If the title of this post sounds like a stretch, its because it very well might be. But hear me out, I think I'm onto something here
I'll start this post with what my prediction of the plot and end result of the "Become the Crisis" AP does. From the Dev Diary given to us, it apparently has to do something with the shroud, and using dark matter to power… something. What the Aetherophasic Engine is, or what it does, is far more vague. It's been speculated to be a massive laser beam that you can use to shoot at intergalactic distances, but that doesn't seem like it to me. That seems more like a megastructure that needs alloy. Whatever this thing is, it's exotic, and thus it's purpose should be exotic.
And thats when we look to the story of the Zroni for answers
In short, the Zroni were a psionic species, and the first (?) to gain access to the shroud. And they definitely mastered it, as they were able to psionically project themselves into the shroud and even live there, being able to manipulate the material realm like gods. But then came a revelation: that energy in the shroud came from the consumption of mass in the material world, through the growth of black holes in the centers of galaxies (more particularly, their own):
From what we have learned here, some things are too good to be true – and so it was with the godhood granted to the Zroni by the Shroud. The energy required to power the vast changes in the Shroud's composition had to come from somewhere, and for them it originated from the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. As the Zroni made their changes within the Shroud, so the singularity expanded: consuming the mass of the galactic center and converting it into energy which was then siphoned into the Shroud.
Thats the first major point I'll come back to. The second major point is as follows: this discovery led the Zroni to break out into civil war: those who were gung-ho on using the material world to power their own shroud-based existence, and those who saw this as abhorrent. Nearing the end of the civil war, the Divine – the faction residing in the shroud – decided to bring about the "end of the cycle" and consume the galaxy faster than expected:
On the brink of defeat, the Divine decided upon their ultimate plan: the end of the cycle. The growth of the black hole galactic core would be accelerated to consume the galaxy as soon as possible.
Whether the "end of the cycle" in this story is the end of the cycle as we know it in game or not is speculation, but this brings up a possibility: that the term "end of the cycle" was coined by the Zroni, and refers to the strategy of devouring the galaxy as soon as possible. Thus, the entity known as "the end of the cycle" in modern stellaris might actually be the vestigial, agglomerated conscience of all "Divine" Zroni. Its also known that, at the end of the "end of the cycle", virtually all your colonies and pops are devoured to spawn a massively powerful psionic entity into the galaxy.
Now, what do all these things have in common? It would seem that the consumption of matter through the use of black holes powers entities in the shroud. Combine this fact, with the hinting of the mention of the shroud in the "Become the Crisis" AP, and it would seem that the goal of this crisis has something to do with "ascending" as a race to enter the shroud and live as gods. This would explain the need to create black holes, as they fuel the shroud. But what about the Aetherophasic engine? What is it's purpose? Quite possibly, it's one one of two things (if not both):
- A structure which transfers all of a species into the shroud to live immortally as gods
- A structure which expedites the expansion of the central black hole, leading it to consume the entire galaxy
Seem too wild to be true? Well it isn't. Because its likely that this is the exact thing that happened to the Prethoryn Scourge.
If you are psionic, you are able to interact with the Prethoryn scourge. What they speak mostly of are the Hunters, and how they are here to feed on this galaxy before the hunters arrive. They also mention that they are the last of their kind, and that the Hunters purged them from their home galaxy. But this isn't the weird part. Read the following:
Over the last few months, the Prethoryn Queen we captured has appeared increasingly restless and uneasy. At first, we thought it was simply missing its connection with the rest of its kind, until our Telepaths told us that it had been in communication with them, speaking of a 'Hole in the Void'. What it meant by this we found out only when a team of scientists researching Prethoryn intergalactic travel methods discovered a discrepancy in our astronomical database. While charting the likely path the Prethoryn had been following, they found that a small spiral galaxy some 30 million light-years distant from our own was… missing. The galaxy, discovered and studied during the early space era of our species, is simply no longer emanating any form of light observable by our instruments. This bizarre and unexpected discovery sent our scientists into a scramble to try and explain what could cause an entire galaxy to simply vanish from the sky.nnTwo explanations emerged: Either the stars of the galaxy simply went out, all at once, or there is something, something so vast as to eclipse an entire galaxy, blocking its light from reaching us. Both theories seem equally implausible, and many have simply decried them as ludicrous, preferring to think that the missing galaxy never existed at all, invented by some erroneous use of a primitive telescope. Nonetheless, a palpable sense of dread and foreboding surrounds the whole incident…
Seems a lot more plausible now, doesn't it? That the Prethoryn are simply fleeing a species or faction that had engulfed their home galaxy in black holes for power.
Let's take a step back for a second, and return to the Zroni civil war. It's likely that the Zroni weren't the only galactic empire when they fought their war: there were possibly other star empires that took note of this war, and realized the enormity of what was at stake. Though they were lucky enough that the Savior Zroni won, it's likely that an initiative was started by one, or multiple empires around the galaxy, to ensure a species never gets this strong again. This initiative, would've led to the creation of: The Contingency.
There is one line in particular that makes this quite plausible. If asking the contingency "why are you attacking us?", they will respond as follows:
Query received. Calculating appropriate response… <We… we are THE CONTINGENCY. A final failsafe to prevent the creation of a Class-30 Singularity. Such a singularity could –theoretically– destabilize the fabric of the entire universe. We were SEEDED to prevent such an outcome. Here and elsewhere. A sufficiently advanced civilization is –theoretically– capable of transcending/converting/morphing into a Class-30 Singularity. It… it…MUST. NOT. BE. ALLOWED.>!<
Theres two things here that make it so plausible:
- Their goal is to prevent a class-30 singularity from emerging. A black hole is the concentration of all matter in a single point, hence a singularity. Remember, that black holes play a large part in powering shroud entities.
- This is the scary part. It says that a "sufficiently advanced civilization is –theoretically– capable of transcending/converting/morphing into a Class-30 Singularity". It doesn't say that such a civilization can CREATE a class 30 singularity, but that a civilization will TRANSCEND into a singularity.
Previous speculation of the final point led people to believe that a class 30 singularity referred to the technological singularity, which is a hypothesized point in sapient evolution in which technology advances faster than the species can culturally adapt to. But… a species transcending to transform a literal and super-duper-massive singularity seems very much so like what the Sacred Zroni were attempting, and it is very plausible that it's what the Become the Crisis AP is all about: "Becoming" a class 30 singularity, and ascending as a species through the shroud.
There is a final point I wish to discuss, though this one is less concrete. It has to do with the powering of the shroud through intense emotions. In the Dev Diary, it's mentioned that "physical and mental duress of organisms causes fluctuations in the shroud". Whether this powers entities in the shroud is unknown, but if it does, then it would likely be the explanation for the Unbidden's conquest. It is also mentioned that the Unbidden comes from the shroud; or at least "somewhere close to it". Upon communicating with the unbidden and asking them what they know about the shroud, they reply as such:
…the Shroud… we know of it… it is close to where we come from… very close…
The unbidden also seem very attracted to sapient emotions. There is also the following outtake from the Zroni story that is never elaborated on:
A much smaller psionic crystal has been located in some kind of laboratory. The Zroni who recorded their findings within were extremely frustrated: their research had been ridiculed by their peers, and was largely discredited. They believed that the Zroni were no longer the only entities in the Shroud, and that the collective fears and desires of their entire race were coalescing into distinct, sapient entities. Desiring to grow stronger, these entities had begun to subtly influence the emotions and thoughts of suitable Zroni: slowly causing their behaviors to become more extreme. This may have directly caused the Zroni civil war.
Its possible that these entities in the shroud were the Unbidden, who passively fed on the emotions of the Zroni.
It's also possible that the Unbidden come from another dimension where they brought about the equivalent of a class 30 singularity and now live in the shroud. Instead of consuming more matter, these creatures decided to feed off of intense emotions felt by sapients. Thus, any "feeding" that the Unbidden carry out is not actual physical consumption, but likely some form of torture: a more direct method to feeding, rather than just scavenging off the emotions of sapients passively. Again, this part is hard speculation and far less concrete than the others.
So what do you guys think? Because honestly, I think I'm on to something here…
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