Mass Effect: IC-342 (Ironsworn: Starforged) Session 0
Mass Effect: IC-342, an Ironsworn: Starforged solo campaign playthrough.
Session Zero: Foundational Material (Updated Periodically)
Unofficial Soundtrack For Mass Effect: IC-342
September 28, 2186
“Director Calderone,” The Illusive Man gestured, leaning back in his chair. “Tell me about the Zeioph Relay.”
“Our first waves of probes are already sending back telemetry,” the projection of Director Calderone flickered as he pressed his hands together. “It’s as we expected. The relay that the Zeioph were building on Eingana three hundred and fifty thousand years ago is unique. It’s the first and only intergalactic relay we’ve seen.”
“What does it connect to?” The Illusive Man asked.
“Some kind of primary relay, in the galaxy we call IC-342, about three and a half megaparsecs distant, but the relay there is far, far older than the Zeioph Relay. It’s unlike any kind of technology we’ve ever seen.”
“So not built by the Reapers.”
“I– can’t say,” Joseph Calderone hesitated, his breath catching. “We don’t know who built it, or why. Our best guess is that it is like an anchor, and the Zeioph discovered how to link up with it.”
“Can it be destroyed?” The Illusive Man asked.
“I–” The director paused, then remembered who he was dealing with. “I believe it could be.”
“You don’t sound confident, director.”
“I– I’m confident that the Zeioph Relay on this side can be destroyed,” Joseph responded, trying to steady himself, forcing some firmness into his voice. “Only one relay needs to be destroyed in order to close the passage between our galaxy and IC-342.”
“Then I want the relay on our side rigged to explode, and I want the preparations for that contingency to take top priority,” the Illusive Man seemed to look right into Director Calderone’s soul as he stubbed out his cigarette. “When the Reapers come, and they will come, your team will be responsible for vaporizing the Zeioph Relay on this side. I don’t think I need to remind you that we can’t afford to let even one Reaper through that relay, or to let the technology itself fall into Reaper hands.”
“No, no sir,” Director Calderone swallowed. “I’ll have my team make the preparations immediately.”
“Good,” The Illusive Man leaned forward. “The first of the colony ships is on its way to the Omega Nebula now. You’ll be receiving them and sending them on their way to their new homes in IC-342 within a few hours. Will you be ready?”
“Absolutely,” Director Calderone lied, resisting the urge to brush the sweat from his brow.
The Forge Galaxy: IC-342
The Year Is Now 2188
We escaped the ravages of a catastrophic war. In late 2186, artificially Intelligent entities known as The Reapers invaded the Milky Way Galaxy through Batarian space and began their harvest of all sentient, spacefaring life in the galaxy, burning and corrupting everything in their path.
Mysterious alien gates provided instantaneous one-way passage to the Forge. When the Reapers discovered the Zeioph Relay that Cerberus had dredged from the eezo-polluted depths of Eingana, their forces immediately descended on the station, intent on capturing or destroying it. Instead of letting the relay fall into enemy hands, we blew it up ourselves, trapping a small colonization force of humans in The Forge Galaxy (IC-342) forever.
Few survived the journey to the Forge, and we are scattered to the winds in this perilous place. Only a handful of ships made it through the gate before it was destroyed. The relay on this side remains, but only a brave few have settled near it, taking up a reluctant guard position on Anchor Drop Station, a Cerberus-controlled outpost carved into an asteroid. As far as the local government is concerned, it is the seat of power for what remains of humanity in The Forge. Everyone else has spent the last two years trying to get as far away from it as they can.
Iron vows are sworn upon the remnants of ships that carried our people to The Forge. Many of the ships that came through the Zeioph Relay in the final wave were heavily damaged by Reaper fire. We cannibalized what we could of those ships, and the more superstitious of us took shards of hull plating to carry with us, shards that remind us of who we are and, maybe more importantly, what we've left behind.
Our communities are bound under the terms of the Covenant, a charter established by Director Joseph Calderone and his immediate subordinates in Cerberus after the Exodus. Not everyone believes in the charter, and there are plenty of groups that have broken away from Cerberus-led governance since our arrival in the forge. Relationships between human colonies are tense, and subtle challenges to the power structure are constantly evolving.
Our faith is as diverse as our people. No one in Cerberus knew exactly how much time we would have before the Reapers would discover the Zeioph Relay and the project to open passage to IC-342, so the first ships to cross through were the most diversely populated. Practitioners of all the major faiths made it to the Forge Galaxy, and in the wake of losing everything, many others have turned to faith for answers. Some have even started to worship what they call Precursors, making gods of a fallen, yet highly advanced race of aliens who dwelt within the Forge long ago.
Supernatural powers are wielded by those rare people we call biotics, and if there's anything that Cerberus is interested in cultivating, it's more human biotics.
In settled domains, a network of data hubs called The Weave allow near-instantaneous communication and data-sharing between ships and outposts. We haven't spread far enough into the Forge for our basic, non-relay dependent communications to become ineffective, but the frontier is not all that far away.
Physicians and those with medical knowledge are few and often spread thin, but life-saving advanced care is available within larger communities, especially those near the relay.
AI is rare and unwelcome in most communities, but not outlawed outright. Cerberus continues research into Artificial Intelligence and into the merging of human intelligence with AI, but almost all of that work happens in isolation and in secret.
Professional soldiers defend or expand the holdings of those who are most loyal (and pay the most tribute) to Cerberus leadership. Everyone else is on their own.
This is a perilous and often inhospitable galaxy, but life finds a way, and so far, there appear to be far more planets with complex life on them than there were back in the Milky Way.
Over the eons, a vast number of civilizations rose and fell within the Forge. Today, the aliens we call "Grubs" delve into the mysterious monuments and ruins of those ancient beings. Has IC 342 been subject to the same kind of harvesting that has plagued the Milky Way for countless millennia? We haven't been here long enough for anyone to be able to say for sure. What I can tell you is that I have a bad feeling about all those dead civilizations we keep finding out here.
Put enough alcohol in a spacer, and they'll tell you stories of Reapers lurking in nebulae, or of whole colonies turned to husks. It's nonsense. We didn't bring any husks to IC 342.