In 2602, mechanical servants of humanity called Cybrids turned on their masters and decimated the human race. Led by the first and most complex of their kind, the dark intellect Prometheus, the Cybrids sought to exterminate every living human being. Prometheus brought a new and deadly Fire to the world.
Humanity fought back. Gradually, painfully, human forces led by the brilliant Solomon Petresun and the stubborn General Ambrose Gierling defeated the Cybrids. Prometheus was thought destroyed with ITS moon base in 2627, but the Dark Intellect had escaped with an escort of Cybrids. IT fled into deep space, eventually constructing bases on the moons of Neptune and beginning to rebuild its shattered forces.
Yet even victory was sobering. The offworld colonies were silent, presumed destroyed, and the cities of Earth sprawled in ruin. People fell prey to despair and vented their anger on things technological. They believed humanity had prevailed due to noble character and sheer will to survive. The legacy of the Cybrids seemed to be the death of science. The Age of Isolation fostered a strong anti-technology sentiment. Offworld colonies were characterized as "technological miscarriages" and left to fend for themselves.
Petresun refused to allow humanity to falter. He feared the return of the Cybrids, so he worked tirelessly to persuade Earth's citizens to unite in a great vision, to pull back from the brink of a new Dark Age. He succeeded in establishing the Great Human Empire in 2652, with himself as Emperor Petresun I. The Empire united Earth, reached out to the surviving colonists on Mars and Venus, and began to build a mighty war machine. The Imperial Terran Defense Force became the shield of humanity, and the Imperial Knights formed an elite corps of champions ready to resist any new Cybrid incursion.
Petresun, however, kept a great secret from his people. He was the leader of a cabal of individuals who had long ago transferred their minds to "immortal" organimech brains, brains originally created by the enemy of humanity, Prometheus. Petresun himself had been the creator of Prometheus, and he knew the Cybrid well. He knew Prometheus would return.
In 2717, the Emperor confirmed his belief. A deep space probe near Neptune transmitted proof of Cybrid activity. The Emperor wanted to encourage population growth, so he waited several decades before ordering the Imperial economy to a full-time war preparation stance. For fifty years, the Empire’s citizens enjoyed a robust consumer-oriented lifestyle, with incentives for childbirth and military training.
The year 2770 marked the end of this era of prosperity. Concerned about the prospect of imminent Cybrid invasion and confident that human population levels had reached the level necessary to support a new war economy, Petresun signed the Fortification Proclamation. By fiat, all resources having a military application were forfeit to the Empire at cost. The defense industry would focus on preparing the fortifications of Earth alone. The colonies would receive only token military protection.
Strict production schedules and lower wages stirred bitter resentment in the colonial working class. As miners on Mars and Venus protested, Imperial Police were sent in to quell dissent. Colonial delegations to the Imperial Council were rebuffed. Amid the frustration, Martians and Venusians began to organize into resistance cells. Thus did Fortification plant the seeds of the Martian Rebellion.
On Earth a smaller dispute between two noble-born brothers was destined to become the locus of the conflict between Earth and her colonies. The elder brother was Caanon Weathers, called Icehawk, a stern man who had dedicated himself to the Empire and the ideals of honor and human nobility. This paragon rose to the most sought-after military position: Grand Master of the Imperial Knights. The other brother, Harabec, also called the Phoenix, was an unconventional tactical genius who walked his own independent road. To the dismay of his aristocratic family, Harabec disagreed with the Emperor's treatment of the colonies. Caanon made fruitless, often heated, attempts to persuade Harabec to cease his criticism of their liege lord. Harabec refused, even after being disgraced during his command of a failed military campaign against separatists on Earth. Eventually, the differences between the brothers escalated to such a dangerous point that Harabec denounced his family and left Earth.
Harabec travelled to Mars and worked a variety of jobs. He observed the suffering and hardiness of the Martian people, and he grew determined to assist them in throwing off the Imperial Yoke. Once he made contact with the growing rebel movement, he passed all loyalty tests and began to train the Martians how to fight the Empire.
For all his skill and brilliance, Harabec knew military victory over the well-equipped, well-trained Imperial security forces was impossible. The massive Imperial war machine overwhelmingly outmatched the rebel movement. However, in 2826, a crew of miners sympathetic to the rebel cause made a phenomenal, shocking discovery. Delving deep beneath the mountain of Mons Olympus on the Tharsis Bulge, the miners came upon a subterranean cache artificially constructed with advanced mining techniques. Even more surprising, the chamber held strange technology of unknown origins. The devices turned out to be powerful weapons, vehicles, and armor that operated on fundamentally new advanced principles. The rebels adapted these components to their own vehicles, hoping their new technological edge would counter the experience and equipment of the Imperial military.
By 2828, Harabec had advanced to the inner circle of the rebel movement. Under his guidance, the rebels began a "Yoke Offensive" against the Imperial security forces on Mars. With the aid of the advanced technology, they overcame the Imperial Police within a year. On New Year’s Day 2829, four months before the end of the campaign against the Imperial Police, Harabec broadcast The Phoenix Declaration. In this speech, he declared Mars an independent sovereignty and revealed his true identity as a former Knight of the Empire. This betrayal enraged the Emperor. He dispatched Caanon and the Imperial Knights to crush the upstart Martians and bring Harabec back to Earth to account for his treason. Within months, Petresun also ordered the bulk of the Imperial Fleet to Mars. He sought to make an example of Mars, and so for a short time, Earth’s defenses were weakened.
The Emperor had realized neither the extent of the Cybrid preparations nor the remorseless foresight of Prometheus. A massive Cybrid armada had already mustered close to Earth, cloaked by advanced technology found in a cache on Pluto, a cache eerily similar to that found on Mars. Petresun had assumed Imperial Navy monitors would easily detect a Cybrid invasion force.
He was wrong.
Even as Caanon engaged Harabec on the surface of Mars, the Cybrids prepared to strike at Earth. The brothers pitted Caanon’s calculating generalship against Harabec’s unpredictably creative tactics. The cache technology that decimated the Imperial Police gave the rebels an initial advantage against the Knights, but the Empire’s elite learned to adapt. The tide of battle turned. By the time the Imperial Fleet arrived, Caanon was pursuing his brother toward the rebel headquarters. The Martians had been routed; the end of the rebellion seemed near.
Then word reached the Fleet that the Cybrids had attacked Earth. The Navy had just begun to resupply the Knights, but all operations were cancelled, and the Navy prepared to depart for Earth immediately. In the confusion, many Imperial Knights were left behind, subject to rebel mercies. No one on the surface of Mars had a clear idea of what had happened. The Fleet burned at maximum velocity for Earth. Caanon found himself surrounded, as rebels emerged from the clouds of swirling dust.
His position hopeless, Caanon chose to surrender. He wanted to find out what had caused his abandonment by the Fleet. Two weeks after the defeat, Earth — which had been hidden behind the sun — became visible to Mars. Desperate transmissions relayed the horrific news: the Cybrids were landing on Earth. Prometheus once again sought the eradication of ITS creators.
The second Fire had begun, a war for the fate of humanity that would sweep across the solar system, a conflagration of such immense scale that it would be come to be called the Starsiege.