Located at the far edge of the Scutum-Centaurus arm of the Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation of Cygnus, there existed a solitary star system. Its star was an F-class yellow dwarf that had entered into its main stage roughly three billion years ago. Orbiting this star was a total of twenty-three planets, two asteroid belts, a series of comets, and a myriad of moons.
Of all the planets found in this star system only one was of true scientific interest – the seventh planet. This planet was slightly larger than the planet Earth, and orbited its star at a rate of two-point-four standard years, with a single day rotation of just under forty seven hours. In turn, this planet was orbited by three natural satellites – a rocky small yellow moon, am icy medium blue moon, and a large volcanic red moon. The planet’s atmosphere was much like Earth’s, being made up of seventy-seven percent nitrogen, twenty-one percent oxygen, with small amounts of other gasses. Being positioned in what scientist considered the system’s “circumstellar habitable zone”, otherwise known as the “goldilocks zone”, liquid water had managed to form on its surface in great abundance. The water itself constituted about seventy-five percent of the planet’s surface, with the remainder of the planet’s surface given over to several large continents, and hundreds of small islands scattered throughout its seven oceans.
The formation of liquid water brought with it the perfect conditions for the development of life. However, unlike life that had developed on Earth, the life on this planet was not entirely based on interacting chains of carbon. If looked at under a microscope one would find that its DNA incorporated several metallic and inorganic elements, forming a type of biological alloy that was perfectly suited to coping with the planet’s unusually high level of what we would consider poisonous metals. This unique mutation caused the life of this planet to take on an eerily robotic appearance. How this strange twist of evolution occurred has never been fully understood despite countless hours of research. Suffice to say, this metal-based life thrived and proliferated in environments that we would find hostile - if not downright inhospitable.
Like all life it started simply, evolving from simplistic single-celled organisms into progressively more complex shapes and forms that we today would find familiar in appearance. It was born in the vast oceans were it fed off the solar energy emitted by the planet’s sun – in much the same way as plankton do, as well as around deep thermal vents found scattered across the planet’s ocean floors. As the millenniums progressed so too did evolution. What had once been simple single-celled organisms grew into multi-celled creatures that dominated the waters’ depths. From there life began to spread onto dry land. First came the forests of alloy-like grasses and jungles of tree-like plants; animal life followed. These animals quickly adapted to the new environments they found themselves in. Some taking on the characteristics we associate with herbivores, grazing on the overwhelming abundance of vegetation that dominated the landscape. Others took on the characteristics of carnivores, and preyed upon the weak, diseased, and young herbivores that had flourished in this progression of life.
Rise to Dominance
As time passed a singular species began to stand out from all the others. At first there was little to distinguish themselves from their simian cousins of the planet’s central continent. And then, ever so slowly, they began to stand upright, and show a degree of intelligence that we attribute to great apes and chimpanzees. With their increased intelligence came the use of tools. At first these tools were simple, just sticks and rocks used to help in the gathering of food; later these tools grew more complex to take on the appearance of primitive axes, daggers, and spears. This progression was in direct reflection of the species’ growing ability to learn, associate, and remember.
Eventually these humanoids became nomadic bands of primitive hunter-gatherers. As a “Stone Age” people they found life a continual struggle for survival. Roaming the wilderness in search for food and shelter presented many dangers. They were in constant competition with not only other predators, but also with each other. With no knowledge of medicine or preventive practices, sickness and disease were major killers, second only to predators and child-birth. Life expectancy was short, barely lasting more than a few decades.
The domestication of fire would prove to be a major boon to the species. It allowed them to advance in their evolutionary development. For the first time in the species’ history there was security from the cold, the darkness, and the fear that the night brought. Most importantly, though, this new security brought with it the opportunity to dream and invent. With this came the foundations of culture and society.
Birth of a Civilization
Roughly thirty thousand years would pass before the true signs of civilization would appear. By this time they had adopted an agricultural society, having learned to construct permanent settlements, and to domesticate animals. The discovery of smelting had transformed the way they hunted, fought, and lived. Moreover, the way they communicated had evolved. This new form of language allowed for the conveyance of complex ideas in comparison to the generalities of the past. The foundations of civilization as we know it had been born.
The Zoidayrians, as they called themselves, were a sophisticated people. They had developed extensive communities with feudal forms of government based around cultivating an agrarian society. However, these growing communities put a strain on what the land could produce. The demand for more land led communities to absorb their neighbors. Sometimes these integrations were peaceful; most of the time it was a violent and bloody affair – it was not unusual for wars to be fought over just a few acres of land. Each battle would result with one community being absorbed into another, creating larger, more robust communities that would eventually form into powerful fiefdoms.
Age of War
By this time warfare between fiefdoms was commonplace. These conflicts were highly ritualized, and extremely violent, with the losing side becoming sacrifices to the winner’s gods. As the fighting increased, the warlord kings began to seek new ways to dominate their enemies. The end result came in the form of the Mechabonicas. Originally they were nothing more than domesticated animals trained for war. Some served as mounts, carrying their riders into combat at a full charge. Others were used as siege weapons in the taking of fortified settlements. In most cases the introduction of such war beasts onto the battlefield was enough to turn the tide of the battle.
Eventually full scale war erupted amongst the kingdoms of the central continent that the Zoidayrians called “Dir’poay.” Each nation sought to dominate the others and lay claim to their lands. Each new battlefield confrontation brought more and more casualties. With the battles between neighboring nations growing fiercer and fiercer emperors and kings demanded a more effective way to defend their territories. Eager to expand their knowledge, Zoidayrian alchemists began searching for answers. The deeper they dug, and the more they experimented, the more they came to the conclusion that the key to winning the civil wars laid in the Mechabonicas. Through their dark sciences these alchemists transformed the way war was fought. In rituals more akin to magic than science Mechabonicas were fused with the most advanced weaponry and equipment of their times. Unveiled upon the Field of Honor, each new clash brought with it new war beasts, and new technologies to the point that modern human were quickly surpassed in a matter of a few centuries.
Rise to the Imperial
By the end of the Zoidayrians’ civil war only three governments remained – Zoidary, Metalon, and Zrk. Each was ruled over by a singular warrior king from whom the kingdoms were named after. Enriched by their war-gotten gains, and realizing that another war would end in the devastation of all three nations, the kingdoms agreed to an alliance – an alliance in the form of a single unified imperial republic.
There were those that naturally resisted the idea of a peaceful unification. Those that rose up against this coexistence were swiftly hunted down and put to death. However, with each quelled revolt another sprang up in its place. It was soon realized that something must be done before a full-scale revolution was ignited. It was decided that a contest would be put in place to sate the people’s bloodlust. These contests took the form of state sponsored gladiatorial games, in which warriors from far and wide would came to battle for fame and fortune in specially designed arenas.
With the passing of years the gladiatorial contests grew in popularity. The rush and excitement of public executions and staged murders was as a drug to the public. It was quickly evident that their addiction ran deep, and their appetite for carnage insatiable. It was inevitable that the Mechabonicas would be introduced into the games. The appearance of these former war beasts upon the arena floor proved to be infectious. The games grew more sophisticated, the rules more abstract. The violent blood-sport of a civilization was quickly refined into art.
The next five hundred years would see the Zoidayrian empire advance into a cultural renaissance. The longing for dreams made reality transformed the people as the arts and the sciences flourished in abundance. The life of the common individual had been elevated to one of leisure and indulgence. Moreover, Zoidayrian society had spread all throughout the planet; there was hardly a place to be found that one could not escape the sight of their towering bastion-like metropolises.
As their culture advanced so too did their views on the divine. Once, the Zoidayrians worshiped a pantheon of deities that dedicated themselves to war, victory, and death. It was through the belief in these warrior gods that they found the will to survive in a world of constant dangers, and the ability to unify themselves in a solitary nation. And yet, the belief in these gods and goddesses waned as the use of science and technology became everyday occurrences. In time, science came into the position of popular religion. Deities of knowledge and discovery were installed, and new idols were created in their image. Seemingly overnight museums became churches, scientists were elevated to the position of priest, their laboratories becoming shrines to the divine, and their papers and journals were as biblical scripture to the people.
And yet, every paradise has its serpents…
The abolishment of the old deities angered many. Not all Zoidayrians had fully forsaken their war-like ways in favor of this new, single world religion. They chafed under the rhetoric and practices of the technocratic papacy. Unable to continue the traditions handed down to them by their forefathers, they began to protest. It started out simply enough, with public rallies and peaceful demonstrations; it escalated into rioting mob of wanton destruction.
The Empire responded swiftly to this near-sudden outcry for the old ways, as it did in times long past. Protesters and advocates were arrested and put on mock-trials for “crimes against the State” only to be found guilty and executed as heretics. But as much as the Empire sought to squash the uprising, the more the Empire found that the old-ways ran deeper than they had imagined. The State quickly mobilized its armed forces, and declared martial law. Everyone was suspect, and many innocents were lost to the State’s paranoia. Yet, as hard as it tried, The State could not stop the religious revolt. The streets turned into battlefields between malcontents and Imperial enforcers. Not even the ever advancements in technology and anti-terrorist tactics could stem the rising anarchy…
As the Zoidayrians waged their civil war a threat of a different kind bore down upon the planet in the form of a rogue comet roughly twenty kilometers in diameter. Having originated from the opposite side of the sun, there had been little forewarning of its coming. By the time the Zoidayrians took notice it was too late.
The comet entered the planet’s atmosphere at a shallow angle, achieving speeds in excess of one-hundred thousand kilometers-per-hour upon contact with the planet’s mesosphere. It circled the planet twice, impacting at sixty-nine degrees north, fifty-three degrees, in of the Northern Continent’s eastern peninsula.
The impact itself was devastating. The energy released was on the scales of over one million megatons, and literally vaporizing the land and boiling away the waters that surrounded it. Tsunamis of unimaginable size inundated coastlines, drowning islands and continents alike. Once dormant volcanoes awoke with unbridled fury as impact shock-waves reverberated back and forth through the planet’s interior. Ash blanketed the skies, blocking out the sun in a matter of hours. The world as it was known had come to an end…
The planet was forever changed by the comet impact. The initial impact had caused half a continent to sink below the waves. The Central Continent was shattered into three pieces, and a new inland sea was created by the ensuing tidal waves in the center of the Eastern Continent. The atmospheric jet streams and oceanic belts had been disrupted, causing the planet’s weather to run wild with electromagnetic storms and hurricanes that dwarfed the continents they battered. Ash and dust that had been thrown up now enveloped the globe, blotting out sun as it rained down like finely abrasive snow. Temperatures fluctuate as scorching heat waves radiated out from ground zero only to be replaced by below freezing windstorms. Ice and snow quickly took hold, locking three-fifths of the planet in deep ice age.
Eighty percent of all animal and plant life was dead within the first five months. The first to die off was the majority of the plankton-like creatures, for without sunlight they could not generate the energy they needed for survival. In turn this sparked an escalating chain reaction with the next species on the food chain succumbing to hunger, starvation, and hypothermia. Those that had managed to survive did so by burying themselves deep within the earth, hiding from a world turned on its head, or scavenging off the corpses of those that succumbed to the elements.
The majority of Zoidayrians had been ill-prepared for the comet’s arrival. Their religious war had raged fiercely across the planet, and their attention had not been focused upon the stars. When the impact occurred many still held the belief that their gods of technology and war would save them. Those few that had managed to prepare had done so by stockpiling a wealth of supplies within deep underground bunkers. They in turn sealed themselves away from the rest of the world in these bunkers in hopes of outlasting the impact’s effects. Those unlucky enough not to have prepared founds themselves in a constant day-to-day struggle for life not seen since their primitive ape-like ancestors. Food and drink became a scarce and precious commodity. Sickness and disease, once held at bay by their sacred medications, now ran rampant and unchecked like never before. It was as if their gods had forsaken them for reasons they could not comprehend…
It would take several thousand years before the planet fully stabilized and recovered from the impact. During this time life would take a divergence in its evolutionary development. Plants began to form interconnecting root systems to help resist the fierce windstorms and sudden earthquakes. Animals began to develop thick exoskeletons that were, for the most part, resistant to the electromagnetic storms that would plague the planet for millennia to come. Moreover, both would begin to coalesce their vital organs into a singular spheroid structure that could survive and act independently if its body died. In a strange twist of fate, the cataclysm that had brought an end to the world had birthed the most recent ancestors of modern zoids.
As the world returned to normal, and proto-zoid life flourished, the Zoidayrians found themselves changed. The changes themselves were gradual, being so slow that they themselves barely noticed the alterations. Their once delicate bodies had adapted to a much harsher environment. Their skin had developed into thin but resilient exoskeleton. Their bones had become reinforced with a strong internal lattice. Their nervous system crystalized, taking the form similar to semi-solid quartz, allowing for quicker reflexes, and an ability to learn and remember activities and events that far exceeded their previous capabilities. Moreover, they began to develop an almost symbiotic kinship with the newly emerging proto-zoids. In the span of a few short centuries the Zoidayrians forgot about the technological empire they had carved for themselves, and returned to an agricultural society. They forsook their gods that had abandoned them in their greatest time of need in favor of deities of elemental and primordial powers that now ruled the reshaped world. Eventually the very name “Zoidayrian” faded from collective memory only to be replaced by a new name – “Zoidian…”