Back in the late dark days of mankind's 21st century, the humans believed they were all alone in the galaxy. Under the old earth calendar, on some date and time lost to memory, everything changed for humanity. The humans, which became known galaxy-wide as Terrans, were quickly and efficiently conquered by the Zyxlar. After the shock of subjugation, the Terrans became one of the five major slave races. The Terrans suffered for untold millennia under the Zyxlar along with the Chitters, Methenes, Saurians and Silicates races. For years, the Zyxlar ruled the galaxy uncontested.
In what became known as the Great Expansion, the Zyxlar suddenly disappeared from the galaxy. The reasons for their disappearance has been widely debated resulting in many conflicting theories. All theories agree that the remaining races were left to their own devices. War, revolution and stellar conflicts quickly escalated throughout the galaxy. Widely distributed groups of the five slave races, realizing the Zyxlar were gone, established their own independent colonies and governments. Each subgroup, under a local commander, sought to fill the gap left by the missing Zyxlar.
The ability to reuse Zyxlar technology, searching for new worlds to colonize, searching for lost home worlds and competition for resources, all led to planetary and inter-stellar conflicts. The galaxy with it's many races, government styles and shifting alliances is a very dangerous place.
Gemina sat on the concrete window ledge with her arms wrapped around her knees. The shutters were open, and Stammiden's double moons hung like hazy baubles against the reddening sky. Chill, crisp air burned her lungs. She dropped her head against the casement and wished, for the two thousandth time, that she was any other Terran sixteen-year-old, on any other planet.
Any planet at all.
Shouts echoed from the alley two levels below. A Terran sprinted into view, then flew forward in a spread-eagle arc as rail shots slammed between his shoulder blades. Gemina watched him die without emotion. It was hard to care about other people. The past few weeks had gutted her soul and left it hollow. Eviscerated. Like the abandoned terraforming factories that marred the desolate horizon.
It was all going to fall apart soon.
The room's single door swung open, creaking on damaged hinges. Heavy feet crossed the threshold. "Any luck?" Gemina asked without turning around.
Mace's answering rumble was impassive. "The entrances to the city are blocked," the Silicate said. "No one gets in. No one gets out."
"It doesn't matter. With the Zyxlar gone, there's no way to import supplies from other star systems. No other city will be any better than this one." Except that some other settlement might have a ship or a pilot for hire, or a junkyard with half-cobbled freighter engines. Gemina's heart beat a little faster.
"Food and water stores are running low," Mace continued in rumbling Silicate cadences. "They'll hold a few months, but after that. . ."
He didn't have to finish. After that, the entire planet would die a slow and squabbling death. Stammiden was an arid world, not even halfway terraformed. Its meager bioconsumables could never support the population holed up in its degrading cities. Not without the Zyxlar.
Gemina let her eyes trail across the sunset. Breathing seemed too much an effort.
The Zyxlar abandoned us.
She wasn't angry anymore. She didn't want to rage and fume as she had when the trembling Vilicus spokesman finally admitted that they'd lost contact with the Holy Masters. She no longer felt the aching throb of betrayal at being evicted from her Vilicus foster-family, dumped onto the streets to die with her genetic kin. Those feelings had all drained away, and she was left with. . . nothing. Emptiness.
"I may have found something useful, though," Mace's voice continued.
A series of skittering patters echoed through the doorway, and this time Gemina did look. The hulking insectoid shadow nearly jolted her into an unintended drop from the window. Gleaming eyes. Battered carapace. Hovering foreclaws ground to razor sharpness. The creature settled in the center of the room like a spider awaiting its prey, light flaring across the inlaid jeweled patterns on its abdomen.
Gemina was impressed. As a privileged child in a Vilicus household, she had of course learned about Chitter brood lords. She had never seen one before, though. Stammiden had no local swarms.
"My name is Tsitahkahan," the Chitter said, rising to its full height. "But you may call me Slicer."
"He's a mercenary," Mace grunted, thumping into a battered armchair. "Leads a dozen rogue Chitters. More than enough to fight our way into the Vilicus fortress."
Gemina came alert. "Mace, you didn't!"
"Of course I did." Mace's crossed arms were half defiant, have petulant. Heat shimmered from his stony body as he shifted his weight in the chair. "They have a ship, Gemina. They can get us to the orbital citadels, and they can help us get the access codes to enter them. I told them everything."
"Mace, those orbitals are a family secret! And the access codes even more so." Gemina was trembling with fury. Somehow, she'd crossed the room to face down her foster-brother. She hissed, with a head-jerk toward the watching Chitter: "What if he takes the codes and abandons us?"
"Don't be an idiot. The codes are embedded in the quantum crest, and the crest responds only to family members, yes? It's useless without us." Mace leaned back with the air of a gambler playing his trump card. "Besides, Charity would want us to seize the citadels. They were her life's work. She would not want them to remain derelict."
The mention of Charity blocked Gemina's next objection. The bright, bubbly Vilicus had been their foster sibling until the Zyxlar vanished – sibling, playmate, spiritual instructor... A forward-thinking sentient, Charity's gene-progenitors insisted, should be surrounded by those who thought differently than itself, in order to avert the sin of narrow-mindedness. And so Mace and Gemina were brought into the family's household and raised as Charity's companions.
Charity had been. . . everything. Gentle. Courageous. To Gemina's five-year-old sensibilities, the vivacious and tender-hearted Vilicus had seemed distinctly female. Charity had accepted the imagined gender as graciously as she accepted her foster siblings, even going so far as to refer to herself in the feminine. Even now, Gemina could not think of Charity without using a feminine pronoun.
Gemina closed her eyes and drew a ragged breath. Thinking of Charity still hurt. She would have to work on that. She'd have to become tougher, somehow. Colder. Because she couldn't bear to feel this way anymore. She didn't want to remember the way she'd raced, following Mace's anguished shouts, along familiar hallways and into the room where Charity lay dying. Didn't want to think about the spreading pool of blood, the tears unshed in Charity's unseeing eyes, the pale gray hands wrapped around the dagger hilt in her stomach. Charity had tried to speak. Mace had made quiet shushing noises, urged her to save her strength. His massive Silicate hands had cradled her head like an awkward child lifting a blown-glass ornament.
It had been inevitable, in retrospect. Charity had been the last Vilicus to speak with the Zyxlar. She'd blamed herself for their departure. Convinced that she'd somehow offended them, she had committed ritual suicide in a selfless effort to appease the Holy Masters. That they'd failed to return, and thus rendered Charity's sacrifice in vain, seemed to Gemina the ultimate betrayal.
"The citadels were Charity's dream," Mace growled. His hand tightened painfully around Gemina's forearm. "An orbiting chain of palaces, completely self-sustaining, lighting the heavens like jewels upon a necklace. A Day of Domination gift for the Zyxlar. We can bring that dream to fruition, power up the generators and set lights blazing across the blackness!"
"It won't bring the Zyxlar back."
"Are you sure? Maybe it was our weakness that drove the Zyxlar away. Maybe Charity was never to blame. Maybe we bore the fatal flaws all along."
Mace's eyes blazed with a wild, urgent intensity. Gemina shied away. "I want nothing to do with the Zyxlar! I don't want to bring them back. I just want – I want. . ." What did she want? She hardly knew. She shifted topics in blatant psychological defense. "What do you care about the Zyxlar, anyway? You never believed the Vilicus teachings. 'Holy nonsense', you called it. When you weren't using ruder words."
An amused – or perhaps that was, derisive – sequence of clattering trills cut across the conversation. After a startled hesitation, Gemina parsed it as the interspecies equivalent of a Chitter clearing its throat.
"Perhaps," Slicer said, rising from his spider-like crouch, "the two of you can continue this later. Under competent therapeutic supervision."
Mace glared. Gemina tugged her arm free of his grip, straightened her spine, and placed her hands behind her back to cover her uncertainty. She gave the Chitter a sharp glance. "Suppose we hire you. Can you do what my brother claims?"
Slicer's forelimbs rippled. "I know nothing of generators or orbital palaces. But if you must enter the Vilicus stronghold to extract a valuable object, my soldiers can help you do that."
"And would you help us out of the Fortress as well?" Charity's family crest, filled with access codes and brimming with quantum technology, would be worth a fortune on the black market. Gemina's gaze intensified. "How do we know we can trust you?"
"You don't. You will have to gamble. But consider this, milady: Chitters are genetically programmed for loyalty. The Zyxlar abandonment has cut us off from our swarm, and hence from all external leadership." Slicer's forelimbs rose and dropped in an expression of hopeless frustration. "My soldiers and I have no one to be loyal to. We teeter on the brink of depravity, dangerously close to placing our private needs above the greater cause. If you will give us a place in these. . . castles of yours, in these self-sustaining space stations in the sky, then we will accept your cause as our own, and honor you as our head geneticist."
Gemina considered this. Truth? Or cleverly-fabricated deception? She was inclined to believe the latter. How many unsuspecting "clients" had this band of mercenaries gutted? Easy enough to claim loyalty, then betray your employer at the first whiff of profit. On the other hand, Mace was right: he and Gemina would never be able to penetrate the Vilicus stronghold on their own.
"All right," she said abruptly. "Help us retrieve the crest, and you'll get your sky castle." She was not going to trust these Chitters. Not by a long shot.
But by the Zyxlar, she would make use of them.
The Fortress of Unassailable Dignity was an imposing structure, compactly designed, with towers,arches and mounted cannon turrets stretching like restless fingers against the grey evening sky. Gemina crouched in the shadows beyond the perimeter fence, Mace and Slicer lurking to her left. She had never seen her childhood home from the outside before. From within, the stronghold was well-lit, elaborate, with guards who'd seemed primarily ornamental. From this side of the bulwarks. . . Well. Gemina felt suddenly grateful for Slicer's troop of Chitters hidden among the rooftops to the east.
"Charity's family lives on the fourth level of the western tower," she murmured to Slicer in an undervoice. "The quantum crest is kept there. Her family will not have moved it."
". . ..yet," Mace added darkly. "Now they've admitted that the Zyxlar are gone, the Vilicus will soon fall to fighting among themselves. The holy fortress will be a battleground within weeks."
"Is this true?" Slicer asked, insectoid head swiveling with curiosity. "The Vilicus always seemed peaceful when they preached to us on Pacem 6."
"Oh, it's true," Mace said, glowering. "The Vilicus promote peace as long as it serves their purposes, but they're skilled enough at war when it suits them." He added, almost inaudibly: "And their warmongering will be their downfall."
"This crest you are seeking," Slicer said slowly. "Could it be used to access citadel weaponry? Could one use it to attack this fortress from the heavens?"
"We'd never hurt the Vilicus!" Gemina said, aghast. "It's true that the Vilicus have political factions, and that the Zyxlar's abandonment have stretched those factions to the breaking point. But the Vilicus are not a violent people! They're just. . . firm in their convictions and in their devotion to the Zyxlar."
"I have re-evaluated our strategy," Slicer said abruptly. I will join the two of you on your mission within the Vilicus stronghold.
Mace's head swiveled in alarm. "That's not the plan we agreed on. Gemina and I will go alone."
"Insufficient. The situation is more volatile than I'd suspected."
"Listen, you overgrown manure bug –"
A warning sound from Slicer cut off Mace's rising volume. The trio crouched, acutely aware of the sound of their own breathing, as a pair of security guards walked past the perimeter fencing.
"Dead clients do not give good referrals," Slicer said once the guards had passed. "I'm sorry, but if you will not allow me free reign within my area of expertise, then we cannot work together."
Mace spat a sequence of foul words.
Slicer tilted his head toward Gemina. "You should be cautious around this one," he said in an undervoice. "He does not seem entirely. . . stable."
"Mm," Gemina said noncommittally. Privately, she already knew which member of this trio was not to be trusted. And Mace was not at the top of the list.
"You win, bug," Mace said after he had finished sputtering. "Signal your troops. Once they've drawn away the guards –"
A triple-report of blazing ion fire sounded from one of the eastern rooftops. Something exploded. Shouts and thudding feet converged toward the source of the disturbance.
"My warriors are notified," Slicer said, lowering one forelimb from the communication array along his head. "I suggest we move quickly, to prevent loss of resources."
Mace glared. "Fine. You go first, Chitter. Make sure the guards don't shoot us."
Slicer hesitated, then heaved his battered carapace into a shrug. He widened his stance, lowered his thorax to within an inch of the ground, and slid like a shadow across the unprotected space to the perimeter fence. Once there, he sliced through the mesh with his sharpened foreclaws and strode onto the empty tarmac. A pair of guards shouted and turned toward him. Shots flared from the darkened muzzles of their weapons.
"Stupid bug!" Mace growled. "He'll get himself killed.
"No," Gemina said, awed. "He's following orders. You said to make sure we don't get shot - so he's drawing the fire toward himself."
Out on the tarmac, Slicer whirled, shots zinging from the armored plates along his carapace, and removed his assailants with two swift volleys from his rail gun.
"The way is clear," he said, head cocked as though listening for footfalls. "My team reports heavy resistance. They will have to pull back soon. Please come quickly."
Gemina took a deep breath, fingered the magnetic pistol strapped to her waist, and sprinted from cover. She slipped through the gash in the fence, Mace's heavy footfalls thudding behind her, and followed Slicer's waving gesture toward the leftmost building. Ion fire whizzed through the darkness overhead.
Inside the building, Mace took the lead, guiding the trio through towering archways and up familiar stairwells. Finally they reached the red-and-gold patterned door to the family war-room. Gemina stumbled to a halt, catching her breath as Mace placed his hand to the security plate. Had the Vilicus changed the access codes after she and Mace had been expelled from the holy fortress? In the chaos of the Zyxlar abandonment, it seemed unlikely, but. . .
To Gemina's relief, the lock bleeped, and the heavy door slid open. She crowded beside Mace and Slicer to peer inside.
The war-room looked as it always had. Oversized viewscreens, curving banks of flawlessly gleaming control panels, swaying bright colors from vertical tapestries. The family crest, in its locked glass-fronted case, dominated the far wall. Nothing had changed.
Cold, familiar emptiness spread through Gemina's gut. This was wrong, it was all wrong. Gemina's world had ended when Charity died; the chaotic upheaval in the city seemed an appropriate echo of that fact. How dare – how dare – the Vilicus universe keep rolling along its ordered patterns as though nothing was different. As though Charity's death hadn't mattered. Even the inaugural family photo, taken the day before Charity's progenitor ascended to the position of High Precept to the Zyxlar, still hung in its accustomed place above the viewscreens.
Gemina's jaws clamped together. Her lingering doubts about stealing from Charity's family abruptly vanished, overridden by this new travesty. The crest was just an object. A gaudy electronic pendant, no wider than Gemina's cupped hands. The family could construct another. She and Mace, by contrast, had only this one chance to seize the orbiting citadels that would ensure their survival.
Mace was already crossing the room, his heavy stride drumming against the floor. With his attention locked on the gleaming crest and its glass-fronted case, he didn't notice the whooshing dilation of the doorway to his left.
"Mace!" Gemina shouted.
He whirled, tensing. A quintet of guards rushed from the adjacent chamber.
Gemina ducked behind the doorframe. Stupid, stupid! Of course there would be guards. There must always have been guards. They just stayed hidden away whenever Gemina had entered the room before. She'd been part of the family, then.
Shots flared. Someone – she thought it must have been Slicer – took out the light, and the room plunged into darkness. Shouts erupted. Skittering. And the sound of breaking glass.
Emergency lights rose, dim and flickering. Mace was locked in a struggle with a heavily-armed figure. Slicer battled three more, with the fifth angling to attack him from the side. The Zyxlar runes of aggression and mortality were etched into the armored shoulders of the attackers. These were no ornamental household soldiers. They were elite fighters, blessed of the Holy Masters and ranked near the top of the Vilicus hierarchy. But they were constrained in close quarters, and their attention was focused on Mace and Slicer.
Hands trembling, Gemina lifted her pistol. She'd practiced on targets dozens of times, but had never shot a living creature. All beginnings are difficult, as Charity had been fond of saying. Gemina blinked the moisture from her eyes and fired.
The guard stumbled, taken from behind. The shot he'd been leveling toward Slicer went wide, and the giant insect severed his body with a jagged double-bladed weapon. Another shot, and the guard grappling with Mace toppled. Slicer finished off the other three, pausing to nod briefly in gratitude toward Gemina.
Alarms were sounding. They were running out of time. Gemina scrambled from the cold metal tiles of the floor, reaching for the shielded case where the quantum crest hung – . . .and found only an empty, shattered box.
She stumbled backward, panicked. Glass crunched beneath her booted feet. Gone – how? Had the case been shattered by a stray bullet? But then where had the crest fallen? Her head swiveled, searching left and right.
On the floor behind her, Mace rolled awkwardly to his feet. His eye took in the shattered display case, the flailing carnage of the war-room. . . and Gemina, standing dumbfounded next to the case where the crest had sat just moments before. For an instant, in the flickering light of alarm klaxons, his face seemed to belong to someone else.
"The crest!" he demanded, leaping across the span between them to grasp the front of her shirt. "Give it to me!"
Gemina backed away, terrified. "I –"
"Don't play dumb. Where have you hidden it?"
Words snagged in Gemina's throat. She struggled against Mace's jostling grip. The heat flaring from his body seared her hands and face.
"If she has taken the crest," Slicer interjected smoothly, "then she has merely bested you to your goal. The accuser speaks from his own guilt, as we Chitters say."
"Stay out of this," Mace growled. His glowering eyes bore down on Gemina. "You can't beat me at this game, sister. Why'd you take it? Too snobbish to share? Think I'm not good enough for your precious Zyxlar paradise, is that it?"
Terror finally unclogged Gemina's throat. "I don't have it," she yelped. "I swear! I would never hide anything from you."
Mace stared for a long moment. He lowered his arm, then, paradoxically, he laughed. "No, I suppose you wouldn't. You were always too deep in that religious mumbo-jumbo they force-fed us. Love – as long as it's the Zyxlar we're loving. Honor – as long as it's them we're honoring. Virtue – as long as we play by their rules. You could never look farther than the web of lies the Vilicus spun for us, never see how one-sided all their mighty noble principles were."
Gemina's temper flared. "Every good thing can be twisted by those who abuse it! The Vilicus may not be perfect, but they're sincere. They believe in something. Charity believed in something, and gave up her life to that belief. She was a better person than you or I will ever be!"
Gemina knew instantly that she'd made a mistake. Mace's features contorted into a look of inexplicable rage. He leaned forward, breath hot and suffocating.
"What are you trying to insinuate?" he hissed. "That I'm an infidel? A murderer? Say it, then! I'm not fit for the orbiting citadels: you and your new Chitter friends were going to leave me here to rot." He whirled, fist impacting a nearby control panel. "Well, you're no more perfect than I am, Gemi. I have principles, too. My own principles, not ones handed from on high like a bunch of paper chrysanthemums. Now, where is the crest?"
Gemina paled. "By the Zyxlar!" she whispered. It had all been so muddled, that terrifying day when the Zyxlar had vanished. The panicked conferences, the political machinations. The blinking bracelet-summons from Charity that had sent her running to this very room. Mace had arrived just before her. He was shouting when she came in, kneeling by the fallen body, lifting the bloody knife from their dead mistress's hands...
Or perhaps. . . placing it into them?
His eyes had flashed, just as they were flashing now.
"Charity didn't commit suicide!" Gemina said, aghast. "You killed her. You killed your sister! How could you?" Mace growled and strode forward. Gemina scrambled away, seeking escape. The doors were too far. Slicer was gone from her peripheral vision. Fled? Sidling along the walls? She couldn't tell.
"Charity was a fool," Mace growled. "A puppet of the Zyxlar and an enemy of the oppressed. She was so pious. . . of course everyone believed she'd given her life to the Zyxlar. Now, give me the crest and I'll finish what I began that day. The toppling of Vilicus rule. Equality for everyone!"
"Possibly. But we all know who I can thank for that, don't we? The crest, Gemina."
"I already said I don't have it."
"LIAR!" Mace lunged forward, fist knocking Gemina's pistol from her hands. It struck the floor and spun out of reach. Gemina cringed. Mace's hand snapped around her wrist, wrenching her arm and forcing her into a painful crouch.
"Stop!" she pleaded, tears flowing.
His free hand closed around her throat.
"I can't –"
White-hot pain shot along her neck. Vision blurred. Oddly, Gemina's next thought was of Charity. Was their gentle mistress watching from some Zyxlar heaven? Would she reach down and collect Gemina's weak, sinful Terran soul? Gemina hoped so. If not, well, it was enough to know she'd die by the same twisted hands that had murdered Charity. Sisters, even in death. Chaos writhed behind her eyelids.
And then, in the darkness, a flash.
Gemina's eyes snapped open. Slicer dropped from the ceiling, a spent flash-grenade dropping from his outstretched claws. He landed and swiped the sharpened edges of his forelimbs toward Mace. Razor-bright chitin slashed the Silicate's face and dug into his extended arm.
Mace shrieked. He stumbled backward, one hand and part of his face cut away.
Gemina flinched as Slicer's claws extended toward her, but he merely laid the blunt edge of a forelimb against her shoulders. "Come, milady. The alarms will soon bring more defenders."
Gemina glanced toward Mace, still rolling and screaming across the tiles. An odd blend of emotion tugged within her chest. Charity would have forgiven Mace. Would have lifted him from his agony and tugged him out of the room toward safety. Tender, gentle-hearted Charity would have given him a place in the citadels and suffered his furious outbreaks like a parent enduring the frustrated fist-pounding of a child. It was the right thing to do.
Mace moaned and convulsed. Gemina watched his blinded, bloody thrashing and faced a bitter truth: she was not Charity. Charity had been pure and perfect - too good for the deceitful world that had destroyed her. Gemina was weak, flawed. She wanted to survive, not merely do the right thing. She wanted to persist.
Something raw and grasping began, at last, to fill the aching emptiness within Gemina's chest. Neither hatred nor fury, but somehow tougher and more resilient than either, it anchored at the hollow pit of her stomach and dug into the edges of her soul. It was small, yet, but it would grow. And grow. And keep growing, until it became the kind of cold, knotted conviction that drove emperors to ruin and set kings trembling upon their knees. A rooted determination fierce enough to keep people breathing.
Hesitantly, Gemina allowed Slicer's gentle pressure to pull her out the door, down the hall, and into the stairwell. Her steps accelerated as they reached the vaulted entryway. By the time they burst through the perimeter fence and ducked along the alleys toward freedom, she was pelting along at full tempo.
Mace, and the Vilicus stronghold, slid out of sight behind city buildings.
She did not look back.
Gemina did not track their location until they pulled up, panting, at the outer edge of the shuttleport. Slicer's force had already circled back to the ship: she could see the glow of the running lights, feel the thrum of engines preparing for liftoff.
"Quickly, milady," Slicer said. He herded her toward the boarding ramp.
She balked, eyes arrested by a glowing haze along the horizon. "What's that?"
"The Vilicus, milady. They have mistaken our attack for a general uprising, and are imposing retribution upon the populace."
"Charity would not have done that," Gemina murmured.
Slicer tilted his head in polite inquiry. "Who is Charity?"
"Someone magnificent. Someone who's gone now." In a softer voice, she added: "I wish I could have saved her."
"There will be others to save."
Gemina shook her head. "The ones worth saving are already gone. This world chews them up and spits out their bones, and only the callous heartless egotists are left." She tilted her head toward the cold-blooded heavens. "I'm afraid I can't pay you, Slicer. Without the crest, we cannot enter the orbiting citadels. The automated defense systems would incinerate us at five hundred meters. I'm truly sorry."
Slicer. . . could not smile. Chitter anatomy was not built for it. But there was a decidedly mirthful quality to his motions as he cocked his head and lifted a foreclaw.
Gemina's jaw dropped. Dangling from the insectoid appendage, gleaming cheerfully in the light of a detonating quark beam, hung Charity's family crest.
"Where? How. . . ?" she stammered.
"When Mace first approached me about this job, I detected signs of mental instability in him. As you were not receptive to subtle hints regarding this flaw, it seemed reasonable for me to secure an object he intensely desired, in order to flush out his true motives."
"But why. . .?" Gemina's tongue tangled in her throat. Why help me? Why give me the crest when you could have kept it for yourself?
Slicer's massive head lowered gravely. "I am no lover of injustice, milady. Your friend Charity – I do not think she would approve of your brother's intended actions." He shifted his gaze. "Besides, as I explained at our first meeting, my soldiers are in need of a leader. I believe you will do nicely."
Gemina's head spun. She accepted the crest and tucked it against her stomach. "I. . . Thank you."
Slicer gave a jaunty salute. In the distance, a water tower exploded. Gravitic missiles streamed overhead. Together, they boarded the shuttle and headed toward the castles in the sky.
Though the Zyxlar have left, their loyal servants the Vilicus have remained behind. The Vilicus are theological fanatics and racial purists. They are grey androgynous-looking humanoids that are extremely strong. They worship the Zyxlar as living Gods who created the universe and everything in it. They believe that the universe was a paradise under the benevolent rule of the Zyxlar. That is until some of the undeserving subjects thought they could rule in their place. The Vilicus are disappointed that the Zyxlar have left but intend to hold to the old ways and honor the Zyxlar. They will honor the Zyxlar by forcing the heretics to return to the fold.
The Vilicus strive to see the Zyxlar rule come again. They will attempt to destroy any heretic race that believes they can govern themselves. They wish for a return to the glory days when the Zyxlar ruled while the Vilicus managed and all the other races served.
These Terrans, these scum, these vermin, are to be destroyed, annihilated, cleansed from the known universe. Initial phrase in the Vilicus first year student handbook.
FROM: Ministry of Intelligence and Propaganda
TO: 172nd Fleet HQ, Sector 538, Star System G397, Planet G397.L2
SUBJECT: Vilicus Racial Profile
CLASSIFICATION: TOP SECRET Code Word OMEGA
PERSONALITY PROFILE: The ministry's psychiatric profiling team has rated the Vilicus Class 3 Passive Aggressive. Though they are religious zealots, they appear to have a completely static nature unless attacked. It is believed that they are awaiting the return of the Zyxlar before massing for a large counteroffensive and leaving their home worlds. Our offensive operations have shown that they do no always respond to attacks. However, repeated operations eventually does seem to generate a response.
TACTICAL RESPONSE: When the Vilicus do respond, most fleets are tactical in size and composition. These are usually single fleets that appear to be mission configured. It is believed that each Vilicus home world is ruled by a supreme overlord. Analysis indicates that this ruling group does not cooperate and rarely do they combine their fleets for an offensive response.
STRATEGIC RESPONSE: Upon rare occasions, when provoked, the Vilicus may respond with a strategic fleet. These fleets contain numerous combat assets and are very dangerous. Extreme caution is recommended prior to seeking engagement.
TERRIRTORY HELD: Though widely distributed, the size of the Vilicus empire does not seem to have any bearing on their capabilities. They hold a large amount of territory and have a racial need to be spread throughout the populated sectors. In is unclear if the Vilicus are already holding some planets, or if they arrive after a frontier sector becomes populated.
ECONOMICS/PRODUCTION CAPABILITIES: Planetary improvement for the Vilicus is at a very low rate when compared with galactic norms. Frequently, their planets have a low technology rating. The Vilicus are rate only class 2 on the Gorthrax industrial scale.
SHIP/PDB MAINTENANCE:The few ships we have been able to capture indicate that the Vilicus do not believe in refitting or maintaining their combat assets. This makes them extremely vulnerable to repeated counterattacks.
COLONIZATION: The Vilicus do not actively colonize. However, home worlds are frequently discovered once a frontier sector has become more densely populated. Tech Ops believes that the increase in sensor arrays, and LIDAR emissions causes interference with their planetary stealth technology. This interference seems to cause some undetermined shielding to be pierced so that their worlds can then be located.
STEALTH TECHNOLOGY: There are many reports of the Vilicus slipping past solar defense positions. It is believed that some Vilicus fleets have Zyxlar stealth technology either captured, or that has been reverse engineered. Make sure to report all captured Vilicus stealth technology to the Ministry of Intelligence and Propaganda, Alien Tech Ops Division as soon as possible.
GALACTIC RANKING: The Vilicus do not gain galactic prominence (Victory Points) from planet ownership. Neither is prominence obtain through the creation of infrastructure or technological enhancements. All their galactic prominence comes from combat in which some opponent has attacked them, or in response to an attack.