As the denizens of the Pact Worlds take their first steps into an unknown universe, fears grow of new military threats that recall the past horrors of vesk and Swarm encroachments. But even as attention turns to “out there,” those in the know understand that the greatest danger lies not in faraway legions of undiscovered stars, but in those malevolent alien civilizations lurking among us. Formless, ethereal refugees of corrupted afterlife cycles, shape-shifting drones of interdimensional brood-mothers, manipulators of interstellar commerce clad in convincing skin suits—their forms are as numerous as the paranoiacs who see them in every gathering of suspicious persons or at the center of every interstellar intrigue. And the folk of the Pact Worlds are right to be alarmed. Invisible agents—literally or metaphorically— indeed strive to infiltrate the upper workings of nearly every significant political organization in the system.
While the common citizen of Absalom Station or Akiton cynically dismisses rumors of shape-changer conspiracies, and interplanetary media conglomerates downplay the threat as xenophobic conspiracy theories, those in the know point to several indisputable facts: The Lord Councilor Shabras Kluss of Faxxan, the legendary Chasm City of Verces’s Twilight Highlands, was revealed to be a green-skinned reptoid after he opened the city’s once-famous Mineral Vault to Shadari pirates. A devastating decompression of the Zeffrac Science Platform over Liavara’s moon Nchak did keep its Wise Council— or rather, the fungal parasites controlling their bodies—from crashing their satellite city into the moon. Escape-pod survivors of three different VisTour space liner tragedies spread over four decades (the Gossamer, Ostog, and Stardream II) did report mysterious bulb-headed gray aliens manifesting moments before disaster struck—descriptions that matched creatures said to have been present at momentous Pact Worlds events tracing back before the Gap. With so many infiltrators confirmed as part of the official record—such as it is, given the vagaries of history and the tight grip of media censorship— it’s no wonder that the most alert Pact nativists extrapolate these threats to indict alien ambassadors, high-ranking Stewards, and even members of the Pact Council itself as patsies of unseen masters, or perhaps even as those masters themselves.