The Order of the Burning Serpent has always woven through history in some form or another, albeit without the name. The first “Order” members were simply men and women working within the fields of science and technology, collaborating with each other in open and in secret, safeguarding and hoarding knowledge of their own.
The Order lived in the Great Library, the House of Wisdom, the Congressional Library, The CIA of old Earth, The Children of Raxxlas “Watchers” Databanks, the Pilots Federation databanks, and the Cannon Interstellar Archive. There, they collected and stole data from their employers, hoarding it and analyzing it away from governments, religions, and popular opinion of the masses. The researchers were humanists who believed the official reason for their unethical approaches to collection and experimentation was to safeguard humanity from itself, believing that human freedom and the right to make a mark on the world were a right to every man and woman.
Today, it exists as a collective of researchers, organized into a humanistic religion devoted to the procurement and safeguarding of knowledge while forming pilgrimages to serve humanity. Knowledge is central to this Order. Not governments, or religions, or popular opinion to this day.
The Order was formally named in the mid 2500’s. A byproduct of previous secret societies of academics from multiple fields of study, the Order was formed quietly, adopting rituals and a code of ethics as it grew. It wasn’t until 200 years later that the general public was even aware of the Order. By then, with their ideals secure, the Order formally acknowledged their presence among the stars.
The initial “outed” members left their respective companies and laboratories, taking with them vast collections of data. They embraced their hidden rituals, publicly wearing insignia to display their position within the Order while adopting a cryptic humanistic religion, using the symbol of the Serpent of the Christian Bible to represent both their gift to humanity and their promise to one day return mankind back to the symbolic Garden of Eden.
Publicly, the Order continued its work, choosing randomly to work with others on particular problems mankind faced, such as the Thargoid encounters of the past. Soon, it became an “open secret” that the Order was capable of infiltrating other databases, evolving into a spy network that became the bogeyman for any project lead with classified information (if they were not the project lead themselves). This continued on for centuries, with the Order arbitrarily helping or hindering the work of others in the galaxy in an almost benign coexistence with the rest of mankind.
In 3301, the Order of the Burning Serpent discovered a place that changed their dealings with the outside world. 17 Draconis, a system away from the Bubble, was a Federal backed installation, built and forgotten. The Order, as well as the galaxy, had long known of the humanitarian trap that was 17 Draconis. Designed to accommodate the largest holovid production in history 120 years ago, Paradiso Outpost is a shining jewel 200ly from civilization. Much like the holovid it was built for, the grandeur of its scale belies a sad truth: It is a facade, with a terrible story cradled inside of it. 20,000 men, women, and children, descendents of the skeleton crew who were told to stay, now reside there unable to leave. Their living quarters are a mere shadow of the mansions and parks that frame their world, technically still owned by a holovid corporation.
Paradiso was forgotten and sealed in a proverbial wall of isolation, used only by Federal pilots seeking to earn their rank by flight distance. For years, the only pilots who came were there for courier missions or the occasional relief effort, unable to trade with a station that crippled its commodities market, leaving only an automated service station and shipyard of back catalogued cobras and vipers.
Paradiso was chalked up to neglect, an example of Federal mismanagement. It wasn’t until a data update from the Stellar Cartographers that revealed anomalies in the station’s structure. Further inquiries and power surveys revealed an operational laboratory within the Station. What was considered a badly planned hardline protocol enforced by mindless Guardians was actually a carefully constructed ruse. The Feds wanted not only to hide the bunker from its residents, but to hide the bunker from the galaxy itself, using the Paradiso’s residents to hide it away the same way they used automated grass and homes no one is allowed to enter.
The two factors, a bunker hidden away in plain sight, and a populace used to do the hiding, compelled the Order from its benign state into a new phase of their religion.
In early April of 3302, the Order began to make its presence known in 17 Draconis. At first, members began setting up classrooms and workshops, officially there as part of a humanitarian mission. As everyone expected, there was more at hand. Slowly, the order began infiltrating the various departments within the station, hoarding information on the inner working of the outpost.
The Order officially incited a mutiny of the station. Key functions were suspended or held hostage. Guardians that held generations of citizens at bay from large swaths of the pristine station stopped their perimeter patrols, instead reprogrammed to serve as security to everyone within the station. Of the law enforcement and Federal officers in charge of security, several chose to burn their uniforms, joining the Order in their takeover. Those who did not go along with the plan were given a factory issue Cobra, several thousand credits, and the knowledge that they could go anywhere except 17 Draconis. There were minimal casualties and no fatalities. Simultaneously, owners of the facades and sets were all offered triple their stake in once worthless outpost real estate. Most cashed in on the unexpected windfall, and the Order narrowed their search to the set pieces that were not sold.
Word of the mutiny reached Federal space. The Federation was burdened with a public relations nightmare: to restore order to a Federal outpost, the rest of the galaxy would watch as convoys headed out with a complement of auto-cannon shells, rather than infrastructure and supplies they were withheld for a century. To make a show of force on a crippled outpost filled with starving people fighting against a failed bureaucracy would be akin to social suicide. With no blood spilled and few within 17 Draconis angry about their new patronage, the Federation could hardly come out clean.
The Order pushed the scales in their favor one last time, transmitting directly to a Federal black ops post via the lost bunker. There, they saw the datafiles of a forgotten secret installation. Thargoid corpses flooded their screens, along with devices set to communicate with alien probes, classified star drives, codes to key Imperial and Alliance stations, and a single grainy picture of a planet, lost in space. The message was clear: If they truly wanted this bunker back, and the people on top of it, it would cost more than they could hope to pay.