This is another thing for media class. In media class, we go from medium to medium, doing a few assignments in each, and bringing in various artists skilled in that medium for each segment. In the current part of class, we are learning digital painting, and more specifically Corel Painter, from none other than the great Android Jones.
Our first picture assignment was to create a solar system using various techniques in Painter. Here is mine. Android encouraged us to think up a backstory for our solar system, and as you may imagine mine was fairly involved. I'll post it below.
The Helcaraxe system is a very old system, with several different waves of colonization going back tens of millennia. As such, it has a depth of history and mythologology unmatched by younger systems, and that history has left its mark.
Helcaraxe is an immense and swiftly-rotating blue-white class B star. It is estimated to be nearly two billion years, well beyond the theorized maximum age for stars of this type. Indeed, it was to research this discrepancy that the system was colonized in the first place. Further analysis revealed that Helcaraxe emits types of neutrinos hitherto unknown to science, and spectral analysis revealed several unknown elements in its composition. A popular theory for these unusual phenomena is that Helcaraxe was modified in the ancient past by a supremely advanced alien race, but mainstream science scoffs at this suggestion.
Zezeuth is the closest planet to Helcaraxe, revolving at a distance of scarcely three times Helcaraxe's radius. It takes slightly more than two standard days to complete an orbit, one of the shortest known planetary years. A complete day lasts only ten minutes. The planet is so hot that the elements in its crust and mantle emit incandescent energy in livid, scarlet arcs, and its speed and spin are so great that it draws a tail of Helcaraxe's matter behind it.
First, a bit of history. In ancient times, it was optimistically and naively assumed that human technological and intellectual advancement would would progress for eternity. However, in the late third mellennium, it became apparent that though humans could achieve much, there were fundamental limits to their advancement. There are deep mysteries in the structure and nature of the cosmos, problems that seem intrinsically insoluble, which put seemingly insurmountable limits on the achievments of any form of intelligence. This upper limit has come to be known as the Plateau, and most civilizations live comfortably on its cusp.
However, there are apparently loopholes around this, loopholes which have been discovered less than ten times in human history, each time with distastrous consequences. When a person or a population solves one of the deep mysteries, it unlocks a door to power that makes them more similar to god than man. This is called Ascension. Trillions of lives and vast swathes of the galaxy have been destroyed in these incidents. But, like bright flames, the Ascended seem to quickly consume whatever fuel powers them, and soon vanish. There are deep mysteries keeping most from Ascending, and apparently even deeper mysteries preventing any from maintaining such a state.
The only exception to this rule occurred in the Helcaraxe system.
Early in the system's inhabited history, a small group of men discovered a way to radically increase the power of the mind. They could control matter and energy with mere thought. The more unscrupulous of them discovered that they could bend any other intelligence absolutely to their will, and used this power to enslave the Helcaraxe system. Their powers gave them no need to physically move or speak, so they became known as the Silent Masters.
The Silent Masters destroyed most of their brethren, but a few survived and fought against them, and were known as the Singing Masters. They were unable to destroy the Silent Masters, but were able to trap them on their homeworld of Erebus. The surface of Erebus is now a solid mass of opaque nanomachines tens of miles thick, with the indestructable Silent Masters encased deep within. The nanomachines are imbued with whatever power allowed the Singing Masters to defeat the Silent ones, and so are immune to the Silent Masters' powers. However, their psychic influence still extends a few million kilometers outward from their planet, and any intelligent being who strays within that sphere becomes their slave. These slaves remain a source of continuing conflict in the Helcaraxe system.
A planet somewhat larger than Earth, Oread was once a lush world inhabited by a hardy and rugged people. Unfortunately, one of the first acts of the Silent Masters was to cause both of Oread's moons to crash onto her surface. Oread is now a dead and blasted world, hazy with clouds of debris. Oread's desctruction was the greatest tragedy and distaster in the Helcaraxe system's history, and even now the racial memory is so vivid and horrible that the world remains uninhabited.
Jaia is the most earthlike world in the Helcaraxe system. Smaller than Earth, but larger than Mars, it harbors a population of ten billion people, most of whom live in its single vast urban agglomeration. The rest of the planet is covered by vast swaths of farmland and nature preserves. Jaia was lifeless when Helcaraxe was first colonized, so all of its ecosystems were tailored from scratch.
Ancanthastra was once a world similar in size and shape to Oread, though unlike pre-destruction Oread it was airless and lifeless. The colonists reshaped it, not unto a utopia, as on Jaia, but into a massive feat of engineering. Seven huge space elevators thrust up from its surface, taking the shapes of huge mountains hundreds of kilometers tall. Thousands of satellites and spacecraft were launched into orbit from atop these towers, and it is in these rings of space habitats that most of Acanthastra's population lives and works.
Byanthae, like Oread, is a casualty of the war with the Silent Masters. However, unlike Oread, Byanthae was not destroyed by the Silent Masters, but inadvertently by the Singing Masters. It is here that the nanomachines that now imprison the Silent Masters were developed. A certain strain of nanomachine grew out of control, and all of Byanthae was consumed. Originally Mars-sized, the world has grown to dozens of times its previous volume. The nanomachines have not added new matter to the world, but simply converted its matter into larger and less dense structures. Byanthae is now a vast and complicated mass of gargantuan arcs and other strange structures, and fusion fires can be seen glinting in its core. It is not known for what purpose, if any, the nanomachines are reshaping the world, and of course any research vessel sent to study it is consumed and incorporated into the world's vast structure. Any known weaponry would simply supply the nanomachines with more energy and matter to work with, so they are left alone. The ultimate fate and purpose of Byanthae is a pressing concern to all in the Helcaraxe system.
Bak'tun is the Helcaraxe system's only true gas giant. Two vast systems of rings girdle its equator, while bands of gases swirl majestically in its depths. Bak'tun itself is mined extensively for gases and trace elements, but is not inhabited directly. Billions of people call its dozens of moons home.
Tayan, like all three of the outermost worlds, is another perplexing relic of the war agains the Silent Masters. Once a heavy, metal-rich world, it was transformed into a vast ring of machinery by the Singing Masters, with a pulsing core of brilliant energy in its center like the pupil of a god. The source of the energy is unknown, and the machine's method of harvesting it is very poorly understood. Some say that the ball of energy at the center is actually a window into another, younger, more violent universe, and that the Singing Masters departed into that other universe after imprisoning the Silent Masters. This is all just wild speculation, however; like most things having to do with the Ascended, most of what makes Tayan tick is unknown. The fountain of energy at Tayan's center is the source of almost all industrial power in the Helcaraxe system, its energy relayed to many other worlds and moons.
Little is remember of Ueon. Most records of it seem to have been erased millennia ago, during the war with the Silent Masters. It is not even remembered when Ueon was destroyed; all that remains is a glowing core surrounded by a halo of vaporized matter. Some speculate that, just as Byanthae was destroyed during the Singing Ones' experiments with nanomachines, Ueon was destroyed during their experiments with whatever source of energy they used in the construction of Tayan.
What is known is that the clouds of softly-glowing gasses surrounding Ueon are a popular place for lovers to redezvous.
Tiny Luz, at the outskirts of the Helcaraxe system, was the stronghold of the Singing Masters. The Singing Masters were so named because, in contrast to the ominously taciturn Silent Masters, the Singing Masters sung choruses of joy and piece wherever they went. Likewise, while the Silent Masters emitted dark, oppressive thoughts to enslave others, the Singing Masters emited vast, bright thoughts of love and peace, freeing and emporing all under the influence of the Silent Masters. Unhappily, while the Silent Masters, alone of all the Ascended ones, persist seemingly imperishably in their prisons on Erebus, the Silent Masters vanished soon after the war. Luz was the only gift they left to the peoples of Helcaraxe.
Luz is a small and cold planet. Its surface is made of hard, smooth crystal, with spires and every sort of unlikely shape towering over its surface. Echoing between the spires, and seemingly emitted by the stuff of the planet itself, is a single chord of sound, barely audible by even the most perceptive instrument. This sound rings eternally on Luz, and is called the Last Song of the Masters. Analysis of the Song reveals that it is deeply encoded with information. However, the means of unlocking this information is completely unknown. The contents of the Song, often called the Last Revelation, are the subject of much speculation and the basis of many cultish sects throughout the Helcaraxe systems. Many believe it contains the secret to joining the Singing Ones in their parallel universe utopia, and to finally destroying the Silent Masters. Until the meaning is discovered, however, life in the Helcaraxe system will continue, much as it always has.