Cortex Command - Fluff

Foreword

Up until 2010 we hadn't made much information about the Cortex Command setting public. There had been a lot of ideas popping up (and down) throughout the years, but the existing documents looked like... amoebas floating around in a primeval soup. It was time for something to finally take shape and crawl up on land. Keep in mind that this document is still evolving and haven't gained all of its limbs and vital organs yet.

The writing here will have to be cleaned up later. I'm just hammering down poles at the moment. The artwork / concept art might be rough too (or missing).

- Arne / Niklas Jansson / Promster / DataRealms

Updates

Index

Game intro

The intro slides felt like sloppy work from my part, so I want to go back and touch up some of the images, considering things like proportions and style consistency. I also want to write a longer flavor text about each slide, just for this page. This section should also give the reader an introduction to the CC setting and the whole disembodied brain concept. Currently, the image below is the only one that I've touched:

alien meeting

[early-mid space exploration year]. Dignitaries of the Sirius Alliance meet on the doomed planet Cursa 2c to conclude trade negotiations with a Wumpus hunt. It's believed that the impressive hexagonal network of catacombs and wildlife were left behind by the Priorus - a species which was active colonizing planets in the region some 8000 years ago, before withdrawing to an unknown location. *

* Flavor text notes: The Sirius Supercluster also contains Beta Eridani, aka Cursa (in arabic?). Hunt the Wumpus is an old game which takes place in a dodecahedron maze. Wumpuses can also be found in M.U.L.E., Nethack, MtG, and other games. Since the meeting portrayed is historical, I picked Beta Eridani which is located a mere 90 ly from Sol (i.e. somewhat closeby in many sci-fi settings). I'm not really sure how fast space travel is in the CC universe or how much of the galaxy that has been colonized.

Afaik, Beta Eridani isn't a good host for planets with indigenous life, so I figured it would be better to use the colonization concept which is more probable than having each planet teeming with contemporary indigenous life anyways. I topped it off with a Precursor/Ancient race, because they create a sense of history and mystery. Oh yeah, the planet is doomed because Cursa is gonna swell up and become a red giant pretty soon.

The Priorus are giants wasps (Predators?), a nod at the hexagonal shapes of the mazes where the Wumpus (Alien?) now lurk. Priorus = Prior Us. Yeah, Well, everything else is taken (ancients, precursors, etc).

The aliens portrayed are just those of the Sirius Alliance (a small part of the OSA). The small mushroom-shaped alien species is kind of like a dog - i.e. they regulate body temperature by panting. Unfortunately their tongue is also poisonous so they have trouble making friends. Later I might try to elaborate on all of the aliens.

The Orion Spur Amalgam

As man started to explore the stars, it soon became obvious that she was not alone. She also found out that she wasn't all that interesting to most of the aliens out there, at least not to begin with.

The first aliens encountered by man were two fungoids piloting a trade vessel. After receiving the very enthusiastic and colorful universal greeting from the human captain, one fungoid simply turned to the other and made a strange sound. Their ship then abruptly turned around and left.

It was later understood that the strange sound had become a humorous nickname for humans amongst the fuingoids, and means something along the lines of "How is this thing even relevant?", with undertones of indifference and confusion.

Mankind did not become a relevant player until she pioneered the development of the TradeStars and their improved FTL drive. Much to the dismay of some alien cultures, she also contributed to the formation of the massive corporations which now pretty much govern and unify the OSA.

The OSA is actually a misnomer, as the region of space controlled actually only extends few hundred light years out, whilst the Orion Spur is actually tens of thousands of light years in length and a few thousand wide. Surrounding the OSA are other groupings of more or less hostile aliens.

Culture of the OSA

ToDo: Describe the general population of the OSA. Common alien species. Important worlds. Are everyone disembodied? Which species are unsuitable? How does backwater planet look? How does the core worlds look? What do people do on space flights to amuse themselves? What kind of labor is performed by people? Humanitarian aid programs disembodies for free since a brain state consumes less energy?

Territories

Map of space

The Expatriate are a forced alliance of species which have been or are displaced from their homeworlds by what they refer to as "The great dread". They are now pressing against the northwestern borders of the OSA, which they consider "the lesser dread".

The xenophobic silicone alliance is like the name suggest an alliance of silicone based life forms. They enjoy a rich culture of art, science and spiritual practices, but act aggressively towards "organic pollution" aka carbon based life. Their borders are defended by the single minded warrior castes.

The Myskoplex is an advanced species or entity which appears to be neutral. However, all ships and stealth probes sent within a hundred light years of Myskoplex space have been destroyed swiftly.

The Trilateral is the name of the territory inhabited by three different species which all evolved on the same planet, but never got along very well. The three species have been engaged in a three way war for centuries, contesting the ownership of their homeworld (which is now a bare wasteland). It is fortunate for OSA that it will probably never have to face the united strength of the three species.

It is believed that the Space Amoebas swept though Deadspace many thousands of years ago, triggering a conflict which caused significant destruction to most planets in the region. For this reason, interest in expanding the OSA to the East has been low.

The Something. Deep scouts sent into Deadspace encountered something which either moved in after the destruction, or survived it. The deep space probes were lost before they could return any detailed information. A new group has been sent out, but will take years to reach their destination.

The Space Amoebas are huge space dwelling life forms. They are currently in their more peaceful morphological cycle, only spilling into OSA space by random. Even so, they are very difficult to handle. Large fleets are needed to counter a single amoeba.

Major corporations and factions of the OSA

Since the region of space controlled by OSA stretches out several hundred light years in all directions, it takes almost ten years to cross with current FTL drive technology. It's also a very diverse region of space in terms of population and interests. While corporations can grow to massive sizes, they often tend to be regionalized for these reasons. The exception is Free Trade.

Free Trade

FreeTrade Logotype

Free Trade (FT) is a super corporation so massive it's above all goverments, morals and conflicts. They deal with everyone and everything. They construct the massive Trade Stars to fascilitate their business. Wherever they are, they mark the center of commerce. Everything else has to adapt.

Various corporations can rent space and produce goods aboard a Trade Star. Some types of goods are restricted and can only be procured via black market channels. Free Trade officially only deals in trade, but may hire an army when they need to enforce a deal, or place a blockade.

FreeTrade places one or more large orbital space stations called a TradeStars in every star system which interests them. The TradeStars can separate into two parts. The outer hull of a TradeStar works as an industrial park or office complex, housing many large corporations. This part never leaves orbit. The central part is swappable and contains most of the cargo space and the superior FTL drive. It's the ability to move large amount of cargo quickly to the rich core worlds which cements FreeTrade's monopoly.

Alchiral

Alchiral Logotype

Alchiral is one of the largest manufacturers of organic human bodies. Most or all TradeStars in sectors with human populations carry a compliment of Alchiral VAT arrays. The technology is under strict control by Alchiral's overseers to ensure that their monopoly is maintained.


Human bodies are sometimes called "meat puppets", but not all "puppets" are organic. Robotic bodies are strong and durable, but causes the wearer to feel detached from both the body and the surroundings.

Recently the contributions of many different alien species has lead to great advances in bioengineering. The human bodies produced by Alchiral are as much alien as they are human. For example, the endoskeleton is coated with a thin muscle film which will enable a body retain some mobility even when the regular muscles have been severed.

Nearly every part of the body has been augmented in some way. The number of organs have been reduced to a minimum. For tactical and ethical reasons, bodies used in warfare are often controlled remotely and thus lack a brain. However, despite ethical concerns (and protests from some interest groups) there are instances of pseudo-brains being used in soldier units (especially in deepscout units which may be separated from their operators).

Due to the convergence of evolution, or perhaps just the definition of life and interfacing issues, many intelligent aliens are humanoid. This proved useful when designing the universal neurotranslator. It's a kind of dock inside the base of the skull which enables a brain to wire - say limb control to the physical limbs of the body. There's also a small receiver/transmitter for remote control.

In [year], a black hat took over the body used by the President of Ouroboros Security, drove the company into ruin and then threw the Presidents body (and brain) into a meat processor. After this incident the connection security protocols were overhauled and are now believed to be impervious to cracking or disruption (just like before).

Alcoves

The idea here is to illustrate a stash of bodies and the idea that a body could be anything. Your brain might even be alien. Yeah it doesn't fit the page now, I'll clean it up later. This illustration should go in a segment which explains the disembodiment concept on a more introductory level.

Corporations and factions of the far east OSA

This is a list of the factions present in the far east region of OSA (and other regions as well). When playing as a faction, the player is acting like something along the lines of the owner of a local restaurant chain, and does not have access to the funds of the entire corporation.

Coalition Military Forces

CMF Logotype

In some parts of the galaxy coalitions of large corporations is the only form of government effectively available. The military arm of one such coalition is simply referred to as the Coalition Military Forces. The rapidly grown superhuman body is a popular choice of the CMF.

Gameplay: Generic sci-fi marines which function to illustrate how such perform in the CC universe. They don't have any real weakness, other than not having any particular strength either.

Analogy: Souped up 50's US soldiers.

Colors: Green and minor white.

CMF concept art

CMF concept art

CMF concept art

CMF concept art

Techion

Techion Logotype

The Techion were formed by a small group of elite corporations focusing on high-tech research and manyfacture. They are sometimes employed and trusted by the TradeStars to do guard and escort duty.

Gameplay: The Techion prefers specialized expensive units equipped with exotic weapons.

Analogy: Elves.

Colors: White with minor dark blue/gray.

Techion concept art

Techion concept art

Techion concept art

Techion concept art

Imperatus

Coal, Oil, Forest, Ore and Energy are the simple names for a few of the massive corporations who through brute force have made sure they are not obsolete in the galactic age. To aid them in their conquest of new natural resources they have formed the Imperatus conglomerate.

Gameplay: The Imperatus rely on pure brute force and the reliability of their sturdy and easy to produce armored units. They use simple low rate of fire guns and cannons which tirelessly deals out good damage.

Analogy: Ogres.

Colors: Black and rust.

Imperatus concept art

Imperatus concept art

Imperatus concept art

Imperatus concept art

Green dummies (story only)

The green dummies are cheap standard body robots which are used as general purpose labor units.

Gameplay: Very basic. They're just used once during the tutorial mission.

Colors: Tech gray, green and minor rust brown.

Tutorial Dummies concept art

Tutorial Dummies concept art

Tutorial Dummies concept art

Tutorial Dummies concept art

Orange dummies (story only)

The cheap robotic body used by the orange dummies is often used for training exercises and testing. Originally the dummies were controlled by a cheap neurotube CPU. AI programs are still not very sophisticated, but sometimes the random (and nonreplicable) qualities of the neurotube technology leads to the unexpected emergence of somewhat intelligent CPUs. This is what happened to the CPU controlling the orange dummies during a training mission. In an attempt to preserve itself, the CPU used the research facilities aboard a TradeStar to develop a defense against its antagonists. This bought it enough time to replace itself with a decoy and escape.

The official stance of various governing corporation is to respect all forms of sentient intelligent life (as many types of it has been found throughout the galaxy). The Dummy CPU is technically free to commerce just like everyone else, but the rarity of its existence has made it sought after on the black markets.

Gameplay: Dummies are not made for warfare, but sometimes their unorthodox weapon designs can offer a surprise or two.

Colors: Orange and minor tech gray

Orange Dummies concept art

Orange Dummies concept art

Orange Dummies concept art

Orange Dummies concept art

Ragtags/Ronin (story only)

These outcasts travel in rusty old ships hoping to prey upon unprepared colonies and transports. They have little or no armour, antique weapons and crazy haircuts. They use bodies belonging to convicts and occasionally some unfortunate civilian who got lobotomised after getting with the wrong crowd. Desperate poor people have also been known to rent their body (with their 'muted' brain still inside) in the hope of being able to afford disembodiment. The ranks of the Ronin are often infused with new blood every time FreeTrade kills a star system, i.e. pull out their TradeStars.

Gameplay: These are regular people, meant to provide a familiar scale. How much does falling 5 meters down on concrete hurt? These guys will illustrate. The hideouts of the Ronin can be used to put familiar furniture into the game. They do not have TradeStar access.

Analogy: Average Joes.

Colors: Mixed.

 concept art

 concept art

 concept art

 concept art

Uzira (story only)

Uzira was one of the early explorers. Her team travelled far into unknown space and eventually ran into the ancient and hostile Mu-ilaak. After many long battles both sides were exhausted. The last epic battle took place on the Moon and this is where both sides also got stranded.

Gameplay: Uzira now rests on the moon in a temple buried under thick sediments of dust. One scenario deals with awakening her from her cryo sleep. She will then provide valuable insight on how to combat the Mu-ilaak. She wears a power armour and is not disembodied. Later on, she commands an army of skeletons (unfinished clones grown by an Alchiral VAT control chip which she snatched). He appears with reinforcements during the last mission. In the end it turns out that she owns stock in Alchiral (now of significant accumulated value).

Analogy: Medieval, Undead, Knights

Colors: Dark metal and bone.

Knight concept art

Knight concept art

Knight concept art

Knight concept art

Remnants of Mu-ilaak (story only)

These alien robots of unknown origin and age are found dwelling on the moon of the planet. Unfortunately they wake up and show hostile intentions.

Gameplay: These are found on the moon a bit into the story line. They are powerful robots/cyborgs, and can replicate without using facilities aboard a Trade Star. Everyone gangs up on them eventually. Yeah, it's the "united against our common enemy" plot device. In reality FreeTrade wants to get rid of them because they're bad for business.

Analogy: Initially superior, bad guys.

Colors: Red and silver.

Mu-Ilaak concept art

Mu-Ilaak concept art

Mu-Ilaak concept art

Mu-Ilaak concept art

Life forms

Not too long ago in cosmological terms, nearly all of the life on the planet was annihilated. There are several theories, like orbital bombardment, a gamma ray, space amoebas, and the exotic theory that most of the life forms were petrified by the mysterious space cloud which now hangs near the planet. The only surviving animal form is strange kind of crab which survived thanks to its ability to grow a protective cocoon during hibernation. A certain kind of plant also survived thanks to a similar ability. With no competition left, these two lifeforms quickly evolved and conquered many niches.

Gameplay: Some plants and animals are dangerous. They ere encountered during the prospecting phase of the meta game.

Colors: Green, biege, orange, pink (dangerous).

rough concepts for indigenous life

Story scenarios

Awaiting cleanup! Aside from the intro, this is the way to put the fluff into the game. The scenarios will have a little intro, midtro and extro which puts... fluff on the bones of each faction.

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- End of Cortex Command fluff doc - by Niklas Jansson / Dan Tabar / DataRealms, 2004-2010.