“If anyone ever asks why we don't give Voldernauts any quarter, tell them to go back to Arduron 9.”
The Arduron system contains 23 planets orbiting a giant dual-sun system with two full-sized suns. Arduron 4 – 7 are in the extended habitable zone, 8 – 14 are gas giants, and the rest are habitable only through extensive terraforming.
The Ardurs and the Ronicans
The Ardurs, the naturally sapient species of Arduron 5, became a spacefaring race, making technological leaps and bounds as well as extending colonies onto the other three habitable planets. With the resources gained this way, they were able to place gas mining and scientific stations orbiting the gas giants.
The Ardurs were originally a humble and kind race. Weapons were not a primary focus of their research and they abhorred the destruction of sapient life. Upon finding their primitive sister race the Ronicans on Arduron 6, they quickly made provisions to accept them into their society as equals and gave them resources to create their own implements of industry. As the more populous race, they still maintained a dominant place in inter-planetary society, but their status was as a careful and guiding protector of the Ronicans, not as an imperial state.
As time went on, the Ardurs took less and less notice of the Ronicans, ascending far beyond their station and only doing occasional routine checks on the colony until it was reduced to a single embassy on the surface. The Ronicans were able to keep a mostly stable living arrangement, but they did not advance as quickly in the sciences and kept to their tribal rituals.
The Voldernaut Incursion
Unfortunately, this kindness and passivity towards their neighbors was their downfall. A Voldernaut scout ship landed on the surface of Arduron 6 and converted some of the local populace. Believing that the Voldernauts were mentally unwell, cleansing rituals were applied to the “infected” individuals to no effect. Quarantine was placed but by the time that the Ronicans were willing to take up arms against their brethren, the Voldernaut population was too great. The Ardurs responded to the insanity plea with medical supplies and staff to assist the treatment. When they discovered the biomechanical members of the Voldernauts, they were unwilling to take the lives of their sister species and attempted to unconvert the converted, swelling the numbers with every failed attempt. The embassy was swarmed by Voldernauts after a distress call was issued and the Ardur society was sent into panic.
Arduron 5 closed its starports. The Voldernauts responded by plowing what few ships they could commandeer into anywhere on the planet they damn well pleased. The scientific and mining outposts orbiting 8-14 went into overdrive, constructing powerful fortifications to keep out the rising tide of the Armada. Their efforts were hampered by five waves of increasingly desperate survivors from Arduron 4, 5, and 7. Arduron 9 was the lynchpin of the operation, filled with experimental mining androids of various capacities. The volatile gas from the giants and the energy from the collector systems were combined to make formidable weapons, and the first iteration of the Hunter-Killers were developed. Treads were originally applied to surpass debris on the ground, as these robots were designed to return to the habitable Arduron planets and clean up the results of the invasion.
“We've got to make them mindless. Make them too mindful and they're a target. Every time I see a Voldernaut with tank treads I just want to die.”
Signals stopped coming from Arduron 8, so the stations around 9 armed themselves to the teeth. Quarantines, lockdowns, security protocols, and an incredibly strict entrance policy, alongside the Hunter-Killers being posted at every corner. And then... silence. Fourteen agonizing months of silence. The Voldernauts had decimated communications early on in the invasion, but there were millions of people orbiting Arduron 8. It would take time to get them all. In the meantime, the people of Arduron 9 were becoming increasingly paranoid and tense, and talk began of the possibility that the Voldernauts were already there. Sleeper agents, not unlike a botnet, already placed and waiting for the opportune moment to strike from within. Sure enough, a forced inspection of all refugees from Arduron 4 revealed that the entire infant wing had been infected. A scientist in charge of the Hunter-Killers who had arrived from Arduron 4 had included an age limit in the code to prevent acknowledgment of his young daughter as a Voldernaut. The nursery staff had then been infected but the conversion had not been activated, to the fear and consternation of the security staff.
There was no telling who could have been infected by that point. With feelers in the populace of Arduron 9, it was no wonder than the Armada had been so long in coming. The science staff used the radio and energy frequencies of the known Voldernauts to develop a testing system. Half of the science personnel had been converted, and about a third of the rest of the population was already linked to the Armada. The war had been lost before it had ever begun. To the great dismay of all involved, it was noted that several of the Hunter-Killer prototypes had been linked to the Armada as well, as its programming had been deemed sapient enough to warrant notice as "not voldernaut". The clean crew attempted to round up the potential survivors as quietly as possible, while the “dirty” crew kept the peace and the secret of the infection with those who had been told to stay. A few hundred of the survivors, the science crew, and the remaining Hunter-Killer designs were stowed onto the escape shuttles and jettisoned, with a plan in place to take the rest of the survivors as time and space allowed, with small groups launched at a time so as not to attract the attention of the corrupted citizens.
As the first round of shuttles were launched, however, the mining crews still on the stations were seized by the consciousness of the Armada and assumed direct control of the mining operations. The power systems were launched into overdrive, and all of the mining platforms were hurled into the middle of the planet. The gas giant was drained from the inside out over the course of 24 hours. The habitations were sent into a state of panic as the Voldernauts awoke and swallowed the rest of the populace. Arduron 9 was completely obliterated, consumed physically, socially, and totally by the Voldernaut Armada.
The resulting energy from the mining stations and the collapse of the planet was used to launch the stations filled with Voldernauts into deep space, no doubt to activate wormhole generators and start the process all over again.