- 1 I. Who or what are the Shivans?
- 1.1 a. Where do the Shivans come from?
- 1.2 b. What is the extent of the Shivans' offensive and defensive capabilities?
- 1.3 c. Why are the Shivans so destructive?
- 1.4 c. If the Shivans are truly xenocidal, why did they respond to Admiral Bosch? What happened to him?
- 1.5 d. Is it possible that the Shivans captured Bosch in order to interrogate him?
- 1.6 e. The idea of energy-based life-forms is stupid, and you have no proof that the Shivans come from subspace.
- 2 II. What is the Shivans' primary goal?
- 2.1 a. Theoretical Subspace Physics
- 2.2 b. Subspace Fights Back
- 2.3 c. The Shivans make subspace jumps, too. Doesn't that defeat their own purpose?
- 2.4 e. If heightened subspace activity attracts Shivans, then wouldn't they have investigated the collapse of the Delta Serpentis-Sol jump node, or the outbreak of the NTF rebellion?
- 2.5 f. Immune systems have a limited amount of defensive cells. These numbers can be depleted, or even eliminated. Wouldn't that make Shivan forces finite, meaning that particular explanation is valid?
- 2.6 g. If the Shivans are attracted by the subspace-warping effects of the Knossos devices, then why don't they destroy them? Don't Shivans themselves use the portals?
- 2.7 h. Isn't it inaccurate to call the Shivans "Preservers" when they are so bent upon destruction?
- 3 III. Capella
- 3.1 a. d00d TEH $][I\/AN$ JUST N00K3D CAPELLA OMGWTFBBQ
- 3.2 b. "Whatever those things were, the Shivans have got less of them now."
- 3.3 c. Apocalypse
- 3.4 d. Couldn't the juggernauts have been using inter-system jump nodes near the Capella star that the Alliance didn't know about?
- 3.5 e. If the Shivans needed a star, why didn't they use Gamma Draconis, the star seen through the nebular clouds, or the binary stars in the system with the Comm Nodes?
- 3.6 f. But in Real Life, Gamma Draconis is a huge star. Surely it would be big enough for the Shivans to use.
- 3.7 g. Why would the Shivans worry about a Colossus fleet? Wouldn't they already know about Allied fleet strength from experience during the Great War?
- 3.8 h. You're full of it, buddy. The Shivans would never back down from a fight.
- 3.9 j. Isn't the disruption of enemy communications important to any war?
- 3.10 k. If the Shivans need subspace energy to survive, couldn't their ships make a short subspace jump in order to "recharge"?
- 3.11 l. If the Shivans' goal is to preserve subspace integrity, wouldn't they sacrifice themselves rather than destroy Capella and risk creating a black hole?
- 3.12 m. Could the Shivans have destroyed Capella for the sake of creating a nebula from which to harvest gas?
- 3.13 n. If the Shivans were retreating from Capella, then why didn't the other Shivan craft in-system try to escape?
- 4 IV. HellSpace
- 4.1 a. If the Shivans can travel to any point in subspace--and, by the same token, any point in normal space--then why don't they just jump their whole fleet into the heart of the GTVA?
- 4.2 b. If the Shivans really are a subspace-based species, how are they able to operate in physical space as well as they do if subspace contains no physical matter?
- 4.3 c. If the Shivans are as skilled with subspace as we think them to be, then why don't their shields function there?
- 4.4 d. "Living ships" are stupid.
- 4.5 e. No Shivan reinforcements were available during the Great War because the FS2 box art canonically states that the Lucifer armada was nothing more than a scouting party.
- 4.6 f. The juggernauts that destroyed Capella must have been called in from Cocytus. The Shivans would have no advantage in holding a fleet of that size back until the endgame. Either these ships were reinforcements from Cocytus, or they were already present in our dimension.
- 5 V. Armistice
- 6 VI. Conclusion
- 7 VII. Appendix
I. Who or what are the Shivans?
The most obvious answer to this question is that the Shivans are a violently xenocidal alien race, possessing advanced offensive and defensive technologies. They have exhibited virtually no interest in diplomatic contact (a point we will discuss shortly), and strangely, have given higher priority to the possession of subspace jump nodes rather than habitable planets. We know the Shivan fleet is vast, as evidenced by their innumerable fighter squadrons and--in their greatest display of brute force to date--their ominous armada of over eighty Sathanas-class juggernauts. However, there is no evidence of a Shivan homeworld, nor any habitable Shivan space installations. The Shivans are known to have a high degree of expertise in the field of subspace, able to navigate uncharted jump nodes or nodes too unstable for Terran/Vasudan engines, and also able to generate strange subspace energy pulses from their larger vessels.
The supplemental material that follows is the FreeSpace 2 database entry on the Shivans, taken (with apologies) from Tech FreeSpace:
"32 years after the Great War, we still know almost nothing about the Shivans. Physically, the Shivans have multiple compound eyes and five legs with claw-like manipulators. Their insect-like carapace does not appear original to the creature's physiogomy, suggesting the Shivans are a cybernetic fusion of biology and technology. The integrated plasma weapon also exhibits properties of an organic artificial fusion. The weapon may be a kind of focusing device powered by the energy of the being itself, though this point is the subject of heated controversy. These details are cited as evidence that the Shivans could not have evolved as the Terran or Vasudan species had, but that they were likely constructed by another entity.
Only a handful of Shivans have ever been captured, and all research on live specimens ended with the GTI's Hades rebellion in 2335. The results of these studies remain highly classified. Though the Shivans are obviously xenocidal, their motives and origins have yet to be determined. According to Ancient artifacts, the Shivans seem to possess some kind of sensitivity to subspace disturbances. We do not know if the Shivans returned to this corner of the galaxy by chance, by cycle, by pattern, or by their detection of Terran-Vasudan subspace travel. Xenobiologists know very little about Shivan society. A leading hypothesis is the hive mind theory, arguing that Shivan society is broken down into specialized functions driven by a collective intelligence. The most convincing evidence supporting this theory is the behavior of Shivan forces following the destruction of the Lucifer, the turning point of the Great War. Other experts caution against attributing insectoid properties to the Shivans, regardless of their appearance and behavior. Shivan communication seems to occur in the electromagnetic spectrum, though efforts to decode their transmissions have yielded no meaningful results to date."
a. Where do the Shivans come from?
As stated, the Shivans have no apparent home planet, nor any space stations from which to deploy their forces. If such a location exists, it would naturally be believed to be located somewhere deep inside their territory, beyond the binary star system where SOC forces encountered the three Shivan Communication Nodes ("In the Lion's Den"). This notion is given credence by the existence of the third Knossos portal in that same system, which the Ancients would not have constructed had Shivan forces already been present. In-game dialogue suggests the region beyond the portal is the area of space in which the Ancients were first confronted by the Shivans, but we have no way to confirm this supposition.
The best clues we have to the Shivans' origins come directly from Volition. One comment reveals that the Shivans' bodies, as seen in-game, are not artificial suits, but their true bodies. The highly versatile nature of the Shivan body, able to move through outer space itself without protection (as evidenced in the FreeSpace Reference Bible) suggests that the Shivans either evolved entirely in the void of deep space, or that their bodies were created with the specific intent of being able to operate in that environment.
A second, more crucial comment from Volition indicates that as terrifying as the Shivans are, they should be viewed as "a symptom of a bigger problem". More on this revelation will be discussed later.
b. What is the extent of the Shivans' offensive and defensive capabilities?
Weaponry appears to be one of the Shivans' most specialized fields of expertise; the Shivans possess a wide array of destructive armaments, many of which are more potent than any comparable equipment in the GTVA. Shivan offense is wide-ranging, able to neutralize individual fighters, bombers, and capital craft, commence thorough and sustained planetary bombardment, and even destroy entire solar systems via induced supernova. Whether the Shivans possess any more powerful weapons of annihilation--as inconceivable as the notion may seem--is, as of this writing, unknown.
Strangely, in contrast to their immensely powerful arsenal, Shivan armor plating appears to be relatively weak. The Shivans' primary defensive advantage is their possession of a versatile energy shielding system, a technology which the GTVA has subsequently reverse-engineered and applied to its own fighter squadrons. The Shivans appear to lack the expertise needed to shield a capital-class vessel, with one notable exception: the heavily-armed superdestroyer Lucifer was protected by an impenetrable energy shield, likely energized by the ship's five reactors. Allied craft were never able to penetrate the shield directly, and were forced to circumvent the mechanism entirely by pursuing the Lucifer through subspace transit, a time during which its shields would not function.
The Lucifer-class vessel destroyed at the close of the Great War was the only known craft of its type to exist in the entire Shivan armada. After 32 years, the design may now be obsolete, or the superdestroyers themselves might only be manufactured in minimal numbers. We have no way of confirming either hypothesis.
c. Why are the Shivans so destructive?
The Shivans' motives are as much a mystery as their very existence. They kill with frightening indiscrimination, firing upon any non-Shivan craft, regardless of its intentions. The Hammer of Light, for example, sought to ally with the Shivans, but several HOL craft and at least one major HOL base were destroyed by Shivan forces ("The Darkness and the Light").
The Ancients, in their FS1 monologues, believed themselves to be trespassers into subspace, and that they had somehow "sinned" against the cosmic order by intruding there. To the Ancients, the Shivans were, in a sense, a sort of divine punishment meant to exact the universe's revenge upon their race. In one of Admiral Bosch's own monologues, he echoes this notion, stating that the Ancients "believed their voyage across the sea of stars awakened the dragon that slept beneath the waves, that the Shivans were birthed in the flux of subspace and their destruction was the revenge of an angry cosmos." This point is central to the theory of the Shivans' true origins, to be discussed shortly.
c. If the Shivans are truly xenocidal, why did they respond to Admiral Bosch? What happened to him?
Exactly why Bosch believed an alliance with a race so incredibly destructive was even possible is unknown. In his monologues, Bosch simply states that he believes the human race "has no future with the Vasudans", and that humanity's destiny "lies elsewhere". What we know for sure is that Bosch initiated contact with at least three Shivan vessels through the use of ETAK, his communication technology which transmitted modified quantum pulses. The first vessel, the Shivan cruiser Rephaim, was apparently destroyed before significant progress by Bosch could be made; the second and third cruisers, the Sammael and the Azmedaj, were also destroyed, but not before an Azrael-class transport carrying Bosch and his command crew had managed to escape ("Return to Babel").
The Shivans could have reacted to Bosch's olive branch for any number of reasons. It is possible that they were genuinely interested in his peaceful overtures, but given the Shivans' history of wanton annihilation, this theory is highly unlikely, to say the least; it is further undermined by the events in "Return to Babel", in which the encounter between the NTF and the Shivans onboard the Iceni is revealed to have been very violent, with a body count in the thousands, and casualties on both sides. Bosch's subordinate onboard the Iceni states that the Shivans "took" Bosch with a dozen of his lieutenants, suggesting his meeting with the Shivans was not a friendly one ("Return to Babel"). In his monologues, Bosch claims the alliance with the Shivans is intended for the good of all humanity; it seems unlikely, therefore, that he would ask the Shivans to kill members of his own loyal crew.
The most plausible explanation is that the Shivans were more intrigued by the nature of Bosch's transmissions, rather than their actual content. Bosch himself states that the first contact was "rudimentary and crude", meaning that the content of his message may very well have been different than what he'd initially believed--something nonsensical like "cheese is ambitious except on Sunday in winter" as opposed to "we come in peace". The Shivans, in turn, would have been puzzled by what they encountered: a Shivan transmission emanating from a Terran vessel. When they investigated, perhaps expecting to find captured Shivans, but instead discovered an overly-idealistic Aken Bosch, it is reasonable to assume that they were none-too-pleased.
To conclude the point, Admiral Bosch is likely dead. After being presented with a vessel full of unprepared Terrans, the Shivans probably acted on the chance to conduct biological dissection and other experiments upon their new specimen.
d. Is it possible that the Shivans captured Bosch in order to interrogate him?
Unlikely. The Shivans have never previously been interested in talking to either Terrans or Vasudans, and have never taken prisoners (with the exception of Bosch and his command crew). We are granted very few glimpses of Shivan/Terran personal interaction: once in the "Hall Fight" cutscene, and again with the apperance of the Lucifer at Tombaugh Station (described in the Freespace Reference Bible). We may or may not wish to include the boarding of the Iceni as a third example. In each case, contact has been extremely violent, with no intent to discuss any sort of terms, or indeed, to ask questions of any kind.
Secondly is the problem of the language barrier itself. Humans aren't Shivan, as Commander Snipes so succintly points out to us, and we don't speak "quantum pulse" very well. So far as we know, the only ETAK prototype was aboard the Iceni; whether this device was destroyed along with the command frigate or not is unknown, but it can be assumed lost. ETAK was a prototype device, and as the first of its kind, probably wouldn't have been very portable. The first Earth computers were enormous, taking up entire rooms, and Bosch's ETAK may very well have existed on a similar scale.
Despite Bosch's rigorous study of the Shivans, he's no MacGyver, and it seems unlikely that he would be able to rebuild such a device completely from memory. Even if we accept that Bosch had the ETAK blueprints stored on his nifty little laptop, and that he took it with him when he was captured (something that is virtually guaranteed to be untrue; if the Alliance hadn't recovered Bosch's computer, then we probably wouldn't be reading his personal log), then he is still aboard a Shivan vessel, with no Terran tools or materials with which to assemble his device.
We are led back to the questions of what exactly the Shivans are. To say they are possessed of a "hive mind", as the FS2 database suggests, is not enough; if it is true, it is merely an attribute of their kind, and does not explain their existence. Were they simply aliens in the same vein as the Vasudans are aliens to Terrans, it seems strange that they would shun any and all diplomacy, as well as ignore any planetary resources while focusing entirely upon jump nodes. If the Shivans are artificial life-forms, some variety of cyborgs or robots, it begs the question as to who their creators are, and whether or not they are alive or dead. Are the Shivans once-harmless environmental preservation constructs that have gone terribly awry? Or are they doomsday weapons unleashed in a war that has been over for millennia? Such questions are so far-removed from the immediacy presented by the events and scenarios of the FS universe itself, that I am led to believe they cannot be the case.
The preceding information leads me to believe that the Shivans are, in fact, subspace life-forms. They originate from somewhere within subspace itself. While it is mere conjecture on my part, I believe that the Shivans initially exist as pure, sentient, subspace energy, and that the insect-like bodies we observe are fashioned by the Shivans in order for them to effectively move about within our plane of existence. Such bodies would have no use in subspace itself, where no matter exists to be handled or used. This theory would explain their skill with subspace manipulation, as well as provide a foundation for their motives in attacking other space-faring races.
e. The idea of energy-based life-forms is stupid, and you have no proof that the Shivans come from subspace.
Is it? Energy beings have been a staple of science fiction for years, and the idea of a soul--a form of life lacking any physical body--is important to many religions worldwide. Legends of spirits and ghosts are as popular as they've ever been, yet their subjects are seldom encumbered by physical matter.
The Shivans' subspace origins are indeed uncertain, but it is an explanation that fits the facts at hand: the Shivans' total disinterest in planets or technology, the skill with which they manipulate subspace energy, and their bodies' adaptation for zero-gravity environments. It also fits with the hypothesis of the FreeSpace technical database that the Shivan personal armament is merely a focusing device for an already-present form of energy.
II. What is the Shivans' primary goal?
On the surface, the Shivans' only apparent intention is to destroy. The Ancients themselves gave the Shivans the label of "The Destroyers", a moniker Admiral Bosch frequently applied to them. We must strive to narrow this rather broad focus, however, for the Shivans obviously do not wish to destroy everything; they disregard planets, resources, and technology entirely, and in a rare display of strategy, they chose to capture Admiral Bosch rather than kill him outright. This indicates there is more complexity to the Shivans as a race, despite their apparent single-mindedness.
To begin my explanation, I turn again to the Volition comment that the Shivans are merely a "symptom of a bigger problem". I ask you to think about that for a moment. As dire a threat as the Shivans already are, Volition claims they are a sign or indication of an even more serious situation.
The Shivans, as they currently stand, are a virtually unstoppable race of butchers hell-bent on the annihilation of all life they come across. In order to conceptualize something even worse, we are forced to broaden our outlook on the situation. There are those who have proposed that the "bigger problem" is yet another alien race, one superior to even the Shivans, yet with this I must disagree. This would suggest a race of unbelievable power, so much so that even the Shivans' monstrous weaponry and apparently endless numbers would be unable to stand against them. From a practical standpoint, this idea makes little sense, as it would not serve to flesh out the FS universe in any way. The GTVA has already proven inferior, both in terms of technology and in size, to the Shivan forces... therefore, what would be the point in introducing another brand of aliens that simply drives this point home? Such a scenario would prove so bleak and hopeless that it would serve to depress the gamer, and I doubt this is Volition's intention.
So we must ask ourselves: barring bigger, badder aliens, what could be worse than the Shivans' methodical destruction of spacefaring life-forms?
The answer is damage to space itself.
a. Theoretical Subspace Physics
Think of the fabric of space as being like the skin of a living creature. Also, think of a subspace jump as being like making a tiny wound or incision into said skin. Given time, the skin will heal, but with repeated cuts and gashes, scars are formed, and the possibility of infection--or, in severe cases, amputation--develops.
We know that subspace is relatively "fickle". The FS database tells us that most nodes open and close within milliseconds. We also know that larger nodes can be collapsed by way of large explosions, such as the sealing-off of the Sol-Delta Serpentis node by the destruction of the Lucifer, or the collapse of all nodes leading off Capella by Orion-class destroyers loaded with Meson warheads ("Clash of the Titans II"). Therefore, I feel it is not unreasonable to speculate that subspace damage is also incurred, on some level, by the use of subspace travel. It is entirely possible that traffic through subspace corridors will accelerate node collapse more quickly than the natural passage of time.
If we make the logical assumption that subspace--literally meaning "under space" or "beneath space"--acts as the physical support for normal space, and accept for the purposes of argument that subspace travel does incur gradual damage to the subspace fabric in the long-term, then what will happen when--eventually--subspace as a whole comes to collapse entirely?
The terrifying answer is that, left without structural support, normal space will collapse upon itself in turn. The end result might be like the formation of a black hole, a literal gap in space that is devoid of anything, even of the theoretical surface that holds the fabric of space and time together. Indeed, the apperance of new black holes in isolated places might be interpreted as a sign of the weakening or collapse of the subspace dimension in given locations. Of course, even black holes shrink over long periods of time, meaning that presumably, the subspace fabric is capable of "healing", provided it is left undisturbed.
b. Subspace Fights Back
Nature, in terms of the structure of natural objects, enjoys static things. Depleted resources (gradually, sometimes over long periods of time) renew themselves. Plants and animals grow in accordance to blueprints set down in DNA patterns. Water--unless subjected to temperature extremes--remains water, no matter what container it is placed in. And, of course, injuries inflicted to the body heal over time, with the help of the immune system. If we look at outer space from such a medical standpoint as has been put forth, however, then what--if anything--serves as the immune system for the cosmos?
None other than the Shivans. If humanity is the disease, then the Shivans are literally the cure.
Volition's comment on the nature of the Shivans leads me to look at the problem in question as being more of an internal one (in the sense of a wounded body) than an external one (in the sense of Super-Death-Aliens). While the FS games certainly provide no hard evidence for such a theory, it nonetheless makes sense. We know that the Shivans have appeared on three distinct occasions:
1. To the Ancients, following their discovery of subspace and their rampant expansionism across our galaxy; the Ancients themselves believed their new empire would "surely know no boundaries".
2. To the GTA and PVE during the T-V War, a period of time during which subspace travel would have undoubtedly been heightened, and only 22 years after Terrans discovered subspace itself.
3. To the GTVA in Gamma Draconis, following Bosch's activation of the first Knossos portal... a device that literally warps and twists the subspace fabric in order to form new jump nodes.
I feel it important to mention that I do not believe that subspace travel in itself was enough to attract the Shivans' attention. If that was the case, the Shivans probably would have appeared long before the Ancients had cause to build Knossos portals to expand their control of the galaxy, or would not have waited over two decades to come in search of the Terrans and Vasudans (it is reasonable to assume, though by no means certain, that Vasudans discovered subspace travel at roughly the same time as Terrans). During these periods mentioned, heavy subspace traffic would have caused more extensive damage to subspace, coaxing the Shivans out of the ether to perform their roles as "galactic antibodies". The destruction of the Ancients over 8,000 years ago is the earliest Shivan intervention of which we are aware, but there is no telling how many subspace-faring civilizations the Destroyers wiped out prior to that time.
Yet we must also be careful not to characterize the Shivans exclusively as little more than what the galaxy uses to rid itself of an ailment. The human immune sytem of white blood cells can be broken down into roughly half a dozen divisions (T-cells, NK-cells, and so on), but the Shivans possess a wide array of fighters and bombers, to say nothing of their capital vessels, and the Shivan pilots themselves. As Dr. Mina Hargrove said, the Shivans display "considerable diversity as a species". Therefore, I believe we should view the Shivans as just that: a species, something more than a natural reaction on behalf of the cosmos. We must also remember that the Shivans are capable of developing strategy, able to set traps (as in "Pandora's Box"), indicating that they are not driven by a lone impulse to kill and destroy. They are, on some level, thinking creatures, with as much at stake in their conflict with the GTVA as anyone else. If the fabric of space/time is torn asunder, then the Shivans will surely die along with everyone else.
The "immune system" depiction is not without flaw. Such a theory would suggest that the Shivans are spawned from subspace in overwhelming numbers, in the same manner as immune cells are within the body. While there can be no argument that the Shivans are numerous, their legions cannot be infinite; this would stack the odds in such a way as to automatically doom both Terrans and Vasudans to extinction. So colossally unfair an advantage would be against the trend of balance in nature--not to mention the programmers at Volition, who would probably want to make a gamer feel somewhat less-worthless than this.
It stands to reason, then, that the Shivans' numbers are finite, giving credence to the idea that they must originate from a "home base" of one sort or another. We will discuss that notion in-depth later in the essay.
Above all, we are called to recognize that this theory illustrates the true meaning of the Shivans' roles as the "Great Preservers", not only of single, as-of-yet undeveloped races, but of the entire universe. It is supremely ironic that they have been perceived as merciless Destroyers for so long, when in reality, they have been striving to save us all.
c. The Shivans make subspace jumps, too. Doesn't that defeat their own purpose?
Not necessarily. As schooled as they are in the workings of subspace, the Shivans are probably capable of designing engines for their craft which avoid causing damage to the subspace dimension. We know for a fact that their engines are able to traverse unstable jump nodes that Terran/Vasudan engines can not. If this is not the case, then the Shivans are likely to view subspace travel as a "necessary evil", in their case; inflicting moderate damage upon the subspace fabric for the sake of preserving subspace as a whole. In fact, as well-versed in matters of subspace as the Shivans are, they may very well be able to effect repairs to the subspace fabric, provided they don't have to deal with mounting damage resulting from node travel.
d. By using nodes too unstable for travel by the Alliance, aren't the Shivans causing needless subspace damage?
1. If the Shivans do possess highly-advanced subspace technology, we hypothesize that their use of subspace nodes causes little or no damage, whether the Alliance has knowledge of those nodes or not.
2. If the above statement is half-true or not true at all (i.e., the Shivans can use unstable nodes, but still cause subspace damage nonetheless), then their use of "secret" nodes is, in fact, relevant in terms of strategy. We've stated several times that the Shivans aren't dumb; if it were absolutely necessary for them to make use of subspace travel for the sake of waging war, then they would do so. However, they would seek to do so in the most efficient way possible, a way which would quickly end the conflict at hand, and minimize the damage sustained by the subspace dimension. We should also factor in the reasonable assumption that the Shivans will want to minimize the losses to their own forces.
In FS1, for example, the Shivan armada levels Tombaugh Station in the Ribos system while gathering their forces there for a strike upon Vasuda Prime. In response, the GTA sets up a blockade in the adjacent Antares system, which is the only "stable" route to reach Vasuda. To reduce the hassle to themselves, the Shivans jump through a "hidden" node directly to Deneb, which is also one jump away from Vasuda. This allows the Shivans to circumvent the Allied blockade and destroy Vasuda Prime more quickly, hence shortening the duration of the war itself. Admiral Petrarch also clearly states that the Shivans made inter-system jumps without the use of recognized jump nodes during the Great War, so the question is not if the Shivans make such jumps, but why.
e. If heightened subspace activity attracts Shivans, then wouldn't they have investigated the collapse of the Delta Serpentis-Sol jump node, or the outbreak of the NTF rebellion?
We know that subspace nodes, as a natural phenomenon, form and collapse of their own accord. The Shivans, being unable to communicate with the Lucifer (for reasons I will explain), probably would have regarded the collapse of the Sol node with indifference, regarding it as a natural collapse--or, at most, a direct result of the Shivan attack against the Alliance. The reduced subspace traffic following the destruction of the node--due to the great depletion of Allied forces--would have been an indication to the Shivans that their enemies had been destroyed, and that no further investigation was necessary.
To the best of our knowledge, the NTF rebellion had been in progress for a mere eighteen months prior to the arrival of the Shivans. This figure pales in comparison to the Ancients' decades of rampant expansion, or the fourteen years of the Terran-Vasudan War. The activation of the Knossos involved subspace disruption on a larger scale, and would have merited the Shivans' more immediate attention.
f. Immune systems have a limited amount of defensive cells. These numbers can be depleted, or even eliminated. Wouldn't that make Shivan forces finite, meaning that particular explanation is valid?
While it is true that the immune system within a body works within a set scope of numbers, it is important to remember the scale on which we are speaking. When a human body's immune system is depleted, the body either fights off an infection and regenerates its numbers, or succumbs to the infection and dies. Since the "body" the Shivans would be protecting would be all of subspace, we are left with two possibilities:
1. Deplete Shivan numbers, only to have them replenished because subspace still exists--a theory we regard as improbable, because this would make Shivan forces infinite, or
2. Eradicate Shivans by destroying subspace completely--and, by proxy, destroying the entire physical universe, something we'd like to avoid.
For these reasons, the Shivans must have some base of operations from which their forces originate. More on this later.
g. If the Shivans are attracted by the subspace-warping effects of the Knossos devices, then why don't they destroy them? Don't Shivans themselves use the portals?
The Shivans do not "use" Knossos portals, per se. The portals exist in Shivan-controlled areas, but so far as we know, the Shivans do not know for certain how to activate them, or precisely what they are used for. It was Admiral Bosch who drew the Shivans' ire with his activation of the first Knossos; we cannot know for certain if the Shivans, on their side of the node, were even aware of its existence. In their monologues, the Ancients state that the Destroyers did not seek "territory, technology, or resources". The Shivans appear to concern themselves primarily with their own technological advancement (if they advance--see earlier comments on stagnation), and in all likelihood, they are more interested in the jump node created by the Knossos portal than in the workings of the device itself. This, however, is an uncertain point; much of our theory centers around the Shivans having a great deal of subspace expertise, so it is logical to assume that they would know a device capable of manipulating subspace when they saw one.
We do not know for certain if the Shivans are even capable of destroying the portals. The briefing for "A Flaming Sword" states that the Alliance chooses to destroy the first device via Meson bomb deployment as opposed to main gun barrage for "strategic and scientific reasons". This presents us with three possibilities:
1. The material of which the Knossos is made will react in a strange manner when directly exposed to beam energy. We can only guess as to what this reaction might be, or why it would even matter, since the Alliance's goal is to destroy the portal anyway.
2. The portal is either partially or totally resistant to beam energy, making Meson bombs a more efficient method of its destruction.
3. Beam cannons can damage the device, but Allied scientists would rather use the opportunity to test the Meson bombs.
The player and various other vessels can fire on the Knossos in-game with no visible effect. We know for a fact that the portal is a sturdy structure, simply because the detonation of the first Meson bomb--despite wiping out all small craft within some three kilometers--caused no apparent damage. Whether or not the Knossos could withstand assault by a Sathanas is another question entirely, but since the largest Shivan vessels to enter Gamma Draconis prior to the destruction of the portal were of cruiser-class, then the point becomes moot. We can assume that the Shivans could probably destroy the portals by detonating nearby stars, but would they really go to all that trouble when it would be easier to eliminate traffic through the node?
h. Isn't it inaccurate to call the Shivans "Preservers" when they are so bent upon destruction?
The title of "The Preservers" is truly an ironic one to apply to the Shivans. In FreeSpace's final monologue, the narrator--presumably the pilot you've been playing--pretty clearly illustrates the meaning of this phrase. Here is the actual wording from the FreeSpace Reference Bible:
"I know why the Ancient Ones were destroyed. And I know what they knew. I know that if not for the Shivans they would have been conquered long before. Without the Shivans, someone would have discovered them long before, in their infancy. And destroyed them, just as surely as they destroyed countless billions of others. I believe it is only the destroyers who are destroyed. The Shivans are the great destroyers, but they are also the great preservers. That is why there was no one to destroy us. Long had we been the destroyer. Our turn had nearly come. In the Vasudan war we learned how to adapt. We learned how to study our enemy. We learned how to overcome. We learned how to survive. And so we did."
The narrator explains, in simple terms, that the Shivans exterminate older, advanced races to ensure the survival of younger, undeveloped ones. The predecessors to the Ancients, whoever they were, were destroyed by the Shivans so that the Ancients might thrive; the Ancients, in turn, were themselves destroyed so that humanity, and presumably Vasudans (although there is evidence that the Vasudans themselves may in fact be descendants of the scattered Ancient population) could survive. As the narrator mentions, humanity--having assumed its own mantle as conqueror of the cosmos, rampantly colonizing, exploring, and waging war upon the Vasudans--had nearly reached the time of its own destruction.
Is it the fate of all space-faring races to be annihilated once they stumble upon the secrets of subspace travel? In one of the few uplifting points of the entire Manifesto, I can say with some confidence that the answer to this question is "no".
In one of his own monologues, Admiral Bosch provides us with the following question to ponder:
"Thirty-two years ago in the Altair system, Vasudan scientists discovered the remnants of an extinct civilization we now call the Ancients. Here, we found the secret to defeat the Shivans. How close did we come to being a footnote in the history of a future species that would happen upon our ruins ten thousand years from now? Would they indulge in the fiction of their own immortality until the Shivans came for them, and how long had this gone on? Did the Ancients stumble upon the monoliths and the tombs of their predecessors in this distant corner of space, dismissing the warnings carved into the walls of the sepulchre? And when the Destroyers came at last, what did the Ancients think as they sifted the cremation of dust and bones, staring into the mute remains for a key, some solution to their plight? What if there had been countless races, stretching back into infinity, and like the nine cities of Troy, each civilization had been built on the rubble of the one that came before, each annihilated by the Shivans?"
Bosch suspects that the cycle of destruction perpetuated by the Shivans has continued for a very long time--longer, perhaps, than any of us can estimate. If the Ancients did indeed uncover ruins of the races that came before them, ruins providing some clue or hint as to how the wrath of the Destroyers might be stayed, then that warning was either ignored, or understood too late for it to have any meaning. The Ancients fell just as the innumerable races that came before them did, their empire turning to ash.
In the case of the Alliance, however, something has changed.
At the end of the Great War, the Shivans failed to complete their objective of xenocide--quite possibly the first time they had ever failed to accomplish their monstrous task. Unlike the Ancients before them, the Terrans and Vasudans were able to heed the age-old cautions they discovered, able to learn from them, able to adapt them for their races' own purposes. As the narrator of the final FS1 monologue so eloquently states, the Terrans learned how to study their enemy, how to adapt, and how to survive. Thus, the cycle of wanton destruction that has continued without end for countless millennia has at last been broken. The GTVA is not simple prey, like the other fallen empires, but a sophisticated enemy, one the Shivans will require more than brute force to extinguish from the universe.
In a fashion, this in itself may be the answer to the question of the "Great Preservers". Perhaps the rise of the Alliance, a force that, like the Shivans themselves, "did not die", is something the Shivans--maybe without realizing it--have been fostering for centuries. It was inevitable that eventually, there would come a race that would learn from the mistakes of those that came before, one that would not so easily knuckle under to the Destroyers. Unlike the dead and buried societies of the past, the GTVA has potential, potential to learn and adapt, potential to discover a final, permanent solution to the conflict with which they are faced. It is possible that, in the distant future, Terrans and Vasudans may stumble upon a means of travel superior even to that of the subspace corridor, allowing them to maintain their integrity as a society without incurring the hateful, desperate rage of the Shivans.
The question which this poses, however--one we are, at this time, unable to answer--is whether one or both sides of the Great War will perish in the hellfire of battle before that time should arrive.
The destruction of the Capella star at the hands of the Shivans has long puzzled FreeSpace players. It is an enigma with which we are provided very little evidence to examine--only the final cutscenes of the game, and the last few missions leading up to them. In this section, we will submit a theory as to why the Shivans took it upon themselves to kill a sun.
a. d00d TEH $][I\/AN$ JUST N00K3D CAPELLA OMGWTFBBQ
As we are told in the endgame of FreeSpace 2, an imposing fleet of 80+ Sathanas-class Shivan juggernauts gather in formation around the Capella star, generating a subspace field that grows in intensity over the course of 72 hours. During the final phase of Capella's evacuation, the star itself abruptly supernovas, destroying all the planets in the system, as well as the remaining Terran, Vasudan, and Shivan craft.
Our first clue as to the purpose behind this mind-boggling act of devastation comes from Admiral Petrarch in the course of his endgame monologue. It is presented here in its entirety.
"To the officers and crew of the GTD Aquitaine. We have halted the Shivan advance. The battle of Capella is over. We sealed off the system and our people are safe, maybe forever. No one can fathom how or why the Shivans destroyed the Capella star. Though we know our enemy better now than we did 32 years ago, their motives remain a mystery. Perhaps they are exiles like we are, nomads wandering the universe, searching for a way back home. The explosion of a star might be a bridge between this universe and their own. As the old poet once said, 'There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' From our odyssey into Hell we have returned with a gift: the Ancient technology to build a portal between Delta Serpentis and Sol. To restore the link to our blue planet. To return home after all these years. This is Admiral Petrarch, signing off."
At first, Petrarch's words seem like little more than simple rhetoric. The war has just ended, after all, and now is undoubtedly the time for speeches of victory and remembrance. The tone of Petrarch's monologue is strange, however; it almost seems to lament the plight of the Shivans, rather than condemn or gloat over them. It is very odd for the Admiral to feel sympathy for the Shivans when one considers the damage they caused during their relatively short-lived incursion into GTVA space. When observing the speech from this standpoint, we are left to wonder if perhaps there is a hint of literal truth in Petrarch's words... if perhaps the Shivans really were attempting to return to whatever they call home.
For a moment, let us look at the situation from the strategic point of view. The Shivans have amassed a juggernaut armada in-system, and are poised to launch a full-scale strike upon Allied space, a spearhead which the fatigued GTVA is not likely to survive. Yet, instead of invading Allied territory, the Shivans choose instead to destroy the star, killing the mere handful of refugees in the system at the time, and losing several juggernauts in the process, perhaps a substantial portion of their fleet (though an accurate figure is impossible to determine, since we are provided with only one camera angle in the cutscene to observe). In addition, those juggernauts that are not destroyed enter subspace, but to the best of our knowledge, there are no inter-system nodes other than those leading to Vega and Epsilon Pegasi. The juggernauts could not make an in-system jump without being caught by the supernova blast, so just what was their destination?
We must ask: what practical purpose did the destruction of Capella serve?
b. "Whatever those things were, the Shivans have got less of them now."
For the answer, we look not to Capella itself, but to the SOC reconaissance mission into Shivan space conducted a few days prior. During that sortie, SOC forces destroyed three strange-looking Shivan devices composed of a large red crystal and exterior "blades". The shock wave created by these devices was unusually large for objects of their size ("In the Lion's Den"). In the FS database, these objects are referred to as "Comm Nodes", suggesting that they serve as relay stations for the quantum pulses used in Shivan communication. When observed up-close, the objects can be heard emitting the same "buzz" Allied fighters heard when they received transmissions from the cruiser Rephaim.
At the time of the SOC mission, only nine juggernauts had jumped into the unidentified binary system. Days later, when the armada gathered around Capella, that number had increased ninefold. This, of course, could be mere coincidence, but it could also be an indication that the objects destroyed by the SOC had more value than mere radio relay stations.
If the Shivans are indeed subspace-born creatures, then they would find normal space a much different place from their natural environment. This much can be gathered from the bodies they construct to harness their essences, if we accept the other points in this treatise as being true. It is quite possible that Shivan shielding systems were originally developed not for combat deployment, but as a way to allow them to retain their coherence in our material universe.
Perhaps, then, the Shivan Comm Nodes are much more than just that. They may very well be like lifelines, of a sort, providing the Shivans--far separated from their subspace domain--with the inherent subspace energy they need to survive in normal space. I believe the crystals in these devices, due to their highly volatile nature, to be some kind of subspace battery, a shell for pure subspace energy to inhabit. On a larger scale, I believe this crystalline substance to be the base component in all Shivan construction, crafted in their own subspace dimension, but then heavily modified via electronics in order to function properly in standard space. The distinct red hue of all Shivan craft suggests this crystal--or some like material--is an integral component; even their weaponry and engines seem based around the same substance, suggesting its extreme importance to their functionality.
If true, it would mean that the SOC destroyed something far more vital than simple communications equipment. It would mean they destroyed installations absolutely vital to the Shivans' continued existence, and quite possibly killing an untold number of them by suddenly and abruptly severing their life support.
This would serve to explain the sudden increase in the numbers of the juggernaut fleet, but it still does not give us the answer as to why the Shivans destroyed Capella instead of attacking the GTVA directly.
To understand the solution, we must observe the problem from the Shivan standpoint. Throughout their incursion, the Shivans gained very little ground against the GTVA. The furthest-encroaching Shivan vessel was the original Sathanas, and it was destroyed in Capella--merely one jump from Gamma Draconis--by the GTVA Colossus. It is likely that the Shivans, in all their destructive fury, had never previously lost a vessel of that magnitude to an enemy. Since they were never able to advance any further than Capella (with the exception of a Shivan force that attacked the Vega-Capella node in the endgame), the Shivans could not know for certain just how many Colossus-class vessels the GTVA had in their ranks. For all they knew, a fleet of the mammoth vessels could have been waiting deep within GTVA territory, waiting to spring a trap on the advancing Shivan fleet. Faced with such uncertain opposition, the Shivans took the only course of action open to them:
They ran away. The Shivans were not attacking the GTVA, but retreating from it.
The FS database tells us that subspace jumps require the presence of intense gravitational fields. If we look closely at the Capella supernova cutscene, we can see a strange black "aura" surrounding the star after the juggernauts release their subspace charges. This odd field extends for a wide area around the sun, blocking out the glimmer of stars behind it... and it is into this area of darkness that the escaping juggernauts jump. This darkness cannot be a black hole, for if it were, we would not be able to see the light emanating from Capella itself. Therefore, this ebony field must be the outer rim of a tremendously large jump node, one the juggernauts have opened using the gravity field of the star as a springboard (this theory is strengthened, albeit not much, by the fact that Capella turns green in hue. Yellow star + blue subspace node = green ). Their destination within subspace, wherever it is, requires an exceptionally strong gravitational field in order to make the subspace jump, one that can only be provided by the force of a star.
Unfortunately for us, the Shivans' methodology has a disastrous side-effect. A stellar supernova is triggered when a star of substantial size runs out of light elements to burn; when this happens, the heavier elements are condensed into iron, which the star cannot use for fuel. Unable to "explode" outward any longer, the star collapses inward, crushing the iron core so tightly that its subatomic structure changes. In less than a second, the iron core shrinks to a neutron core, which is in turn crushed by the star's outer layers as they too collapse. The core heats up to a few billion degrees, and explodes in a supernova. Mind you, this takes place naturally over the course of several billion years; when the Shivans disrupt the process with a few minutes of subspace tinkering, their gravimetric distortions causing Capella's core to fuse before the sun has even finished depleting its remaining elements, then a supernova is the inevitable outcome.
d. Couldn't the juggernauts have been using inter-system jump nodes near the Capella star that the Alliance didn't know about?
I had always visualized system-to-system nodes as lying along the "edges" of any given star system, not smack in the middle. It seems unlikely that each juggernaut was jumping through a separate node--this would indicate that a large number of such nodes were bunched very closely together, something we have never seen--meaning that if such a jump point existed, it would be one very large node. In all the time that the GTVA has been studying subspace, we have never heard anything to suggest that "supernodes" exist in close proximity to stars. Therefore, I feel my theory that the Sathanas fleet creates its own node is more credible, in this respect.
Carefully observe the "End Game" FS2 cutscene. You will see that some juggernauts continue to activate their subspace "charges" while the other ships depart, even after the Capella star has already turned green--and, we assume, already been affected by whatever the armada did to it. When the main body of the fleet has departed, the charges on the ships left behind dissipate entirely, and the juggernauts themselves "go dark", their characteristically red glows fading to simple black.
Why do the stranded juggernauts power down? Do they know it is futile to try and attempt the explosion of Capella, and therefore make no effort to do so? Have the Shivans onboard these ships somehow been evacuated to those that escaped by means of a teleportation technology? We have seen no evidence of such capability on behalf of the Shivans (in fact, the FreeSpace Reference Bible provides a graphic description of Shivans physically leaping from ship-to-ship in the course of a battle), so this seems unlikely. Therefore, what conclusion are we to reach?
It is my own belief that the "marooned" juggernauts were using the full extent of their energies to sustain the artificial jump node while the other craft in the Shivan fleet made their escape. If we accept, for the moment, that the juggernauts are "alive" as some evidence suggests, then we could interpret the dimming of their surface lights as a form of "death". We know for certain that their subspace charges took some time to energize--at least three full days--and that by the same token, they were likely to be very intense. Left with no remaining energy, the Sathani--dead or dying--could only drift, derelicts in space, waiting for the supernova to overtake them. It sounds cliche, to be sure, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
e. If the Shivans needed a star, why didn't they use Gamma Draconis, the star seen through the nebular clouds, or the binary stars in the system with the Comm Nodes?
FS briefings tell us that Gamma Draconis is a remote system lacking in either planets or viable resources. Having no planets at all suggests that the Gamma Draconis star is probably small, and lacked the gravitational field necessary to pull together matter to create planets during its initial formation. Such a field would have been too weak for the Shivans to adapt to their own purposes. Similarly, the star seen in the Shivan nebula--a nebula which is, as Admiral Bosch tells us, the remnants of whatever star had lived and died there previously--must have been young and/or small, or it would have already consumed the nebular gases themselves. Lastly, the gravitational fields created by two stars feeding off one another are likely to be unpredictable, and thus unsuitable for the Shivans' needs.
f. But in Real Life, Gamma Draconis is a huge star. Surely it would be big enough for the Shivans to use.
This is an excellent point, one I am hesistant to even address. As much as I hate to shun reliable sources, I am afraid we must be forced to ignore some real-life astronomical statistics when dealing with the FreeSpace universe.
The folks at Volition are, by profession, game designers--and damn good ones at that, or I wouldn't have poured so much time into FreeSpace as I have. So far as we know, none of them are physicists who have any more basic knowledge of astronomy than you, me, or anyone we would meet on the street. I remember reading in an interview that an author was hired to create the main plotline for FS2, and we can safely assume that he, too, was just another average guy looking to get his paycheck. I find it very likely that rather than pick and choose star names to assign to various systems in accordance with their specific needs--a process that would have taken a tremendous amount of time--the Volition staffers simply randomly chose the names of popular stars, or stars that they happened to be fond of.
This supposition is not without some supporting evidence. Take Capella, as it is depicted in FS2: a system with one star, densely-populated, a center of industry, and the headquarters of the GTVA's 3rd Fleet. This would lead us to assume that either the planets in this system are suitable for habitation, or that the system itself is legion with installations fit for both residential and mining/production purposes.
In reality, Capella is a rather inhospitable place to be. The system itself contains at least ten stars, including the G-type giants Capella A and Capella B, which are generally those most-associated with the system. We never see any of these sister suns in FS2. Capella A and B are large stars, and have a narrow orbit around one another (about the distance from Earth to Venus), and the potential for a stable planetary orbit around either star is small. Even if planets were orbiting around Capella, those worlds would be severely irradiated by both stars, and would also be tidally locked, meaning that the same side of the planet would always face the sun (in the same way as the same side of the Moon always faces the Earth--hence, the "dark side of the Moon" is the side we never see). This eliminates the potential for planet-based life as we know it, leaving us to rely upon life existing upon heavily-trafficked space stations... something I view as being more than a little difficult with almost a dozen stars crowding the immediate vicinity.
The point I'm making is that for the purposes of our discussion, we should try to regard astronomical details as they are presented within FreeSpace itself, without turning to outside sources. I don't fault Volition in the least for randomly naming their star systems; it's a time-saving measure, and some games, like the Master of Orion series, provide random names to every star in the galaxy (with the exception of the homeworld, which has a pre-set name determined by species, a value the player can change) as selected from a set list of some 300 stars. It may not be the most realistic approach to take, but then again, the designers of these games hardly expect the vast majority of their fans to look into the titles with as much depth as we have.
g. Why would the Shivans worry about a Colossus fleet? Wouldn't they already know about Allied fleet strength from experience during the Great War?
This is not feasible for two reasons. The first is the theory that Shivan forces in normal space cannot communicate with forces residing at their subspace "home", but we will discuss this idea in a later section. The second, simpler reason is the simple fact that unlike the Shivans, Terran and Vasudan fleets actually make progress. So far as anyone knows, the Shivan species has remained essentially the same--if not stagnant--for the last eight thousand years, using the same kind of weaponry (as per the discoveries of the Vasudan scientists in Altair), and presumably, the same kinds of spacecraft. While there are notable additions to the Shivan fleet between the First and Second Great Wars, such as the Mara, the Astaroth, the Moloch, and the Ravana, just to name a few, there are also numerous "older" craft, such as the Basilisk, the Manticore, the Nephilim, the Seraphim, and several capital ships. The folks over in the Inferno camp would even have us believe that the Scorpion is still in use. In contrast, the GTVA is nearing completion of its switchover from the old "Great War relics", opting to incorporate faster, more capable, more destructive war machines.
Humanity's potential for adaptation should not be underestimated. We went from having no existing space program to landing on the moon in less than twenty years. In "The Great Hunt" (FS2), you'll even hear one of your wingmen muse about what a "miracle" it was the Alliance won the Great War, due to the lack of present-day technological advantages: shields (a slight continuity error, as Terrans and Vasudans only lacked energy shielding for a relatively short portion of the Great War, before using them throughout the remainder of the conflict), flak guns, and beam cannons.
h. You're full of it, buddy. The Shivans would never back down from a fight.
This is an understandable sentiment, but one disproven by the facts. Consider the following:
Firstly, if we accept that the Shivans operate with a hive mentality (something we will accept as true for the purposes of the essay), then we need not necessarily conclude that their reaction at Capella was one of "fear", per se. It would be in error to confuse the notion of "fear" with that of "self-preservation".
If there is any dominant principle in the animal kingdom, it is to stay alive. This is commonly observed in the "fight or flight" principle, which even humans possess; we either confront an enemy, or run away so that we might live to fight another day. This principle is more complex when applied to a hive society, as generally, there are no individuals; all drones or workers strive for the good of the colony, and may very well be willing to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of that goal. However, this should not lead us to conclude that mass suicide is acceptable by default; if all the drones in a hive society are killed, who will be left to support the hive itself? In Robert Heinlein's classic Starship Troopers, a group of the grotesque "Bugs" (also called Arachnids, the book's main "bad guys") have surrounded a space marine who is shielding himself behind a bulbous "brain bug" which serves as the controlling influence for the hive's workers. The "warrior" Bugs screech in protest and frustration, unable to attack the hiding marine; if they do, they risk killing the brain bug itself, destroying the hive hierarchy and silencing the source of their own commands. In effect, the Bugs would be comitting suicide.
For that reason, you Shivan fans out there should not think of the Shivans as being "afraid" of the GTVA. Rather, you should think of them as regrouping and marshalling their forces instead of risking complete decimation at the hands of a Colossus fleet. They are merely exercising good judgment in the face of the unknown. To paraphrase Heinlein himself, any race that possesses enough skill to construct spacecraft is not stupid.
Although the Shivans themselves are not the sort to often make retreat, they have done so on more than one occasion, when the situation calls for it. In "First Strike", the Shivan cruiser Taranis--low on supplies--attempts to retreat through the Beta Cygni jump node. Shivan cruiser group "Hellfire" tries to rejoin the primary Shivan fleet in Delta Serpentis, rather than lingering to do battle with the attacking GTA fighters, in a show of simple strategy. Even the Demon-class destroyer Beleth gives priority to making the jump to Capella instead of powering down its engines to combat the Vasudan corvette Thebes and the player's remaining bomber wings. This is either because the Beleth does not believe it can survive a bomber attack, or is more focused upon providing reinforcement to the Sathanas. In either case, the destroyer's first concern cannot be the engagement of the nearby GTVA forces, or it would not bother making such a run for the jump node. This is just one more indicator of the Shivan strategic mindset: self-preservation and accomplishing orders take priority over enaging every target of opportunity. This is further evidenced with the first Sathanas, which breezes through to Capella without remaining to mop up the surviving bombers, and by the juggernaut fleet itself, which proceeds on course straight to the Capella star without engaging nearby GTVA warships.
But then, why do the Shivans throw swarms of fighters and bombers at the Alliance with such apparent abandon? The simple answer is that this in itself is not a bad strategy; overwhelming numbers have determined the outcome of many a battle in the course of history. However, we should also take note of the benefits vs. costs standpoint. In the briefing preceding "Their Finest Hour", Admiral Petrarch informs us that the GTVA has suffered over one hundred thousand casualties, a figure which probably includes all military craft and civilian transports. Given the Shivans' military superiority, we will arbitrarily assign them one-tenth the casualties at a figure of 10,000 in terms of fighters and bombers for the purposes of this discussion. This figure in itself is admittedly optimistic, for not every pilot in the GTVA can be a Triple Ace and mop up some 400 Shivans over the course of his or her career. If we include all capital ship classes ranging from crusiers and up, we can probably double this number to 20,000, perhaps 25,000; if we assume the Sathanas has at least the same crew capacity as the Colossus (the actual figure is probably smaller, for we can assume the Shivans are more efficient in terms of space than either Terrans or Vasudans, and are able to operate their ships with smaller crews), then the number balloons to around 50,000 or 60,000.
If we accept a static figure of 30,000 for a Sathanas crew (acknowledging our uncertainty), and multiply that number by 85 (as we are told there are "more than eighty" juggernauts, but apparently less than ninety), and add this product to our previous figure of 60,000, we are left with a rough estimate of what the Shivans would view as their potential losses in a full-blown shootout with the GTVA: a staggering 2.6 million Shivans, more than twenty times the casualties of the GTVA, even when taking into account the destruction of the Colossus. This is a considerably larger investment than the dozens of "throwaway" Shivans in any given fighter or bomber squadron. Faced with such tremendous losses to their active forces, it is not difficult to imagine why the Shivans would choose to make a strategic retreat.
As for the notion of the theoretical "Colossus fleet" itself, remember that GTVA space is pretty big; not large, perhaps in a galactic sense, but still consisting of some 23 star systems, excluding Sol and Capella. If the GTVA did possess a Colossus armada, it would make sense for them to evenly distribute these vessels throughout their borders, rather than lumping them all together in one particular system. As anyone will tell you, capital ships are relatively slow-moving; even the vaunted Sathanas only has a top speed of 25m/s, with the Colossus matching this velocity. If a Colossus were stationed on the fringes of GTVA territory, in Alphard or even Altair, it would take quite a while to make the complex system of subspace jumps needed to reach Vega. You can rest assured that the Shivans weren't able to round up their own armada in a matter of hours, either. Being intelligent creatures, they would have known a small window of time existed for them to act before the GTVA would have been fully prepared for a confrontation. With this in mind, discretion was "the better part of valor", so to speak, permitting the Shivans to retreat and lick their wounds.
Think of the matter in this fashion. The massing of the juggernaut fleet to destroy Capella must have one of two purposes: either as an offensive or defensive action. If we assume that the Shivans are efficient creatures, then the first option stands upon shaky ground; to destroy every star system in GTVA space would be extremely time-prohibitive, and it would be much faster to evenly disperse the Sathanas armada throughout Allied space, instead. This time delay would be amplified if the Shivans lost a percentage of the fleet to every supernova, because these ships would need to be replaced. For these reasons, we will assume the Shivan actions are defensive in nature. The Shivans may have originally rallied the juggernauts in preparation to invade the GTVA, but since the juggernauts all headed for the Capella star instead of moving to adjacent systems, we know that some crucial event must have changed the Shivans' minds in order to necessitate a withdrawal of their forces.
For clarification, we will ask ourselves the precise cause of the Shivan retreat. We are left with four possible scenarios:
1. The Shivans deploy all of their juggernauts to the nearest compatible star in order to save them from destruction at the hands of the GTVA's Colossus battlegroup (meaning the destruction of the Comm Nodes is unimportant).
2. The juggernaut fleet (consisting of the original nine) is intended as an invasion force, but following the destruction of the vital Comm Nodes by SOC forces, the Shivans choose to gather all of their forces for a full retreat as opposed to an attack (meaning the Shivans held no regard for the possibility of a Colossus fleet).
3. The Shivans send the whole of their armada to Capella to make a retreat, but the destruction of the Comm Nodes speeds up the evacuation process.
4. The Shivans destroy the Capella star to collapse the outgoing jump nodes (since all inter-system jump nodes lead to systems with at least one star, and presumably, no such nodes can exist without a star's gravity to support them), thereby sealing off Gamma Draconis and the rest of "Shivan space" from potential GTVA invasion; a similar strategy to that employed by the GTVA.
Any option is, on the surface, equally likely, but information in the next section gives credence to the third theory.
i. I'm still a little fuzzy on the whole "Comm Node = Life Support" thing. Can you clarify?
As I mentioned earlier, the role of the Shivan Comm Node as a subspace energy device is largely conjecture on my part, but conjecture that is supported by the facts. The destruction of the Comm Nodes and the retreat of the juggernaut fleet may simply be nothing more than a coincidence; we will never know for certain what would have happened if Commander Snipes had opted not to destroy the devices. However, consider this:
1. "In the Lion's Den" is considered by many--including myself--to be the most compelling and exciting of all the FreeSpacmaroonedwarriore missions. It provides a unique perspective from the cockpit of the Shivan Mara, an exhilirating intro ("DIVE, DIVE, DIVE!"), and witty commentary throughout by Snipes. It also gives the player the first real glance at Shivan "space", unobscured by thick nebular clouds. Wouldn't you think it somewhat anti-climactic, therefore, for the main targets in this mission to be little more than glorified satellite dishes?
2. Don't you think the Comm Nodes make unusually big bangs upon their destruction, if they are really simple communications equipment? The Alliance has studied Shivan comm systems before, but these give off "unusual" sensor readings before they go kablooey. Why?
3. The SOC recon mission signifies the first real Allied incursion into strictly Shivan territory (as the nebula itself remains contested throughout much of the game), and is perhaps the first such "invasion" that the Shivans have ever experienced at the hands of an adversary. With their first juggernaut destroyed and the Alliance advancing ever-further into their space, the Shivans are left with no choice but to switch to more effective tactics.
4. The binary system where the Comm Nodes are discovered is heavily-defended. Secured within a Shivan fighter, you are able to conduct espionage, a tactic with which the Shivans are likely to be unfamiliar (as, to the best of our knowledge, it was used against them only once, and against a totally different fleet, in "Playing Judas"). Thus, you are able to fly freely (for a short while) among the Shivan defenses, composed of at least three Rakshasa-class cruisers, numerous Astaroth and Aeshma fighters, several wings of Nahema bombers, and--if you stick around long enough--infinite waves of the awesome Dragon-class fighters. Even when you are engaged by the Shivans, you are piloting one of their heavily armed craft, one that has been made even better than the original by Terran engineers. Had you arrived on the scene in a lesser craft, like a Herc II, a Perseus, or even a Myrmidon, your chances of survival would have been much lower, due both to your more fragile craft, and the fact that you would have been instantly recognized and fired upon by the Shivans. In all probability, the Ravana-class destroyer Nebiros would also have been recalled from its station more quickly, so that it would sooner engage your fighter wing.
All of these factors suggest that the Shivan Comm Nodes serve a purpose far more important than your average radio.
j. Isn't the disruption of enemy communications important to any war?
Normally, this would be true, except that this late into the war against the Shivans, disrupting their communications would have no effect on the outcome. It would make the mission as a whole rather pointless if that were the sole objective.
k. If the Shivans need subspace energy to survive, couldn't their ships make a short subspace jump in order to "recharge"?
I considered this possibility myself, but from a biological standpoint, it seems infeasible. Subspace isn't something the Shivans can just pick up a pint of and chug down on their way to a sortie; the unstable nature of subspace energy means it would dissipate quickly. You certainly don't see Shivan vessels hopping in and out of subspace every few minutes when they need a "fix".
Think of subspace being to Shivans as to what oxygen is for human beings. We breathe, but healthy people breathe regularly, without significant interruption. We can hold our breath, but not for any reasonably long period--a few minutes, at the most, unless you're a freak and it's something you make a point to practice. We don't breathe in frequent gasps; oxygen is all around us, ready to be inhaled at our leisure. For the Shivans, however, subspace energy is more than simple air; it is the very essence of their beings, literally their life-force. It is something they would require in a ready, constant stream, something to sustain their existence on our material plane. Hence, our theorized purpose for the Shivan "Comm Nodes".
l. If the Shivans' goal is to preserve subspace integrity, wouldn't they sacrifice themselves rather than destroy Capella and risk creating a black hole?
Not all stars create black holes upon going nova; a star must (in theory) meet certain criteria in terms of mass before a black hole will result from its demise. Surely, as subspace-conserving beings, the Shivans would be careful not to open jump portals by destroying stars that would only serve to cause subspace damage in the long run. This is just one more reason for the Shivans to choose to utilize Capella instead of searching their "home" space for a star with the right qualifications.
m. Could the Shivans have destroyed Capella for the sake of creating a nebula from which to harvest gas?
Unlikely. Nebulae are very, very large, on the order of light-years across. The nebula existing beyond Gamma Draconis would have provided an abundance of gas to the Shivans, to say the least; it's difficult to fathom circumstances under which A) their manufacturing has reached such a level that they're actually suffering a gas shortage, and B) they'd be willing to sacrifice so many juggernauts to procure said gas.
n. If the Shivans were retreating from Capella, then why didn't the other Shivan craft in-system try to escape?
Who's to say they didn't? It seems rather apparent that when Capella goes supernova, the lesser Shivan craft within the system are otherwise occupied with Allied forces; it would be a little difficult for a Shivan cruiser to jump out when engaged in a duel with an Allied corvette. The real question here, however, is the availability of escape routes. The "main" jump node leading to Vega is successfully guarded from Shivans by the GTCv Lemnos, and even if we accept the existence of other "hidden" nodes within the system which only the Shivans have charted, it is extremely unlikely that enough inter-system jump points exist for the Shivans to make a clean getaway. As we've discussed, sacrificing cruisers and smaller craft in an attempt to kill the Allied refugees would be acceptable, but the clear majority of the Shivan forces are stationed upon the juggernauts; it is they who have priority to survive.
That said, we've figured out why the Shivans went where they did; the remaining question is, where did they go?
We mentioned earlier that a "home" of one sort or another is necessary as a concept to keep the Shivans' numbers in check. Providing them with a fixed base of operations gives us a place in which their various craft are constructed, and in a sense, provides us with a "goal" of our own; presumably, if the Shivan camp is destroyed or otherwise blockaded, the Great War will come to a permanent end.
As to the exact nature of the Shivan home--which, for the purposes of this essay, we shall refer to as "Cocytus" (named for the lowest level of Dante's Hell, literally frozen over by the flapping of Satan's wings)--we can only speculate. Cocytus may very well be some sort of planet secluded deep within subspace, but given the Shivans' total disregard for planets in our own universe (the FreeSpace Reference Bible makes a point to reveal that the Shivans used no ground troops of any kind during the siege on Vasuda Prime, further reinforcing this sense of disinterest in planets), this seems unlikely. At the same time, this suggests that there is technically no "Shivan space" in our dimension to speak of, meaning that the juggernaut fleet did not destroy Capella in order to seal this territory off. It is more probable that Cocytus is some kind of installation or station, likely composed of the same crystalline material pervading Shivan architecture.
Specifics on Shivan construction have been a matter of some debate. There are those who despise the suggestion that the Shivans might "grow" their vessels, but with a crystalline base material, it is the most likely conclusion. Specific subsystems such as sensors and weaponry are probably added later, after the initial crystal mold has fully matured. This lends credence to the idea that at least some Shivan craft are "alive", as evidenced by the unusual dexterity shown by the juggernaut armada shortly before the destruction of Capella.
While we can only guess at Cocytus's true nature, our knowledge of the Shivans and of subspace helps to provide us with some general guidelines. If the Shivans originate in subspace, then the location they select for Cocytus--or the location at which they inherently reside, whichever is applicable--would exist as a sort of "subspace hub": a location isolated in subspace, existing in a set place, but at the same time, possessing access to all other points within subspace. If Cocytus existed within a standard subspace corridor, then surely the Shivans would have preserved their juggernauts and simply used the correct node to return home instead of making such a sacrifice and destroying an entire star. Therefore, it is likely that Cocytus exists in a place "set apart" from regular subspace, on a level that is more difficult to reach. If subspace is water in a large fish tank, then Cocytus is a bubble resting in the middle.
a. If the Shivans can travel to any point in subspace--and, by the same token, any point in normal space--then why don't they just jump their whole fleet into the heart of the GTVA?
Dialogue in "Straight, No Chaser" reveals that intense subspace fields can disrupt the arrival coordinates of objects currently in subspace transit, as evidenced when the GVD Psamtik jumps in some 9,000 meters off-course from Knossos 2. The Shivans, having to jump into normal space from inside subspace itself--the theoretical center of subspace, in fact--are no doubt hindered by very intense subspace influences. This would still not prevent the Shivans from sending a large force deep into GTVA space, but there are secondary reasons explaining their inability to do so.
Firstly, we have established that Shivan activity is proportional to the amount of subspace activity produced by a spacefaring race--meaning that the greater subspace traffic a given race produces, the more likely the Shivans are to inervene. Shivans do not perceive the locations of star systems and planets as we do--because, to the best of our knowledge, these things do not exist in subspace--but instead perceive coordinates as the locations of subspace disturbances (this is not to say that the Shivans cannot map physical space once they are here, because the Lucifer fleet was able to determine the locations of Vasuda Prime and Sol during the Great War). These are what draw their attention, as did the Ancients eight thousand years ago, the Terrans and Vasudans during the T-V War, and the activation of the Knossos portal. Without notable subspace activity, the Shivans cannot pinpoint a location to which they can sortie their forces from Cocytus.
Secondly, for reasons unknown, the Shivans do not seem capable of sending messages from normal space back to Cocytus. If they were able to do so, they most certainly would have called for reinforcements following the destruction of the Lucifer during the Great War, or would have sent for larger, more destructive vessels as opposed to evacuating their armada of juggernauts. This is especially odd considering that even Terrans and Vasudans are capable of sending radio messages back and forth through the subspace barrier; perhaps it is a limitation of the Shivans' quantum pulse communication methods. The Shivans apparently deploy their forces from Cocytus to normal space in bulk, allowing them to call in backup from adjacent systems or previously deployed forces, but not request support from Cocytus itself. This also means that--barring the presence of enough resources to generate a strong enough jump node--any Shivan forces deployed from Cocytus are effectively stranded in normal space.
Thirdly, even if we accept that the Shivans are able to jump wherever and whenever they please, sending the whole of the Shivan fleet directly into the middle of GTVA space would not have been a very prudent decision, from a strategic standpoint. We know from Volition comments that--despite much in-game commentary to the contrary--Ross 128 was not the first system to fall under Shivan attack. In the FreeSpace Developer's Mailing List archives, Adam Pletcher states, in effect, that the Shivan forces approached Ross 128 through fringe systems of far less importance, so loss of contact with them was not an alarming thing. From all indications, the Shivans prefer to strike at the edges of an enemy's territory, and on multiple fronts. This wasn't possible in FS2, because the Shivans had only one point of entry into GTVA space. The Shivans like to "test the waters", so to speak. Assuming they could make an accurate jump into the middle of enemy territory, they would not do so, because such a tactic amounts to a suicide mission. The Shivans in the Great War had no prior contact with the GTA or the PVE, and would have known nothing of their weaponry or fleet capabilities; if the Allies were perhaps thirty or forty years more advanced in the way of technology, they would have been able to outmatch the Lucifer fleet, making such an attack a useless strategy. Instead, the Shivans take a more cautious route, "feeling out" the GTA and PVE before launching deep-strike sorties.
b. If the Shivans really are a subspace-based species, how are they able to operate in physical space as well as they do if subspace contains no physical matter?
This is a very uncertain area in which we are forced to make educated guesses. FreeSpace itself provides virtually no canon background for the Shivans, leaving the question of their origins open to speculation. This is the theory I propose.
If we hold as true the generally-accepted theory that the Universe as a whole is approximately 13 or 14 billion years old, we still have no idea as to when subspace came into existence to provide support for said Universe. The cosmos would have been in an understandable state of disarray following the Big Bang, so we will allot a considerable amount of time for things to "settle down", and assign the birth of subspace an arbitrary age of 5 billion years. This is roughly the same age of the Earth, meaning we can accept it as a reasonable date for when the Universe became a more or less stable place for life to exist.
As for the Shivans themselves, we can only speculate as to when they first evolved within the subspace void. Since they would have no bodies to speak of, they would have had relatively little need for evolution (barring their creation or construction by a higher entity or race). This could mean that the Shivans are quite young in historical terms, perhaps no more than a million years. However, since subspace itself seems to be a fairly static environment, devoid of change or substance to bring about change (save for the apparently random formation and collapse of unstable nodes), we can assume that the Shivans were not "brought into being" by any subspace material that was not already present when subspace stabilized, and can therefore assign them a date of creation around or near the birth of subspace itself. Again, this will be an arbitrary figure of some 4 or 5 billion years ago.
The Shivans' first foray into "normal" space is a total unknown to us. It would have been dependent on the emergence of a non-Shivan subspace-capable race at an indeterminate point in the past. If we must assign a date to this time for the sake of completeness, then let us use some Earth reference as the standard for our scale.
Assume, first, that this unknown race is terrestrial in nature, and evolves on a world either similar to Earth, or one that would have the proper conditions to foster the growth of complex life forms. Now, in a judgment call on our part, we will accept Earth's late Triassic period as being the earliest era in which large, multi-capable, vertebrate life--namely, the dinosaurs--can exist (something we know to be false, as vertebrates existed prior to this time, but many were wiped out in various extinctions; dinosaurs, however, are very well-recognized creatures, and provide us with a fixed reference point), at about 225 million years ago. We will also grant these creatures comparatively larger brains than said reptiles, perhaps on par with early human beings, allowing us to bypass the problem of gradual brain development, and continue our discussion in terms of figures we know to be approximately accurate.
Barring any world-altering event such as an ice age or asteroid collision, let us assume that the life forms currently living on our hypothetical world in this period are allowed to evolve, unopposed, into more intelligent creatures, able to fashion tools, metalwork, and soforth, until finally reaching a stage of relative technological advancement (computers, artificial satellites, and of course, subspace travel). This process took between 4 and 6 million years for human beings, so we will accept a mean figure of 5 million years for our alien society to advance, resulting in a nice, round figure of about 220 million years ago for the emergence of a subspace-capable race.
We can only wonder at what the Shivans must have thought when they felt the first subspace tremors. Perhaps they looked upon the walls of their dimension in the same way as early man looked upon the stormy sky, unable to comprehend the exact nature of the lightning bolts that split it asunder. As the Shivans follow a path of evolution and development unfamiliar to us, we have no way of knowing when they first began to experiment with ways to explore this phenomena, and determine its cause. Their initial science must have been crude, much like our own space program was, during its initial days. When did they manage to open the first portal into the material universe? We cannot know. Our knowledge of subspace, however, does permit us to form a rather grisly hypothesis about the first Shivans who dared to enter the rupture. We know that subspace is inherently unstable, both due to the brief formation/collapse of most nodes, and due to the fact that jump portals--once opened via jump drive--do not remain open for long, but quickly seal up after the vessel in question has entered the subspace corridor. If the Shivans are, in essence, living subspace energy, then their first explorers would have met a grotesque end, the very energy composing their beings dissipating and drifting off into the void.
Gradually, their techniques would have grown more cautious, more refined. They may have been able to catch brief glimpses of objects in the material dimension, and from their observations, begun to fashion the surrounding subspace energy into the first crimson containment crystals. From here, we see more progression; the advent of a protective crystal sheath to protect Shivan "astronauts". Modifying this material to make it more malleable, more flexible, permitting for physical movement. Developing an energy shielding system and other supporting materials to prevent crystalline degradation in outer space. Realizing the concept of an energy-driven engine to allow for independent locomotion in the vacuum. Creating electronics systems to properly operate said engines, and fashioning the hulls of their first vessels on which to install them. And, of course, a field of research into which the Shivans are most proficient: the development of energy weapons to discourage or kill whomever was wreaking harm upon their home.
Of course, the Shivans of this era may not have been even remotely war-like; initially, the first physical Shivans may have been very peaceful and serene indeed. Perhaps, after initial communication difficulties, the Shivans were able to convince our hypothetical race to put an end to their subspace travel... and then again, perhaps they weren't. We have no way of knowing. What we know for certain is that eventually, the Shivans would have encountered resistance, come into contact with a race that absolutely refused to surrender the benefits of the subspace corridor.
And the Shivans would have crushed them. Brutally, without mercy, for there would have been no other option. After this first genocide, the Shivans may have felt remorse, even guilt, for what they had been forced to do. We do not know when their hive mentality developed, or if it was a trait they possessed since the time of the birth of their race; it may have emerged as a psychological defense mechanism, to prevent them from feeling sorry for the species they were forced to annihilate.
And there must have been others. Surely the Shivans encoutered more than one race across the eons who would not give up the prize of subspace. How many had to die? We have no indication, not the faintest estimate. If Bosch's guess is true, then the casualty figure is truly astronomical in scope: countless civilizations, entire species wiped clean from the cosmic canvas. Each and every one providing the Shivans with the same, simple, damning answer: "No."
How long was it, I wonder, before the Shivans finally stopped bothering to ask?
c. If the Shivans are as skilled with subspace as we think them to be, then why don't their shields function there?
This supports my belief that Shivan shields were originally developed to help them maintain their integrity in our dimension, not to defend against attacks. The shields do not function in subspace simply because they were not designed to; within subspace itself, the Shivans would have no need for them.
d. "Living ships" are stupid.
Again, an idea that science fiction has made use of for years, and has even been considered by contemporary science.
e. No Shivan reinforcements were available during the Great War because the FS2 box art canonically states that the Lucifer armada was nothing more than a scouting party.
I feel it necessary to decry the labeling of the FS2 box art as being "canon text". C'mon guys, I give you more credit than that. The wording on the box was probably handled by Interplay anyway, and therefore serves as advertising hype, not as evidence we can use in a comprehensive analysis. Use your common sense; would a scouting party, i.e., one intended for reconaissance, consist of innumerable fighters and bombers, several cruisers and transports, at least three major destroyers, and a heavy-assault superdestroyer almost three kilometers in length, equipped with an impervious energy shielding system and three flux cannons suited for planetary bombardment?
"Scouting party". Geez.
f. The juggernauts that destroyed Capella must have been called in from Cocytus. The Shivans would have no advantage in holding a fleet of that size back until the endgame. Either these ships were reinforcements from Cocytus, or they were already present in our dimension.
You're half-right. We can work out a solution that allows the Sathanas armada to have prior station in our dimension (as our earlier explanation of how some Shivan craft are bound to be "stranded" here demonstrates) while still sparing the Alliance from an early-game Sathanas "rush".
Remember that the Shivans are probably efficient creatures. They must balance their needs between swiftly ending a conflict and preventing needless sacrifice of their own legions. A Sathanas-class juggernaut--the largest canon vessel we know for certain to exist in the Shivan fleet--was probably considered to be a suitable weapon against the Alliance. Why would the Shivans waste the time and effort of deploying dozens, when one would suffice?
Thus have we set down, to the best of our ability, the origins, objectives, and capabilities of the Shivan race. We are left with one final question: can there ever be a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict between the Shivans and the GTVA? Might it be possible for the Shivans to convince other races to refrain from using subspace travel, as opposed to killing them outright?
The unfortunate answer to our query is no. There are two primary reasons as to why the Shivans are unlikely to ever see eye-eye-eye-to-eye with the Terrans and Vasudans:
1. The Shivans absolutely cannot risk the chance that any race they approach would refuse to give up subspace travel. Even if present-day humanity somehow discovers the secrets of lightspeed travel, the nearest star to Earth (with the exception of Sol) is Proxima Centauri (commonly called Alpha Centauri), at 4.2 light-years away. Abolishing subspace travel would effectively disband the entire GTVA, as well as destroy the capacity for space travel and exploration, as well as disrupt the galactic economy. For the Shivans, however, the matter is not one of convenience, but of survival.
2. The GTVA has had little success combining Shivan technology with their own systems. Upon the first capture of a Shivan fighter in "Playing Judas", Terran technicians couldn't get the weapons or afterburners to work, and the jump drive frequently malfunctioned. The GTD Hades registered as having some Shivan electronic components, but since that vessel was destroyed, the level of successful Terran/Shivan integration is unknown. The Terran-modified Mara fighters used in "In the Lion's Den" proved more successful in terms of performance, but their blue engine glows and the use of Terran weapons suggest that Terran engineers could not successfully utilize the subspace crystal reactors, meaning that even if the Shivans were to provide "subspace-friendly" engines technology to the GTVA, the technology could not be properly used. The closest GTVA equivalent to Shivan weaponry, the Kayser laser, is "based upon" Shivans weapon design, meaning it may be either better, or worse than the genuine article; but such a point is moot when we consider that no similar research has been conducted upon Shivan engines, bringing the GTVA no closer to solving the subspace-deterioration crisis. It is not likely the Shivans would be willing to wait for the Terrans and Vasudans to perfect the science.
Faced with these facts, we reach a saddening, sobering conclusion: the only possible outcome to the Great War is xenocide, either of the Shivans, or of the member races of the GTVA.
a. The Alliance went from having a broken-down Dragon during the Great War to well-performing Mara fighters in FS2. Wouldn't they eventually be able to recreate Shivan engine technology?
Perhaps, but the key element here would be the time frame in which the Alliance is free to research the technology. Although some progress has doubtlessly occured over the last three decades, Allied understanding of Shivan materials is probably mediocre, at best. We can assume that the GTVA has a sizeable stockpile of captured Shivan equipment; if the GTI was able to experiment upon captured Shivan specimen, then those Shivans must have been on board something, be they fighters, bombers, transports, or cruisers. If Allied technicians had a detailed understanding of Shivan workings, however, then they would be able to regularly incorporate those features into Allied designs, instead of utilizing Shivan technology only when they are able to secure Shivan craft. Our point of focus is Shivan engines, however, and unless the Alliance can master those, then their other expertise in Shivan tools--be they weapons, armor, or something else altogether--becomes moot. It's unlikely that the Shivans would be willing to simply sit idly by and wait for the Alliance to perfect the process.
Thus is my attempt to solve the Shivan mystery. Some of you may agree with my conclusions, and others may not, but in either case, I have tried to support my points with canonical evidence, when available. As I said, many of my answers draw upon assumptions that cannot be readily-supported, but I believe the plan I have laid out makes some degree of sense, nonetheless.
Forgive me if some of my ideas seem disjointed, or in the wrong order--i.e., if you see an idea you believe belongs in a different section of the document. This essay has been steadily growing, and edited in haphazard fashion; the larger it becomes, the more difficult the edits are to make.
I hope the preceding discussions meet with your approval. Whether you like them or hate them, they are here for your perusal and criticism. Most of all, I very much wonder what the folks at Volition--the only ones who will ever know the real secrets behind the Shivan menace--would think of the Shivan Manifesto.
The Shivan Manifesto is the intellectual property of S.R.H.
The FreeSpace Universe and all related trademarks are the property of Volition Inc. and are used here without permission. This essay is intended for the purposes of discussion, not profit.
Texts for the monologues of Admiral Aken Bosch, the Ancients, and the FS1 "pilot" are taken (with minor corrections) from Karajorma's FreeSpace FAQ and used here without permission.
The entry on the Shivans from the FS2 technical database is taken from Tech FreeSpace and used here without permission.
Special thanks to my editor Sybiene and all the FreeSpace fans at Hard Light Productions, without whom this essay would not be possible.
b. Who is Admiral Bosch?
Aken Bosch was a Terran pilot who took part in quelling the GTI's "Hades Rebellion" against the GTA in 2335. Being forced to fight against his fellow Terrans apparently caused Bosch to grow disenchanted with the Terran government, and would later lead him to defect from the GTVA (with the forces of the 4th Fleet, under his command) to form the Neo-Terran Front in 2366. The governments of Regulus and Sirius defected to the NTF soon after.
Bosch's rebellion was in reality little more than a smokescreen; while the GTVA was occupied with the rebel forces, Bosch himself plundered the sites of Ancient archaeological ruins in GTVA space. Using the information he collected, Bosch was able to determine the location of the Knossos subspace portal, and--when the NTF collapsed in 2367--flee through the portal into the Shivan-controlled nebula.
Bosch developed a communications technology--code-named ETAK--which was based on modified quantum pulses. Bosch hoped to use this device to make contact with the Shivans; he did, on at least two seperate occasions. Bosch and his command crew were abducted by Shivan forces and taken away aboard an Azrael-class transport.
The current status of Admiral Aken Bosch--including his whereabouts, or whether he is alive or dead--is unknown.
c. What is the Neo-Terran Front?
The NTF was Bosch's rebel organization, a faction which sought to establish a new era of "Terran superiority" in the GTVA and to restore the lost grandeur of the planet Earth, isolated from the GTVA since 2335. The ideology of the NTF included severing all ties with the Vasudan race, with whom Bosch believed humanity had no future, and establishing an alliance with the Shivans. Bosch himself held no animosity toward the Vasudans, but used Terran prejudices toward their race to garner support for the NTF movement.
The NTF collapsed following Bosch's retreat through the Knossos subspace portal.
d. Who were the Ancients?
The Ancients were a technologically advanced race that once controlled an interstellar empire encompassing a large portion of the Milky Way galaxy. The Knossos subspace portals were constructed by the Ancients, and artifacts left behind by their civilization enabled Aken Bosch to locate and activate one of these portals. Ancient records also allowed fighters from the GTD Bastion to hunt down and destroy the SD Lucifer en route to Earth in 2335, collapsing the Delta Serpentis-Sol jump node.
The Ancient race is believed to have been annihilated by Shivan forces roughly eight thousand years ago. Whether or not any members of the civilization survived the war against the Shivans is unknown.
e. What was the Hammer of Light?
Soon after the Shivans emerged in 2335, Terran and Vasudan diplomats negotiated a treaty to end the Terran-Vasudan War, which had been in progress for fourteen years. However, one Vasudan faction calling itself the Hammer of Light refused to honor the peace treaty. The HOL was comprised of Vasudan fanatics who believed the coming of the Shivans fulfilled an old Vasudan prophecy fortelling the arrival of an all-powerful race that would destroy the current universe to pave the way for a newer, better one. HOL forces pledged to "assist" Shivan craft by attacking Allied forces, even though the Shivans themselves attacked HOL craft and installations without hesitation.
After the Great War ended and the Shivan threat had passed, support for the HOL waned, and most members surrendered themselves to the authorities. The movement was finally crushed in 2346 during Operation Templar.
f. What was the Hades Rebellion?
Following the end of the Great War in 2335, rogue elements of Galactic Terran Intelligence attempted to usurp the GTA government. They made use of advanced stealth technologies and attempted to combine Terran and Shivan technology together into a massive destroyer designated Hades in an apparent attempt to create a ship on par with the SD Lucifer. GTI pilots still loyal to the GTA fought against and defeated the traitors, destroying both the Hades and the GTI's base of operations. Aken Bosch participated in the operations against the GTI rebels, and would later use GTI information on captured Shivan specimen--classified in the aftermath of the rebellion--to assist in the construction of his ETAK device.
g. When is Armageddon?
The Great War ends: Christmas 2004