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Excerpt from an Assembly Background Research Memorandum: Cultural and Environmental Triggers for the Ongoing Neomorph/Leviathan (Giant) Border Conflict. Submitted 01/10/997 ATA

Last Download:  03/09/999 14:23.234 by user: Envoy Sofia Stecchi (United Terran Confederation)

“…Expansion is the steady state of any healthy civilisation. That expansion may be manifested geographically, economically, scientifically, or culturally, but the basic measure is that something, somewhere is growing. When two such civilisations reach a common interface, friction is the inevitable result, and such frictions spark aggression from time to time. Such incidents often act as safety valves, venting pressure as the two states struggle to come to a compromise, however, the paradigm of the wider galactic society’s desire to curb interspecies aggression can sometimes, in crudely metaphorical terms, weld a lid over a boiling pot and, ultimately, escalate matters from the conference room to the battlefield.

So it has proven with the engagement now termed the Mendillo Conflict. The flashpoint was geographic, a dispute arising from population pressure. On the face of it, given the vastness of the territory and the small populations of the civilisations involved, this seems a ludicrous assertion, however, to place population pressure in the correct context, the histories and physiologies of the conflict races must be considered.

Of the nine sentient species known to our civilisation, the Neomorphs are the most alien.  This is to be expected, since they are transplanted: descendants of refugees from a galaxy hundreds of thousands of parsecs beyond the rim of the Burning Suns.  As a result, there is a limited range of systems and planets that are habitable for them. Even on such planets, their engineered ecosystems are hypersensitive to overpopulation and must be carefully controlled. They have been resident in our galaxy for less than two generations and are hampered in nearly every ecological endeavour by their xenogalactic nature.  While their level of technological sophistication is such that they can quickly develop synthetic solutions to most terraforming problems, engineering and entire species’ physiology to suit an alien environment is no simple matter, requiring a delicate balance between sufficient exposure to stimulate adaptation and introducing a level of toxicity that wipes out entire colonies.  There have been several such miscalculations in their brief history as citizens of this galaxy: thus, any planet where they have successfully overcome these challenges becomes a critical incubator for maintaining population growth as they attempt to mitigate the risk of extinction that has pursued them across the universe. In the regions of the galaxy they now call home, all such planets have been colonised; to lose even one of them would render a catastrophic cost in lives and growth potential. It is anathema to the neomorphs to be endangered by extinction for a second time, and their reaction to the situation must be viewed in the context of their consequently exaggerated assessment of their peril.

The Leviathans, by contrast, are one of the oldest known races of the Burning Suns, second only to the Guardians in the longevity of their space-faring presence (a ranking the Leviathans continue to dispute). Even to this day, little is known of the intricacies of their culture; an initially (and still predominantly) aquatic race evolved from predators, they tend to live in small communities spread over large areas and have long had a reputation for being territorial.  Their preferred habitat is, like that of the Neomorphs, relatively restricted in its availability. This is even truer of their larger cousins.  So named for their immense physical size, leviathan giants need far more territory per family unit. To add fuel to the fire, in their cultural outlook, the larger the range, the more influential and powerful the family, a tradition that has provoked many internal conflicts and remains a source of competitive friction in the Giant psyche. Historically, the Leviathan leadership has cared little for the territorial predations of their larger brethren; as long as the giants looked beyond their own borders for room to grow their ranges, it was no concern of theirs. 

Despite their entirely divergent physiologies, the neomorphs and both leviathan races share some common ground in their optimal habitat requirements. This commonality is at the root of their conflict. Consider that the Neomorphs are also neighbours to the Changelings, however, since changeling environmental preferences are quite different, and they are, by their very nature, capable of significant, swift adaptation to different environments, the same population stresses do not arise.  Leviathans are, as a rule, slow to adapt, a biological trait that also governs their approach to decision-making and leadership.  It is, anecdotally, not easy to change a leviathan’s mind, and their outlook on exploration and expansion is simple—they look for new systems that are perfectly aligned with their needs.  They cannot compete with more adaptive races to mould planets to their needs, so they simply appropriate such resources when the opportunity arises.

Thus was the stage set for conflict. The first provocations were mild; sightings of leviathan giant explorer craft and survey ships in systems granted to the neomorphs by the Assembly. However, as time passed, the pressure began to build. Cargo ships began disappearing on routine supply routes. Raiders were sighted, often reinforced by dreadnoughts.  Slowly, methodically, step-by-step, the encircling of the first few worlds progressed, a blockade in all but name. Given that the Leviathans have a long and bloody history of muscling other races out of contested systems, the Neomorphs felt justified in airing their grievance on the galactic stage. Their leaders were desperate to show they could adequately defend themselves and make a contribution to galactic safety and security. They appealed to their fellow Council races for sanction to take action to protect their borders.

The Insectoid representatives, speaking on behalf of both themselves and their Acarid offspring, backed the suggestion fully.  Isolated since the Leviathans had closed their borders to all traffic, more or less cutting Insectoid space off from the rest of the galaxy, they have been reliant in recent years on Neomorph blockade runners to keep their supply and trade lines open and acknowledged that debt in support.

The Terran, Ercinean, and Guardian factions were more cautious in their support. Each of them had suffered bruising encounters with the Leviathans in the past, enough to be careful of provoking them by punishing their larger cousins.

Nonetheless, sanction was given. Ultimately, if the Council did not act to protect its member species from unprovoked aggression, the days of its rule would be swiftly numbered. Bolstered by the promise of the other races’ support, the Neomorph government opened a formal dialogue with a reasoned and polite invitation to their neighbours to meet on neutral ground to discuss the situation. The giants simply refused to respond with anything other than an ultimatum.

“We are part of neither your Council nor your civilisation.  We do not give credence to the whims of lesser species, even less to those of vagrants from another galaxy. We will act as we see fit to benefit our peoples, and you meddle in our affairs at your peril.”

Faced with an implacable opponent and divided allies, the Neomorphs weighed up the risks of provoking the full wrath of the leviathans versus the risk of letting them encroach upon the worlds painstakingly developed to support their ecosystems and the subsequent threat of extinction. Deciding the former risk to be the lesser, a Neomorph force composed entirely of Champions, was dispatched to reinforce the Mendillo system, precipitating the first sanctioned skirmish between members of the Assembly since the Perseus War…”