Heroes aren't known for living forever. And in the world of galactic racing, that's especially true.
Not many people know it, but there was a fifth faction, once, an extinct faction. They fell into ruin slowly. Too much damage to their starships' hulls, too much damage to their heroes' minds. Corruption, maybe. Or just bad luck. Either way, the last leader of the faction locked up their garage one day and said "No more."
And it's said that with that, he locked up precious cargo, treasure that no geckos have seen the likes of in a hundred years. Materials that haven't been mined in centuries, maybe, or brilliant technology that's never seen the light of day.
You've managed to collect four plucky geckos who were willing to break all the rules of interfaction contact to work together, following rumor and hearsay and heresy to the farthest reaches of the universe. Only together could they solve this dark shadow of a mystery.
Together, you will find the key.
Turns out the clever gecko who last locked up the old garage had the genius idea of shooting the key into space.
He had dreams, big ones, of uniting the factions, dreams he saw die bitter and broken. But to get his key, you'd need a Martu's connections to find the racer old enough to have been there when they did it, and an Alura's charisma to convince them to tell you from where the key launched. Only a Targari could do the complex trajectory calculations, and, of course, few but a Barada hero would actually go out in a survival suit in deep space long enough to snag a traveling object the size of a garage key.
A really exceptional gecko could have done it all alone, or in twos or threes...but the chances of success are comparatively slim. Are you willing to take that chance?
The Enigma Crystal is a highly advanced piece of gecko technology, mostly lost to this age. This is, perhaps, the last of its kind. Although difficult to use, it can be manipulated to resonate with the frequency of a certain airlock, allowing access to whatever's hidden inside. The lock on the extinct faction's garage is effectively impossible to break without it.
Scientists studying lost tech from the warrior era are almost certain the Enigma Crystal has other purposes, but they are as yet unknown. Crystal hunting is be a perpetual task - you may form your team at any time. May the cosmos smile upon you.
One strange thing about the garage belonging to the extinct faction is that long-distance surveillance has registered - for reasons unknown - heat signals inside. Not quite as hot as the body of a live gecko, but hot enough to show up on screen. If one were to get close enough to lay a palm on it, they would find the whole building slightly warm to the touch. And they would hear a metallic kind of whirr, and a rhythmic sound...and maybe find themselves in greater danger than they've ever been in their lives.
Only the ones who hold the Enigma Crystal will know.
The planet itself reacts to intruders. Should a team of renegade geckos begin an approach, they’d find a dense storm formed suddenly over the entire planet. Impenetrable cloud cover strobing with the massive lightning strikes which boom beneath it, lightning strikes that’d disintegrate anything they touched. Hurricane rains. Cleaving winds. Hail. And thunderclaps so powerful they bulge out against the very atmosphere. Almost like the planet is puffing out its chest, warning off predators. Almost as if the planet knows it’s being invaded.
Interesting, actually. Most young geckos hear stories ㅡfrom parents or elders, in plays and performancesㅡ of an extinct Fifth Faction; but just tall tales, bedtime fables passed down through the generations. Storybook stuff. Any child could tell you about that brilliant Fifth Faction, those paranoid terraformers who guarded their secrets with religious fervor and ingenious means. Those that paid attention might go on talking about the Faction’s strange, lost contraptions: inventions that had no place in a race, for why would a racing ship need to think? Or speak? Or be worshipped like a God? Or be protected at all costs? But, anyways, these are just stories to be laughed off and left behind upon adolescence, faded and forgotten like their subjects.
But should a team of renegade geckos somehow maneuver through the storm safely, they might well remember those stories. As they skid down onto the planet’s quaking surface and espy, There!, the pulsing, overgrown garage of legend, they might wonder whether this ordeal ㅡthe storm, the secrecy, the Crystal shot out into deep spaceㅡ meant there was some greater, underlying truth to all those tales. And if so, was this all meant to just keep other geckos out? Or was it, perhaps, intended to keep something else, something much worse, in?
Unlike, say, the Targari, the Barada faction don’t exalt their elders. Actually, any Barada caught in excess of a certain age is captured and sent to face a no-doubt undesirable fate.
One such Barada Elder managed to escape before that could happen. She’s occupied an unassuming dwarf planet for time immemorial. Despite her age, she has an impeccable memory, kept sharp through relentless mnemonic exercises and meditation. But what for?
Because she knows that one day four strange geckos, one from each faction, might arrive on her solitary planet, having heard rumors of her and the athenaeum of obscure knowledge she guards. She will ask them what they seek. The boldest among them, likely the Barada, will growl, “Tell us about the Enigma Crystal!” Recognizing those long-lost words, she will invite them inside her tiny shack.
After scaring off the Spider-Crickets, she’ll open her vast notebooks and show the Geckos illustrations, schematics for the few thousand unique variants of Enigma Crystal. “Even the Faction which created them was unsure of their ultimate utility,” she’ll say. “They had boundless utility”: As keys to great treasures. As status symbols for the elite. Some claimed the Crystals could even open up channels to strange dimensions -- metaverses-- allowing bizarre things to leak through. “But there’s no way to know for sure. All the crystals are lost.”
The four Geckos will trade furtive glances. Ultimately, it’s the Martu who’ll unfurl a map lay it down flat, point to a star system in the northern quadrant and say, grinning, “Not for much longer. We’re off to find one now. This was our last stop.”
It’s a tenet of every Gecko’s education. “What do we do if we see a hypercube floating in space, class?” And all the little gecklings reply, “Stay far, far away!” Alas, some Geckos never learn.
Because if you’ve trawled the galaxy searching for just such an object, Kindergarten warnings shouldn’t scare you off. Four Geckos come upon this cube; four Geckos climb aboard. It’s barren inside but for a decrepit machine, rusted and chipped, its exposed wiring crusty with dried acid. A ship in this state would surely explode. A toaster would too.
The Geckos approach the contraption, and it pulses with electricity, buzzing faintly. Four circular trackpads illuminate around it. On each is the cachet of a different faction --Barada, Targari, Alura, Martu. Prepared, the Geckos place a claw, foot, or snout on the trackpad bearing their faction’s symbol. And the room floods with blue light. The machine emits a high-pitched drone, and the cube itself begins to spin, shift, change. The light is blinding, the sound loud as a supernova! Then? Nothing. Space silence. The Geckos look up. There: the Enigma Crystal, waiting on a pedestal.
As soon as the crystal is in your possession, a beam of light activates from deep within it and sweeps the surroundings. You feel the electric crackle on the back of your neck as it registers your irises and genetic profile, and from the rigid looks on your other team members' faces, they feel it too.
"Ownership team registered," the crystal says, in a surprisingly clear tone despite its age. Then it falls silent.
You suddenly feel a growing closeness to your companions...
You've spent a long time inside the locked garage. Hard to say how long - the Concordians, being droids, work endlessly, without any particular schedule. Because of your possession of the Enigma Crystal, they don't register you as a threat, and are content to ignore you as they repair themselves, fine-tune their instruments, and adjust massive circuit boards.
Their constant presence is almost soothing. If only you knew what they were for. You just can't bring yourself to leave until you do, and although it's gone unspoken, you know the rest of your team feels the same way. So you do some hacking. Some observation. And slowly, the horror - or wonder - of it all comes together.
The Concordians maintain a subatomic signal of a type that may be unique in all the cosmos, a type undetectable by all known technology. It shrinks the fear centre of the brain, it regulates hormones, it whispers quantum vibrations of unity and peace. And it's aimed directly at the brains of every leader in the universe, all the way up to the Emperor Prime.
Didn't you ever wonder why the gecko warriors all threw down their weapons in exchange for the race? It was considered a miracle, once. It still is. And now, you've seen the hand behind it - now, you know why the extinct faction locked their doors and fled, as soon as they knew the Relay was here to stay. Their gift to the cosmos. Their dark secret.
The Concordians control the universe. They've brainwashed all the gecko leaders into pacifists.
The Concordians are a droid collective designed by the lost faction, working endlessly towards a singular purpose. They're self-sustaining, heavily armed, and made to last.
The Concordians have spent centuries inside the locked garage, sending out a subatomic signal to the rulers of the cosmos. Shrinking the amygdala, regulating hormones, sending out subliminal quantum vibrations of unity and peace. Have they saved the universe? Or have they just brainwashed its leaders?
As they work, Concordians emit a screechy whirr. You hardly noticed it before, but now, listening close, you realize it's not a whirr but a melody. A song! Working tirelessly, the Concordians sing to each other. Were they programmed to? Or did they somehow teach themselves?
The opening of the Lost Garage was a seismic event, one that sent ripples —literal ripples— of energy throughout the galaxy, smashing into planets, phasing through asteroid belts, affecting everything in their path.
Faraway geckos became woozy. Satellites stuttered in orbit. And in certain spots on certain planets, long-buried Concordians burst up from underneath rock or sand or seafloor, obeying a triggered directive to cease snoozing and return home.
In their flights back to the Lost Garage, a few of these Concordians rocketed through heavily-trafficked flight paths. Spacefaring Geckos just minding their business, and suddenly appears a strange droid outfitted with bizarre technology. Solitary Geckos, or those in Teams of 2 or 3, lucky enough to bring such a being aboard will find themselves at the center of a universe-wide conspiracy.
You've been minding your own business lately. Laying low after a particularly difficult race. (And by difficult, you mean an opponent repeatedly tried to kill you before you even launched.
One day your receiver tells you you're receiving an important message. You flip the switch and hear this:
We are the warrior's people,
on the most ancient planet.
Those who come to us
with the warrior's nature
will be given a mission
with great reward.
That's intriguing enough to get you out of your slump.
Now it's just a question of figuring out how to contact them back.