Beyond War takes place in a Universe where almost all life has been extinguished where it stood. Imagine the Rapture, with heaven burning - the gates destroyed. Hell is real, and dying - is a privilege.
Before the last strike, there was escalation. Conventional arms and armies drafted from nations, empires, and star systems - overwhelming force against which the consolidation of the life against it could not hold.
That which is static cannot hold.
Overwhelmed, facing extermination in a war of attrition, outnumbered millions to one - new technology to fight the war evolved rapidly. War machines capable of replication, resource gathering, refinement, and recycling of enemy combatants and populations - to build more machines and instill terror. Genetic modification of life to endure trauma and hard vacuum, transfer battlefield intelligence using quantum entanglement, and medical technology to replace lost limbs, organs, and even transfer consciousness from man to machine - and from one machine to millions. The war became a struggle to control immortality.
Entire planets of life created and culled to raise armies solely to fight the war, occupy territory, and die on a predetermined schedule to make way for their engineers acquisition of the spoils. Manipulation of space and time to create pockets in the Universe where entire worlds could be hidden, planets within planets, overlaid to deceive and escape the constant extermination of life. Storage of data and weapons in dimensions relative to the conventional space, allowing mass storage of fuel, resources, and armies - and the transference and concealment of vast stores of information in specific points in space and time.
Survivors, destroyed by their experience, fighting simply to be allowed to live as a species after being devastated by biological and chemical weapons employed by front line super soldiers who could develop and deploy genocidal gene manipulation weapons simply by touching a single member of the species.
Alien life, adapted to form a more terrifying and dangerous weapon of war than tanks, ships, and machines, capable of copying the consciousness of each individual they consume into the collective and selectively deploying those copies as components of living machines to serve a purpose governed by programs written in multi-dimensional genetic bytecode, capable of sharing operating instructions across vast distances using quantum entanglement and genetic transcription systems at multiple endpoints.
Monsters that could acquire knowledge, and integrate it into themselves in the field, biologically and through the use of nano and quantum machines, including hardening their skin like diamond, incorporating faster than light drive into their own bodies, and jumping from planet to planet at will - an army in a single soldier. Capable of replicating their directives in everything they touch, consuming entire planets, and assuming all the information of an entire civilization in the act with every world that falls.
Fear does not begin to describe it - the early years of the war.
As the battlefield escalated, survivors obtained technology allowing them access to energy levels that exist outside of conventional matter and dimensions - so intense that the Universe collapsed at the use of this energy and left permanent vacuum between conventional space and other places. Like discovering the existence of a shell of electrons above or below our own Universe, High and Low energy became the only weapon capable of extinguishing the multi-dimensional nature of the front-line soldiers in the War.
No one knows who discovered the device first, or where it came from. Only that its size was relative to our space and time - allowing it to be compact - smaller than a tiny coin, and capable of tremendous destruction. A pistol using this technology could destroy a star.
Civilization produce these weapons in quantity, for use in weapons platforms, ships, and personal sidearms. It was death to any living being that met it. But what was to come - was worse. Some things killed with these weapons, came back. The Ethran - like demons or ghosts - soldiers, ships, entire planets - came back. The other Universe began to collapse into our own, and those who died by the device did not often know they were dead - nor were they alive. An after-image, burned into the wall of the Universe, which would not fade.
Survivors theorized that if such a weapons could be controlled, it could be used to bring back the dead, or create an escape to other dimensions where the war had not yet come. Eleven new species of life were created in the course of the war - and the last act was to develop a thirteenth species which was a self-aware version of the weapon, able to manipulate the power of High energy. What could go wrong?
Then, The Cataclysm. All life ended. Pockets of life remained - but any force involved in the conflict disappeared in their tracks - leaving behind only their weapons, their cities, and their databases shattered. Even the shelters in the subspace were not spared. All life was devastated. Armies and populations alike. Only primitive outposts and shattered colonies remained. Those with knowledge of the conflict, all gone.
All but a few.
We can say, perhaps, the Universe is Beyond War. But with the weapons of billions of civilizations left drifting empty in space, and the monsters that were left behind - like dumb animals abandoned with no expiration date - the stars are full of monsters now, and children, only.
This was The Cataclysm. The Mid-war.
Undoubtedly some of the survivors hold knowledge of the battle. Many, hard to recognize for their troubles, became legend to the fledgling civilizations. The Dracos - the dragons - both humanoid and great wyrms, and the Kai'Gi, the shapeshifting lords who suppress any technology or civilization that begins to rise to the level of the old world - both fear the return to the era of war they still remember.
Colonies of lost Leupos, wolf men, the lowest soldiers in the conflict - outlived their usefulness - adopting families and caring more for their pups than their mission - and the occasional Minat seen darting from one cupboard to another before disappearing into the moors through a circle - all the evidence of the war many backwater worlds will ever know. Space travel is lost to these worlds, and perhaps - for the better. For if they knew what waited for them in the darkness - they would never stray from the light.
No world can stand against the force of even one of the Sanguine, the blood royal - soldiers born to destroy entire empires alone. Best to avoid them. Just as the Sanguine hide from their King - the first of their kind - whose name is spoken of only in the culling of entire galaxies when they dare to assert their strength again following the Cataclysm. Those that will not live a quiet life, are never heard from again - proof that he lives, a dark god between the stars.
Those that destroy a sun - rarely live long. They say, she is the night and the stars, and he loves her. And for that insolence, to destroy a star, he would destroy all his children without thinking. The Sanguine will siege a world, fight a million years, but they hold sacred the light of the star and will not look upon it - save in its reflection in the dead of night.
What could frighten a god?
The war ended, according to some. No empires or lords or Interstellar fleets to fight remain. Conflicts exist, ships that can destroy the very fabric of the Universe lay in ruin like salt on a table after a meal. But the enemy is gone. The war - is over. At what cost?
No records exist of the Thirteenth Species. Whether it ended the war, or some other fresh Hell came to devastate the Universe, none can say. But the intelligence of the destruction of the Universe, its mercy, its selection of some worlds to live and some to die, is more frightening than any horror of the War.
It is at this point, post-Cataclysm, where our story begins,