to a club to deliver a shock with every strike, or thrown with a bit of weight behind it to achieve similar effects. It was soon discovered that the release of electricity could set fires on wood and Ver-man’s fur, and that it had a variety of effects when applied to water or shavings of certain metals-it could even start and stop hearts! It was during this time of capstone experimentation with the various substances found in caves and metal-rich rocks that gunpowder was discovered, and soon became a staple of VM conflict and technology in general. The Synod gave brightstone the scientific title of Capstone, based on its abilities as a capacitor, and used it with creator-era tech to engineer the first pure VM-made machines and binary-capable computers, allowing the VM to reach a state of minor industrialization just before they were discovered-by the Ghar Empire.
To a society that had just invented the binary-computer and still had a military largely equipped with muskets, even Ghar technology can seem godly, and the Synod’s own insistence for years on the deification of tech was promptly turned against them when the VM in their masses flocked to grovel in worship at the feet of the Ghar invaders, and thus were they forced to graciously hand over power to their new overlords. The Ghar, who of course believed themselves the master race of all human morphs, found this curious new brand of human that seemed to accept its degenerate inferiority and fall into its place all on its own to be a rather refreshing change from the usual hard conflict with the galaxy’s other human groups, and were quick to capitalize on their luck by setting up their own factories and mines, all operated by the planet’s population of willing slaves. The primarily took the planet’s metals to build their machines, as they found capstone to be an interesting prospect but not truly worth pursuing-the power output of the glorified battery paled in comparison to that of a plasma reactor- and all of it was left in the hands of the VM to mine on their own time.
This new status of servitude was, however, far from the direction the Synod had in mind for the Ver-men, and after a few local years of feigned courtesy, they heard rumors of a rebellion against the Ghar Empire, of a new leader freeing slaves wherever he went- and they knew that this was their chance to break free of Ghar imperial rule. The Synod new that the VM could only tolerate servitude for so long, even if they had brought it willingly upon themselves, and they knew full well that the work intended to punish outcasts that Ver-men workers were currently enduring was already beginning to take its toll. The priests of the Synod began to quietly spread rumors among their people that these Ghar were, in fact, usurpers, liars, and thieves of tech-the worst type of heretics-and that elsewhere there was another, the true leader, whom they must seek to find true tech-enlightenment, rather than the cruel servitude they were facing at the moment. These rumblings spread quickly through the masses of the VM commoners, whose simple minds were easily filled and inspired with the story, and as soon as they began to ask what should be done to destroy these heretics oppressing them, the Synod was there with a thoroughly organized and effective plan, which was swiftly executed. The small numbers of Ghar overseers who thought they had scored an easy job directing the all-too-willing slaves were quickly overwhelmed and slaughtered. In their hubris, the Ghar had let the VM keep all of their flimsy primitive arms so long as they were all held by the gracious and loyal Synod, and the doors of the Synod storehouses were swung wide open to arm the populace. The Ghar kept few battlesuits on the planet, and those that were there were quickly overwhelmed by weight in numbers or large capstone shots from VM heavy guns. It was over in a single local day(36 hours), and by dusk on the second day the priests of the Synod had already puzzled out the simple controls and computer systems on the Ghar supply ships found all over the planet’s surface, and taking with them vast companies of newly-blooded rebels, they took to the stars seeking the legendary Fartok.
Picking up Ghar imperial communications along the way, the VM expedition followed as quickly as they could on the heels of the path of chaos and confusion Fartok’s own fleet had left through Ghar space, and they were able to make their way to Xilos just after the initial Rebel Ghar landings. Throwing themselves blindly into the madness of the warzone, the expedition was scattered and took its first significant losses making landfall, fired upon by a bevy of factions and defenses, but, undaunted, the Synod representatives managed to meet up with rebel Ghar forces.
The Rebels’ distrust for these new arrivals was palpable, but the Rebels still needed every man they could get, and this band of what seemed to be already fanatical devotees to the cause could not be wasted- the whole of the expedition(or at least what remained) was quickly dispatched to reclaim a known builder relic that had fallen into the hands of the Concord- its transport ship had been shot down, but the Concord troops were already on their way to pick it up. If they succeeded, the Rebels would get their hands on another valuable piece of tech that would bring them that much closer to finding Karg- and if they failed, then they were one less thing for Fartok to worry about.
Ruleswise, we made use of the Recover at all Costs mission from the core rulebook.
Upon arrival,the Expedition caught sight of a Concord drone, and scans indicated it carried the relic- but also that it was not actively transmitting data. Though the VMhad little sense for what this meant, the Concord troops knew that the drone had been damaged during the crash and lost its connection to the Imtel- a crippling blow, as now the thing had no control or direction, it merely wandered about aimlessly.
Expedition forces advanced, primarily composed of 2 full-sized outcast squads, heading down the flanks and keeping to cover, exchanging a smattering of fire with C3 strike squads that had teken up positions in some thick Xilos undergrowth just North of where the crashed ship had created a clearing. In the center, the expedition deployed one of its two prized units-a trio of captured Ghar battlesuits, which engaged the Concord across the field at long range, keeping them suppressed and thoroughly distracted as the drone drifted toward the expediton’s lines. The Concord deployed a heavy plasma cannon with hopes of cracking the suits, but ill luck led its fire astray, and return fire from the suits cut down half its crew, crippling it for the remainder of the engagement. The Concord ccommander directed massive amounts of fire at the suits- but the severe range made it difficult for even the Concord troopers to land clean hits, and what did hit was often deflected by the suit’s incredible armour. By this time however, the Rebel infantry on either flank, largely ignored until this point, sprang from the jungle and poured a hail of lugger slugs into the Concord at close range, the sheer number of shots finding gaps in the troopers HL armour and cutting them down in far too severe numbers to justify the force remaining. The drone floated close to the Rebel foot and they seized it immediately, claiming victory.