This is a series of maps based on the Freespace video game franchise. This series consists of three space combat games widely regarded as the best in their genre: Conflict Freespace: The Great War (1998), Conflict Freespace: The Silent Threat (1998) and Freespace 2 (1999).
A Brief History of the Freespace Universe
More then ten thousand years ago, a powerful alien race, known colloquially if lazily as “the Ancients,” arose in our region of the galaxy and established a large, powerful empire spanning many systems, utilising the power of subspace to jump between distant stars. This empire flourished for several millennia before it encountered an extremely powerful, tenacious and relentless foe, the “Destroyers.” The Destroyers pushed the Ancients back to their home star system and eradicated them approximately eight thousand years ago.
Peace fell on this corner of the galaxy for a long period of time until two species in relatively neighbouring parts of the galaxy (at least neighbouring via the subspace node network, if not in physical space) reached the stars almost simultaneously: the Vasudans, based on Vasuda Prime, and the Terrans, based on Earth in the Sol system. The two species colonised multiple systems before running headlong into one another. First contact took place early in the 24th Century and it appears that this may have been relatively peaceful. However, the flames of xenophobia were fanned in both civilisations, propelled by a joint fear that each other race was going to seize resources urgently desired by the other. When a Terran diplomatic party made a minor mistake during a ritual Vasudan greeting in 2321, extremists seized on it as an excuse for war.
The war, fought between the Vasudan Parliamentary Empire (PVE) and the Galactic Terran Alliance (GTA), raged for fourteen years. At several key moments it appeared that one power gained the upper hand over the other, only for their advantage to be checked. The conflict was expensive and wasteful, and peace initiatives several times came close to ending the war, but each time old fears and hatreds were reignited and the conflict gained new momentum. Still, after fourteen years it became clear that both races had lost the appetite for a prolonged battle to the death.
The Great War
In 2335, both species were taken by surprise by the arrival of an unknown alien race. Flying distinctive black ships and using energy shields (a technology unknown to either the Vasudans or Terrans), this race gained the name “Shivans.” The Shivans relentlessly attacked both Terran and Vasudan worlds and ships, devastating GTA holdings in the Ross 128 system and mounting a systematic assault through the Ribos sector. Faced with a mutual foe desiring nothing less than the annihilation of all other sentient life, the Terrans and Vasudans called a ceasefire, formed an ad hoc alliance and established a common front against the invading Shivans, drawing a line between Vega, Antares and Ribos.
Unfortunately, the Shivans deployed a superior flagship vessel, codenamed Lucifer. Equipped with a shield which regenerated almost instantly to any attack, the vessel appeared unbeatable. It jumped past the allied blockade to strike at Deneb. After massacring all forces in its path, it jumped into orbit around Vasuda Prime and bombarded the planet from orbit for half a day, killing more than four billion Vasudans.
As the war grew more desperate, Vasudan scientists reluctantly confirmed the existence of alien ruins on Altair IV that long predated their own civilisation. Examination of records from these ruins suggested that the Shivans were the “Great Destroyers” who had obliterated the Ancient civilisation. The Ancient records suggested that although Shivan shield technology was superior, it possessed a significant weakness: it could not function in subspace. The Terran and Vasudan forces augmented their best fighter and bomber wings with intersystem subspace drives and tracked the Lucifer from Vasuda to Delta Serpenis. From there, the Lucifer made the jump to Sol. The fighter and bomber wings pursued the Lucifer into subspace and confirmed that the shields on the Lucifer were no longer operating. They were able to hit the Lucifer’s reactor core with heavy torpedoes and crippled the ship; when it emerged from subspace, it exploded with such force that it created a subspace feedback loop that enveloped the entire Sol system. Although the system was unharmed, it did collapse every jump node leading to Sol, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the galaxy.
The aftermath of the Great War was a chaotic time. The Vasudan Empire relocated its capital to Aldebaran and began a rebuilding process, whilst the GTA established a new base of operations in Delta Serpentis and attempted to find a way of reopening the jump node to Sol. All of these efforts proved futile. Several months after the war, the GTA’s intelligence and special operations division attempted to launch a coup against the GTA government and reignite the war against the Vasudans using an experimental warship, the Hades. This rebellion was halted in its tracks and the Hades was destroyed.
The GTA fragmented over the following few years, with regional governments including the Regulus Syndicate, the Adhara Coalition, the Antares Federation and the Luyten New Alliance forming. However, in 2345 the Vasudan Emperor proposed unifying Terran and Vasudan military holdings into a single alliance with the intent of propelling technological development forward so that they would be much better prepared should the Shivans return. After considerable dissent, argument and negotiation, this resulted in the signing in 2358 of the Beta Aquilae Convention (BETAC), which dissolved the regional governments and formally established the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance (GTVA).
By this time, attempts to contact Earth by sublight communications from systems close to Sol in physical space (most notably Alpha Centauri, Wolf 359 and Sirius) had also curiously failed, resulting in growing concerns about the fate of the home system.
In 2365 the GTVA was suddenly rocked by the unexpected outbreak of civil war. Although the new alliance had restored political peace and economic security to all Terran and Vasudan worlds, some Terrans and Vasudans bristled at the integration of their two species into one union. The Vasudan rebels, known as the Hammer of the Light, had largely been defeated after the Great War, but underlying tensions in the Terran systems reached boiling point. Admiral Bosch of the GTVA military staged a coup in Polaris and announced the founding of the Neo-Terran Front, a human-first organisation which called for the dissolution of BETAC and the imposition of a hardline, fascistic form of governance (including summary execution for officers who failed to achieve military objectives). The NTF failed to recognised the BETAC’s rules on war crimes, particularly not recognising the execution of Vasudan military officers or civilians as a crime at all. Shockingly, the rebellion spread and both Regulus and Sirius declared for the NTF within weeks.
The GTVA and the NTF clashed for control of their three home systems, but the NTF had caused a substantial minority of the GTVA fleet to defect. The GTVA was on the back foot in the opening months of the war as the NTF fortified their three home systems and then went on the offensive in Epsilon Pegasi, Deneb and Alpha Centauri. The GTVA barely held them back, but was then able to launch a successful counter-offensive. Eighteen months into the war, with the GTVA political council on the brink of suing for peace, the GTVA military unleashed its most secret project: the GTVA Colossus, a ship considerably larger and more powerful even than the Lucifer. The Colossus tore a swathe through the NTF fleet, shrugging off even an attempted kamikaze ram from an Orion-class destroyer with only minimal damage.
During this conflict, it was determined that the NTF had seized technology related to the Ancients and had been using it for unknown purposes. One of the NTF experiments activated an Ancient device of tremendous power in the Gamma Draconis system, a system believed to have been deserted after initial surveys turned up nothing of interest. GTVA investigations revealed that the device was a subspace portal, capable of stabilising jump nodes too unstable for regular use. The Gamma Draconis portal, known as the Knossos, appeared to lead to Shivan space, as Shivan forces began pouring through Gamma Draconis into the Capella system. The GTVA fleet at Capella annihilated the Shivan force and then drove them back to the Knossos portal. The GTVA seized control of the portal and debated on destroying it to halt the possibility of any further Shivan invasion. However, the portal hinted at a way of reopening the jump nodes to Earth. This prospect was too tantalising to resist and it was decided to fortify the Knossos whilst securing the space on the far side. A precautionary evacuation of the 250 million inhabitants of Capella began, whilst the GTVA fleet redeployed to meet the possible challenges of fighting both the Shivans and NTF simultaneously. As it turned out, the latter was unnecessary; not only did the Colossus make short work of the NTF fleets, Admiral Bosch and his flagship, the Iceni, abandoned their worlds and fled through the Knossos, taking the GTVA fleets defending it by surprise.
The far side of the Knossos portal was revealed to be a dense nebula. With no stars visible through the thick clouds, it was impossible to determine the nebula’s location. However, the nebula was determined to be the site of a vast Shivan resource-gathering operation. The GTVA engaged Shivan forces throughout the nebula, destroying all of them with impressive ease thanks to their new weapons and technology, but were unable to locate the Iceni. They did locate the new Shivan flagship, the Sathanas, a warship rivalling the Colossus in size and exceeding it in firepower. With the Sathanas bearing down on the subspace the portal, the order was given to destroy the Knossos.
The attempt to destroy the portal appeared successful, but the Sathanas was able to jump into Gamma Draconis anyway: the portal had held the node open for long enough for it to become fully stabilised, even without the portal’s help. The GTVA scrambled its best bomber squadrons to knock out the Sathanas’ main weapons array. The Colossus was then able to destroy the Sathanas with its main guns, although only by almost overheating them into oblivion.
A GTVA taskforce returned to the nebula and discovered the Iceni, having somehow communicated with the Shivans. Admiral Bosch and his command crew were taken off the vessel by the Shivans, who then attempted to butcher the crew but were stopped by the GTVA taskforce. The Iceni was scuttled, but the experimental ETAK device Bosch used to communicate with the Shivans was recovered intact.
Further exploration of the nebula revealed the presence of a second Knossos portal, but attempts to secure it were defeated when a second Sathanas-class warship arrived, forcing the GTVA to once again evacuate the nebula. Before they left, a single scout party using captured Shivan fighters was sent through the second portal. They found themselves in a binary star system with a sky configuration that was not recognised by GTVA astronomers. A third Knossos portal was detected a vast distance away and no less than nine Sathanas-class warships were detected converging on the nebula portal, presenting a level of threat that even the Colossus could not deal with. Eventually the threat level became insurmountable when it was revealed that the full strength of the Shivan fleet topped out at eighty Sathanas-class vessels.
The GTVA concentrated almost its entire military force in Capella. The evacuation of Capella had now been proceeding for months, with the majority of its 250 million people pulled back (an exercise which had easily become the single most logistically challenging task in the history of both the Vasudan and human races). Aware they could not hope to defeat the Sathanas fleet, they instead focused on getting the last few civilian ships out of the system and using powerful meson bombs to destroy the jump nodes leading out of Capella to Vega and Epsilon Pegasi. The Epsilon Pegasi node was successfully collapsed.
The GTVA fleet began withdrawing to Vega, but the expected battle with the Sathanas fleet did not take place: instead, seventy-nine of the Sathanas-class ships surrounded the Capella star and began manipulating it with energy emissions of unknown origin. The remaining Sathanas broke off to engage and destroy the Colossus, which disobeyed orders to hold back the Shivans long enough for several civilian ships to escape.
After three days, just as the last Capellan refugees fled to Vega, the Shivan fleet triggered an energy pulse which destroyed the Capella star, making it go supernova. The resulting explosion destroyed the entire system and everything in it, and also collapsed the Vega node without the need for a meson bomb.
The destruction of Capella and its jump nodes effectively ended the Shivan threat from that quarter. The GTVA had survived what appeared to be an outright apocalypse, but the motivations for the Shivans to destroy Capella were unknown. It was theorised that the nebula system may have also been a star destroyed before its time by the Shivans, allowing the Shivans to harvest the gases and resources left behind. The truth of the matter remained unknown.
What was known was that the Shivan threat was far greater than could have been previously imagined. The GTVA began rearming and rebuilding, and also researching, for the data gleaned from the Knossos was enough for them to construct their own such devices and re-establish contact with the mysteriously silent Sol system. The threat of the Shivans remains overwhelming.
To circumvent the speed of light limitation, all known spacefaring races used the subspace node network. This consists of tunnels or wormholes through subspace which link disparate systems together. Scientists are divided over whether nodes are naturally-occurring artifacts or are of artificial origin, or a mix. There is some evidence that it was the Ancients who created the current subspace node network, by using Knossos-class portals to stabilise natural but unstable nodes and then open them up to travel. The fact that the nodes tend to link together the brightest stars as seen from this sector of space or those most likely to harbour lifebearing planets does suggest an artificial origin.
The node network is not dependent on physical proximity in realspace. For example, Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to Sol at 4.4 light-years, but it is not the closest in subspace: Deneb (1,412 light-years distant), Beta Aquilae (44.7 light-years) and Delta Serpentis (228.1 light-years) are all a single subspace jump from Sol, whilst Alpha Centauri are is two jumps away (via Deneb). Wolf 359 is only 7.8 light-years distant from Sol but it is five jumps distant, via Delta Serpentis (228.1 light-years), Ross 128 (10.94 light-years), Laramis (unknown) and Luyten 726-8 (8.73 light-years) and so forth.
It is possible to collapse jump nodes with a large enough explosion. The shockwaves triggers the collapse of the node tunnel into a state only detectable at the quantum level; reopening the jump node can only be done with exotic matter and energy as generated via a Knossos-class subspace portal. Robust jump engines can also traverse nodes that other races cannot use: for example, the Shivans were able to use several unstable jump nodes to circumvent Vasudan and GTA lines of defence during the Great War. By the time of the second conflict, Vasudan and GTA technology had improved and the Shivans were unable to use this tactic as effectively.
The jump nodes from Sol to its connecting systems (Deneb, Beta Aquilae and Delta Serpentis) were severed during the Lucifer’s destruction at the conclusion of the Great War. The jump nodes linking Capella to Epsilon Pegasi and Vega (and presumably Gamma Draconis) were collapsed when the Shivans turned the Capellan star supernova at the conclusion of the Second Great War.
Note on the Maps
The links marked in blue are confirmed to exist via the game’s own accompanying maps or are canonically proven to exist by in-game events (most notably the Altair-Deneb jump node, which is not on the official maps but features in no less than three missions during the original game). Lines in orange are not shown on the maps but are referred to in dialogue.
The FreeSpace Wiki was an invaluable reference point in assembling this guide, particularly the high-res logos created by MjnMixael.
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