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GGW - III
Great Galactic War - III



<Galactic Senate, Endurgan Capital of Durgassa, 12th March 2387, 15:12 Cherson time>


“You want WHAT?”

“He can't be serious.”

“Why is that guy still here?”

“What else did we expect?”

“Is that his kind of humour?”

“BURN HIM!”



Alaric Thathicos, the Councillor of Humanity, basked in the outrage. Sometimes he wondered why he was still alive. Freely walking the streets of a doomed planet.

The Union had declared that they stood for freedom. Leaving the Human Councillor alone was a sign. A sign for their moral victory.

Well, he wasn't going to complain. Let them enjoy their useless moral victory, as long as the Empire achieves all other victories, which everything points towards.



It would be nice if his own plan ended up in victory. Galactic custodianship. The bill that caused all the outrage. Emotionally, Alaric couldn't really blame them, but politically?... Actually, he couldn't blame them either.​

While he implied with the proposal of the bill that it might appease his dear cousin, he was pretty sure that nobody was fooled. Save perhaps for that one Endurgan senator who would be the perfect image of the drooling idiot – if he could drool, that is. Coincidentally, it was the senator who had attended most of Alaric's dinners. No connection there, definitely.



He waited the storm out some more before clearing his throat. “My dearest senators!”​

“Victims, you mean!”

“Enemies!”

“Give us back the dead!”



The shouting continued a while. It was soothing. Alaric revelled in animosity. He'd taken to only wear clothes clearly marking him as an Imperial official lately, and he'd been attacked more than once, only for his guards to dispatch the attackers and the police to detain them afterwards with clenched teeth (sometimes figuratively).

The Councillor made another attempt at speaking, while the Speaker of the Senate, a Dabbax, not even tried to restore order. “Just...” The noise overwhelmed the assembly.


So much even for the moral victory. Alaric grinned. He wasn't fighting the most vicious battles, yes. But he denied his enemies even the slightest triumph.

He returned to his seat, widely gesturing in celebration, earning himself even more ire. Some senators had to be restrained in order not to launch themselves at the Human delegation.

Using his council powers, he had forced the bill on the floor. Not that the Senate could do anything against the Imperial advance in the first place, but now they also had to debate granting the Empire galactic custodianship.

Alaric congratulated himself on a job well done.​


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<Gaddamod squad, Hulfir marauder, orbit of Miggirius, 2nd June, 2388, 17:13 Cherson time>

“Holy... he must be compensating for something.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“Dunno. Picked it up from a Human on Durgassa who talked about Councillor Alaric's newest car. Thing was around thrice as big as his.”

“Eh, doesn't matter anyway.”



The flagship of the Empire. The High Emperor himself had come with the War Saint to witness the last moments of the Hulfir. And now, the last warriors of the Khanate were throwing themselves at this massive warship in a last-ditch effort.

Though they all knew that the chances of success were minuscule at best.



Khan Mashgirg's plan for this war was to do the unexpected and hit the Imperial core worlds, hard. If it failed, at least they would die a warrior's death, on the offensive as befits a true Hulfir.

Well, Mashgirg was quickly proven right. In 2380, all three Hulfir fleets were annihilated. Those trying to go through the Carmenekke-Uflao wormhole met Minotaur. In Oxcliri, Garuda stopped them before they even came near to Imperial space.

And the Khan himself had just led his fleet through the L-Gate, attempting to launch an attack on Succubus' Bawl, when his galleon's bridge was instantly vaporized by the ion cannon the Imperials had placed in Terminal Egress. The Khan's ships never left the system.


Not long after, word of the Imperial superweapon had spread. Ever since, the remaining Hulfir government prepared. Without any spatial warships, everyone knew that it was likely hopeless. But they did so anyway. Built transport shuttles en masse. Every Hulfir who could handle a weapon was sent to Miggirius, likely the Empire's last target.

All for this one moment. A full-scale assault on the War Saint. Chief Muggur couldn't help but respect the Human Empire. The Hulfir were warriors. United under Daggagom, they had set out to claim the galaxy. But faced with that thing, Muggur knew they could never succeed.

His people respect strength. And the Humans had beaten them. Soundly. He'd also seen Leon's show of strength as he struck down a Sentinel himself. If there was a man who was worthy of claiming the Hulfir's lives, then it was him. Good.



The engineers had made the decision to relay the information picked up by the transport's sensors to the crew's optic receptors. Weaklings like the Endurga wouldn't understand. Seeing the devastating battle played out would surely be bad for morale, they would say.

Warchief Dekkpatum estimated that over 90% of the shuttles would be shot down before reaching the War Saint's construction bays. The shuttles' prospective entry points. And even if they made it there, the Imperials would just await them with massive firepower.


Well, in at most a few days Harbinger would be firing. Then they'd all be dead anyway. So today was a good day to die. Let none be able to say that the Hulfir went quietly!

Muggur's shuttle crashed into the construction bay. They'd made it. The Chief fastened his grip around the Sluhtham, the traditional weapon of his people, and led his squad to charge out.

The construction bay was full of shuttle carcasses and dead fungi, blown to bits from all sides. It wasn't much of a battle, more like a slaughter. With hardly anyone wielding modern weaponry, it was to be expected. The Hulfir were seeking death. And even well-armed, they would hardly be able to even control the construction bay.

Before Muggur had found a target, a salvo of projectiles hit him. A glorious death.



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<Sif Gunnarrsson, Imperial Salvager on board of the Desire, 8th May 2389, 14:53 Cherson time>

Gunnarrsson looked out of the window. Dabba Naxan, finally left behind. What had started as a potentially lucrative opportunity had been a financial disaster. Intercepted by a cleaning squad, she had spent a few days as basically a prisoner of war in their camp, although she had quickly identified herself as an Imperial citizen.

The conquered planet, just as any other where Harbinger had passed, was under martial law until colonization was authorized, and any object on the planet had become imperial property with the conquest. That was the final reason given to her as to why the popularly called “scavenging” was forbidden – scavengers weren't just walking into and taking abandoned property, they were stealing from the Empire itself.

While the government was very tolerant towards opinions, guaranteeing full freedom of speech, if someone put criticism of the Empire into action, the full might of the law would come bearing down on the perpetrator, the punishments for actions against state property higher than against private property, the justification being that those who disregard the state threaten society as a whole.

With the first wave of scavengers having grown rich swiftly, more and more people sought their luck rummaging through alien remains, and so the Ministry of the Interior had to take action eventually.




It took them three years to work out a solution. Sif guessed they could have done so faster, but the Ministry had given in to demands from the military to leave the appearance of “open scavenging season” alone so that the cleaning squads had some diversions.


Indeed, during the time of her captivity, cleaning squads often set out to subdue scavengers. She herself had managed to gain some degree of freedom by putting her experience to good use, identifying the most promising spots on the planet for scavenging with the data available to any potential newcomer, which were swiftly put under greater observation. Thanks to Sif's intelligence, multiple smaller ships and their crews, who had slipped through the surveillance sensors, were captured. She felt like a dirty traitor.

But better that than to be deported to Yarus Prime. The purges there had ended, but the status as penal colony had not. By all accounts, it wasn't a pleasant place to be, and she had no inclination to see if these rumours were based in truth. In exchange for her intelligence, and her workforce in cleaning, she could stay. Though she had to pay for everything herself, and the soldiers always treated her like an intruder.




These three years were hard, but then the Ministry of the Interior finally made a somewhat expectable move. They regulated scavenging. Recognizing that there was far too much ground to cover (Sif liked to imagine hordes of officials following the cleaning squads, carefully categorizing every alien thing for the Imperial records), the Ministry would issue “Salvaging Permits”. After applying for and being granted the expensive permit, the Empire would relinquish its property for half its value.


The profits generated would easily pay for the expansion of the war effort and the greater imperial megastructures. Two megashipyards, soon three science nexi, a sentry array, the strategic coordination centre... Imperial might was expensive to expand, but measures like the Salvaging Permits allowed the Ministry to even lower taxes instead of raising them.​

Although the hefty price to pay kept scavenging the better option for plenty of people, Gunnarrsson guessed. People who would then live in fear of Imperial retribution and who would have to turn to the black market to peddle their goods. Or end up in her position – at best.



With her wealth of experience and, most importantly, a good word from her military captors, Sif's application was swiftly approved, and so she became the first official Imperial Salvager. Unlike a lowly scavenger, who merely looted a battlefield, a salvager had the distinct honour of retrieving imperial property, thus advancing the Imperial cause.

Using the funds she had gained through her previous scavenging, she bought the Desire to start her new journey. Now with Imperial blessing. What did she think back in the day? That what she did was perfectly legal?

Well, now it was. And now she did it for the Empire, too.

But first, get away from Dabba Naxan, and never return. Then find a good crew, for the long run. She'd still get her hands dirty, it was her life. Who would have thought that she'd get a passing mention in Imperial chronicles?

It was a new time of opportunity – in the Empire. For everyone else, it was the day of judgement.





<log of Claxtrp, Dabbax scientist, Pharus Mandate, Trappist system, 13th December 2390, 06:11 Cherson time>

There was movement in the starbase. Again. For the third time already since the occupation of the system by Imperial forces, the commanding officer of the base is being promoted to admiral.


sybG9ao.jpg


Our fleet is no more. Our homeland is no more. No matter if you are from Dabba Naxan or any of the colonies. Harbinger has been there. So now we few remaining Dabbax are just waiting for our annihilation on three planets we have taken from the Vailons – hostile population included. Though for now, facing death, they are quite amenable.


Especially since the Empire is advancing into Confederacy space. The only remaining spatial force to face the ruthless conqueror. Their “psionic” abilities, no matter how impressive – what a shame I cannot study them! – are their main weapon against the maniac. Yet these powers alone will surely not be enough, we hope they have a plan. Some powerful secret. For now, things are looking bleak.

Yet we are showing spirit. Assembling ships, sending them to attack the starbase. Trying to get a foothold in space again. A place where we can build interstellar ships.


Being repelled time and time again though, it is not sustainable. And the Empire loves rubbing salt in the wound with all these promotions, installing the former commanders of the Trappist station as leaders of new fleets which all pass through the system to pick up their new admirals.

Not to mention time is running away. So our greatest hope is Project Sri. Named after... a Human, of all things.



Srijayanavarman, only called Sri by everyone else, came from the Human colony of Aegis. It was named as such due to the permanent, impermeable shield surrounding it. Humans managed to settle the old world only due to the shield generator having been installed by another party on one of the planet's moons, and then uncovered a kind of pocket galaxy where its inhabitants had escaped to.

Sri could give no other information, but he renewed our hope. For years now, we've pooled all our resources to search for a solution. The “pocket galaxy” was deemed to ambitious. Who knows how many centuries the shielded species had needed to create it – too many, certainly.

So we are working on shields. All we've managed to do so far is to increase our planetary defences, which is nice, but utterly useless against Harbinger. It's a race against time, and things aren't looking good.

But hope dies last. We've still got hope. Thanks to that, we've still got order. Order that has been crumbling all over imperially-occupied systems. The Looming Death hasn't come to us yet, but it will.



We HAVE to finish the shield before then. We have to.





<Councillor Alaric Thathicos, Galactic Senate, Endurgan Capital of Durgassa, 4th March 2391, 19:37 Cherson time>


“Councillor, we aren't safe here.”

“We are staying as long as we need to. Whatever managed to break through that thing – we've got it. After all, we've caused it.”​

“With all due respect...”

“Just break through!” Alaric looked up to see what gave his men so much trouble. The Galactic Senate was so close, yet so far. The building still stood, and that was his chance. Luckily, he had taken shelter when his cousin informed him of the upcoming battle – else he would have been in there when it happened.


A gigantic wing (if that's the right word) of the Dugglensch IX, the Endurgan juggernaut, was sticking out of the Senate. This “small” piece of debris was still two kilometres high. By some miracle, the impact hadn't flattened the whole area. Survivors of the juggernaut's initial destruction must have activated some emergency measures to slow the thing's descent down.​

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The Endurga had made a concentrated final effort to take back their capital. Now, the debris was an inescapable reminder of the fact that the Endurga had lost that battle, and the war. High Emperor Leon had already announced that only the Vailons were still resisting. Despite billions of the Union still alive and somewhat well on the planets. They were all cut off from space and thus inconsequential.



Yet Alaric was still on Durgassa. Yet he could feel that the authorities wouldn't shield him from popular anger at what he represented much longer. With the ultimate defeat coming ever closer, his life hung ever more precariously in the balance. Which made his success today all the more important. He didn't just want to slither away like a coward. That would just be a small victory for the loser. Unacceptable for a scion of the imperial line!

“We are through!”




Finally. Alaric clapped his men on the back as they cheered, having finally, after arduous months of work, created a passage through the wing piece. Alaric stepped into a floor of the juggernaut, or rather where a wall would be, and strode towards where the Senate would have been.

It wasn't easy to get through, but he finally did it. Reached the formerly august hall. What remained of it. His seat was crushed by tons of Endurgan alloy. The Speaker's seat was just covered by some rubble. Excellent. Remains of the Speaker included. Less excellent.

Holding his nose, Alaric ordered one of his men to get rid of rubble and Speaker, another one to clean up the seat.

Then took his place. Cleared his throat. “Today, our Galactic Senate has assembled to vote on the merits of the bill presented by His Most Esteemed Councillor of the Human Empire, Alaric Thathicos...”

Presenting himself in a better light than usual, but else he thought that he'd mimicked the Speaker's protocol well enough. Then came the vote. Alaric felt generous – he'd count the absent and dead as “abstaining”. At least those whose place wasn't taken by his men, the whole Human delegation, guards, servants. A clear majority.



Today was the day the vote would have been called if the Senate hadn't been destroyed. Well, the vote was still called, at exactly the usual time. So it would be official.

The Empire was now Galactic Custodian. An empty title, for sure. But a nice final victory for Alaric before he had himself evacuated from Durgassa.

The Senate would reform somewhere in Imperial space, happily nodding through whatever His Imperial Majesty desired.



Thanks to yours truly.



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Legal scavenging sounds like a good way to fill the imperial coffers without having to pay people to do it for you.

It was only a matter of time before the Galactic Senate was reduced to irrelevancy. The rest of the galaxy was wise to "abstain" on the custodianship vote. ;)
 
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The Imperial bureaucracy has made sure these 'scavengers' are held accountable to the fullest extent of human law. Only lawless aliens and traitors would wish otherwise.
 
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The Galactic Senate has acknowledged the Empire's superiority. I feel like the other powers of the galaxy might just leave the Senate and form an alliance against the Empire. I doubt it'd succeed, but they could decide that eliminating humanity was worth more than own lives. Or they just want a glorious death that ensures they're remembered.

And the Empire still doesn't have psionic powers, and an alien race does... the Shroud might not be out of the question.
 
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Or they just want a glorious death that ensures they're remembered.
Unfortunately, since history is written by the victors (in this case literally since the Empire will kill everyone else), I don't think they'll be remembered in a very good light.
 
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Legal scavenging sounds like a good way to fill the imperial coffers without having to pay people to do it for you.

It was only a matter of time before the Galactic Senate was reduced to irrelevancy. The rest of the galaxy was wise to "abstain" on the custodianship vote. ;)
Somewhat like a farmer having people pay him so they can harvest some fruit for themselves.

A choice of pragmatism, I'm sure. Perhaps Alaric's promises weren't that empty?
The Imperial bureaucracy has made sure these 'scavengers' are held accountable to the fullest extent of human law. Only lawless aliens and traitors would wish otherwise.
Absolutely, citizen. The rule of law must thus be brought to the farthest reaches of the Milky Way.
At last, the senate has voted correctly on an issue. Thank you for showing that galactic bureaucrats can be right on special occasions.
:p

They could learn a lot from Imperial bureaucrats. Actually, I think they may take that advice to heart.

The Galactic Senate has acknowledged the Empire's superiority. I feel like the other powers of the galaxy might just leave the Senate and form an alliance against the Empire. I doubt it'd succeed, but they could decide that eliminating humanity was worth more than own lives. Or they just want a glorious death that ensures they're remembered.

And the Empire still doesn't have psionic powers, and an alien race does... the Shroud might not be out of the question.
They might... But then again, they don't have much of a fleet left for that. The Hulfir at least made the second choice.

The Vailons certainly won't give up, and who knows what kind of sorcery they can pull off? Though they'd need something very miraculous to escape their situation.
Unfortunately, since history is written by the victors (in this case literally since the Empire will kill everyone else), I don't think they'll be remembered in a very good light.
True that. Mere footnotes in the glorious history of the great galactic conqueror Leon II.
 
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GGW - IV
Great Galactic War - IV



<Her Imperial Majesty Yuko, Imperial Palace of Cherson, 1st May 2392, 11:39>


“I know that you will do it to perfection.” The hologram chuckled. “It's you. And there is nothing sweeter than announcing a victory.”

“The capital is in good hands, my love.”

The High Emperor ended the connection. Yuko sighed.

This was to be the day of victory. The aliens' starbases were now all under imperial control. If there were still any alien ships at large, then they were mere single ships somehow evading detection.

Yet her husband, despite insisting that she should proclaim the imperial victory in the Great Galactic War, was unwilling to return to Earth and enjoy the fruits of imperial labour. The war was both won and not yet won enough.




Leon's Paradox.



The High Empress could guess why. Leon was a warrior through and through. He wanted to live in his element as long as possible. What would her man do once there was peace?

Probably look for another fight to pick. Task Thorismondi with expanding the imperial reach, to more systems at first, more galaxies, more dimensions. He was insatiable, full of determination. One of the qualities she loved of him.


Still – she thought of her place in this conflict. In the Empire as a whole. She was Japanese. Unlike the other cultures of humanity, the Japanese had not been subsumed in the Empire due to the Miracle Crisis, but had been conquered by the typically brutally cultural supremacist Goths during the age of exploration, like so many others. Cultures that the Emperors of that time erased, mostly with steel and blood.

Japan managed to earn the Goths' respect. As a worthy opponent, the Japanese culture was allowed to survive. Even thrive under Gothic rule. And now, Yuko had become High Empress.

Was there any lesson to be learned for the Great Galactic War? Like the Gothic Emperors of old, Leon was hell-bent on destroying anything alien. But has no alien truly won his respect? The tenacity of the Dabbax in Trappist is admirable, at least. The Hulfir were warriors to the end.



Was total annihilation the right way to go on?



But well – if the war was already won, then he surely wouldn't object to her accompanying him. The War Saint was big enough and well-accommodated, fitting of an imperial residence...

There was a knock at the door. The servants, ready to prepare their mistress for the proclamation. Yuko bade them to enter, her thoughts drifting away from the speech to a trip around the galaxy.

Though she was looking forward to the truly magnificent festive dress specially made for the occasion, she wasn't looking forward to wearing the imperial crown – the clearest symbol of imperial power was quite heavy.



Still, she'd make it through Victory Day. And then finally join the victor.


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<Nonna Thorismondi, ancient space station in the Kastaba system, 8th May 2394, 10:42 Cherson time>

The scientific superstar walked through what they had identified as the command centre of the station once again. Her team joked that all her circling around was starting to leave its mark on the floor.

Yet they were open to anything that might unlock Thorismondi's famed inspiration. All it might take was one flash of genius, and the secrets of the station would finally be unlocked. Nobody builds such a big base in space for no reason at all. It was likely top-secret, with plenty of protection against intruders like them, still working plenty of years later.


Nonna's latest exploit was stopping Obr-Few, the Vailon-made space storm, which had enabled Victory Day to come at least two years sooner. Thanks to some captives made on a station orbiting Vallgar, where some members of the Council of Ascension lived.

This Vailon apotheosis committee was probably one of the few remaining threats to the Empire, but Thorismondi had not managed to psionically intrude upon another of their meetings. She was beginning to think that her meddling with the Shroud had created her former colleague the Exile, which might explain a lot.

The captives had, once their “cooperation” had been secured, divulged the creation of Obr-Few, which showed a few weak points the Imperial scientists had seized. They had also pointed Thorismondi towards this ancient station which Vailon scientists had not managed to crack for decades.

Leon of course put his best woman to the task of finally unlocking its secrets. Now she'd already been there for years herself. But it was no reason to despair – all it took was one moment of genius.


Lost in thought, the circling scientist tripped and fell against one of the consoles. Unexpectedly, she received some feedback. The thing started to stir. Might that be the great breakthrough? Were the builders using some kind of species-innate clumsiness to secure their station against aliens? Following up on that idea, Thorismondi began kicking the console while manipulating the console, and succeeded.

Finally, the station came to life.


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Its secrets were stored in the logs. Its builders were apparently in a situation similar to the aliens – they were on the brink of extinction, engaged in war with an aggressor who sought their demise. The station was to be an even greater weapon than Harbinger – able to devastate the attacker's planets from afar.

It didn't work, but they had a few highly innovative ideas that might serve to increase Imperial weapon efficiency.




A good thing the Vailons hadn't managed to secure that knowledge.





<multi-species stealth ship Unity's Strength, log of Captain Daglug, 2nd July 2395>

The combined forces of both the Dabbax and the Endurga science nexi. The pinnacle of cooperation between galactic nations, a vessel uniting the knowledge of many species. The Unity's Strength, built on the Dugglensch IX, the great juggernaut of the Union.

Back then, we thought the thing would be indestructible. That was before the War Saint tore it to pieces.

This ship was far smaller. And equipped with the absolute best stealth systems. Even imperial sensors will have trouble noticing the Unity's Strength despite it being destroyer-sized. As we departed, my mission was clear. While Dharbal Vullush's proposal for ark ships was shot down, the man wasn't taken for a madman. The Human threat was very much real. The US was to be the first element in specific countermeasures. It remained the only one.


I was tasked by the President to unite the galaxy against Leon the Bloody. Instead, the Vailons took advantage of the Javorian War to weaken us even further. So, it's pretty clear that I must say that my mission failed. No matter how many heroic deeds we've pulled off in the meantime in quite lawless regions, the Empire flattened the population curves there too efficiently.

Our greatest success was to unmask Noq Krekk, the media mogul, to be in league with the invader. The Krekks were apparently Imperial agents since the Spine War a century (70 Earth years) ago, and Noq had taken his father's mantle. Sowing misinformation and discontent, manipulating public opinion ever since, the Krekks had played their part in the Union's failure to prepare against Imperial aggression.

Noq had met Councillor Alaric on more than one occasion for more than just his parties and interviews. We had tracked down one such meeting and found irrefutable evidence. Sadly, he managed to escape with the Councillor after that vermin proclaimed the Empire as Galactic Custodian in the destroyed Senate.


This wasn't the last we heard of him. Alaric made sure that the developments of the Galactic Senate were broadcasted across all occupied systems. As it relocated to the Imperial planet of Pallas. As it made the Custodianship permanent.

And now, the Councillor made sure that everybody knew of his newest plan. Proclaiming the Galactic Imperium. The bastard loves rubbing salt in wounds. He'd officially proclaim the peoples his Empire is at war with to be his monarch's subjects for basically no reason. Other than bragging.​

According to the Senators I have spoken to, that's just his character. And that man was the imperial chief diplomat. We should have known long, long ago.



But we've got bigger worries now – Harbinger has arrived in Durgassa's orbit.



So now we've got no more choices. It is time for our last hope. The Unity's Strength has thoroughly tested the stealth drives in occupied space, but now we are putting them to the greatest test yet – passing through the L-Gate unnoticed.

Vavvab the Gorf pilot couldn't help but point out that the Hulfir main fleet was massacred in Terminal Egress before even reaching their true destination.

I'll never understand the shroom. He replaced the Hulfir Muggur as pilot when the latter wanted to take part in his species' “glorious end”. He'd been the Gorf ace pilot. And he'd been left completely broken by the Hierarchy's fleet having been wiped out by a single ship, even if that ship was the War Saint. He is now a depressed wreck, but still an ace pilot worthy of the US.

The remainder of the crew, from the Dabbax thief to the Vailon psychic ex-prisoner, are more in a state of grim determination. That's what we need to pull this off.

We had to pass through Terminal Egress, to reach Zultar's Maw, another Imperial system. Danger over there was far less, the Empire neglected that outpost a lot despite it harbouring a L-Gate. Due to bordering the Bodranite Archivists.

Those ancients, who promised those entering their space “certain doom”. These are our goal. The Rax'Thalak, or even the NEX robots, may be more amenable to our request. But they are out of our reach. We can't push our luck going through more imperial systems than absolutely necessary.

We need to reach the Bodranites, manage not to get blown to pieces, and convince them to intervene. For the galaxy, and for themselves, for Leon won't rest before even these old empires are crushed beneath his boot.




<Sisenando Leonites, St.Kyrillos Place in front of the Cathedral, Cherson, 17th March, 2399>


“Well look who it is. Sisenando!” Leonites turned around in the crowd. He had instantly recognized the voice.

“Aikaterine. Long time no see, indeed.”

“I still dream of your cakes, you know.”

“Glad to hear they've left a lasting impact.”

Aikaterine Monissa, a banker of the Fugrasus Bank, had been a regular at Leonites' restaurant. Over time, they had become good friends, though they hadn't kept in touch since he'd moved to Mars.

“Got tired of watching the grass grow?”

“I'd never. It's peaceful.”

“Then what brings you to the old capital?”, Monissa asked despite the answer being obvious.

Leonites tried to spread his arms, as much as possible in the thick crowd at least.

“Thought you'd said 'peaceful'!”

“I couldn't miss this. Still remember Leon's coronation. Fondly.”

“You sure it's not just because the city was overflowing with people and thus guests?”

“Bite me.” Leonites chuckled. “You know what I mean.”

“Indeed. Where are you staying?”

“My sister's place. She lives over in the Greek Quarter.”

“You have to let me invite you while you're here. And make me your famous cherry cake.”

“I think I'm a bit rusty with the tools of the trade...”

“Now you're pulling my leg! Nobody can forget that level of mastery!”

“All right, fine. Might be good to catch up. You wouldn't believe what Martian life is like...”



The Imperial Anthem resounding over the place cut the two old friends short. The highlight of the day was fast approaching. Holograms of the cathedral's interior flickered to life, showing the ceremony in full.

The venerable building itself was filled with the cream of the crop of imperial society. While the streets were full of people.

That could only mean one thing – an imperial coronation was taking place. Though this time, even grander than ever before. Broadcast across the entire galaxy. Even though the Human craze on Vallgar had ended, even the Vailons wouldn't be able to turn their heads away.

As the ceremony came to its peak, the old regalia of the Empire of Gothia were ready. The Pope was ready. And the imperial couple was ready.


Leon and Yuko inclined their heads, and Pope Innocent placed the crown upon them. From now on, another title was added to their list.

Galactic Emperor.



As Leon surely already planned how to pacify his remaining unwilling subjects, a week of celebration would take place all across the new Galactic Imperium.



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<Imperial admiral François Gérard, Wiyter system, 16th March 2402>


“Good work, everyone. Set course for Zultar's Maw.”

The battle was over. Gérard could now relax a bit. Though he would probably never know where that enemy came from.

The “Acquisitor Fleet” of the “Bernat Thalassocracy”.

Some aliens never heard of before and which probably never will be heard of ever again. Not after every single one of their 109 ships met their end.

Then again, knowing Leon, these winged monkey-beasts poked the sleeping lion. And the lion was glad for his next meal. He had picked up the scent now. There was no way he'd rest before the insolent aliens who dared make demands of the Imperium were annihilated.



Gérard searched for a bottle of red. Found it. Too many losses for champagne, but still a good victory. “Château de l'Empereur Soleil”. Year 2374. Excellent vintage.

He had picked up the habit in the Great Galactic War. Since his promotion to admiral, Garuda had seen plenty of battle. He had earned himself the reputation of a ferocious admiral who never envisioned retreat, following firmly in the footsteps of Marshal Leroy.

A good glass of wine was just what he needed to contemplate what the future might bring.


The proclamation of the Galactic Imperium had attracted the first bandit alien. He was sure that this wasn't what Leon had in mind when he accepted his cousin's idea to push the Empire through the Galactic Senate, but that it was very much a good outcome for the monarch.

If the lure of the Empire expanded its reach beyond the conventional hyperlane system (Was it through some special resonance in the Shroud? Probably only Thorismondi might figure that one out.), then there were more conquests on the horizon. More battles to fight.

And a Galactic Emperor left in his true element.


The peace under Leon after the Javorian War was to better prepare for war. He lived the old Roman maxim of “si vis pacem, pare bellum” perfectly. Plenty of people had feared what would happen once the galaxy was conquered. What would happen to the Galactic Emperor? Would he weep like Alexander, but really? What changes would rock the Imperium?

Well, now they had their answer. Leon would continue to pare bellum. Only death could stop him. Even if the foe was not in sight, it existed somewhere. Be it beyond the hyperlanes. Be it beyond the galaxy. Be it beyond the universe.



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But for now, there was another enemy to fight. Which is why Garuda wouldn't be able to enjoy their victory for long.


Leon amassed his forces in Zultar's Maw, giving the occupied systems a short term of reprieve.

Why? The Bodranite Archivists. They now called themselves the Bodranite Directors. Aiming to reclaim their glory.

Or to put it in their words:


“It is time to end this fifth galactic cycle.”


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Nobody knew nor cared what they meant by that. They wouldn't be able to stand against the Imperium.​
 
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I was wondering when one of the fallen empires would awaken. Might be a bit late for them to even stand a chance with the Empire controlling almost the entire galaxy.
 
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The Fallen Empire probably doesn't stand a chance against the Empire, but they could catch a few systems off guard.
 
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A fallen empire awakes, but they are probably too late to stand against the Goths who have conquered the galaxy.

I wonder if there will be a sequel where the victorious Space Goths attack other universes? Haver them invade other Stellaris galaxies! Other versions of Earth! Admittedly, that's probably too ambitious as a sequel, but it would be hilarious.

Or maybe they attempt that, and the Psionics trigger the End of the Cycle in response? I feel like psionic warfare approaches.
 
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I was wondering when one of the fallen empires would awaken. Might be a bit late for them to even stand a chance with the Empire controlling almost the entire galaxy.
Indeed. Especially as Leon doesn't mess around and brings the Empire's full might.
The Fallen Empire probably doesn't stand a chance against the Empire, but they could catch a few systems off guard.
They can definitely do that as the Empire's fleet concentrates on one side. To their detriment, the open side is uninhabited.
A fallen empire awakes, but they are probably too late to stand against the Goths who have conquered the galaxy.

I wonder if there will be a sequel where the victorious Space Goths attack other universes? Haver them invade other Stellaris galaxies! Other versions of Earth! Admittedly, that's probably too ambitious as a sequel, but it would be hilarious.

Or maybe they attempt that, and the Psionics trigger the End of the Cycle in response? I feel like psionic warfare approaches.
Yeah, I'm not going to pretend that there's much they can do.

That's a great idea... though if you want that, there's a very easy solution - pick any other Stellaris galaxy, and imagine that the crisis, be it Prethoryn, Unbidden or whatever, are fleeing the victorious Goths!

As I've now reached the current state of gameplay again I might just take you up on the suggestion - use the console to trigger the End of the Cycle for the Vailons. Worth considerating, at least.
 
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GGW - V
Great Galactic War - V


<Bodranite soldiers Pad Jite and Wun Ladite, Scodd system, 13th February 2403, 15:47 Cherson time>

“Don't you think we're fortunate, Wun?”

“Sure.”

“Don't give me an answer like that!”

“What do you mean, then?”

“To witness the end of the fifth cycle. An era ends, and we are here to witness it!”

“Mhm. I'd prefer Font of Knowledge, myself.”

“Come on! It's history we're writing! History instead of just... living... with no purpose!”

“You do know that your “history” means we'll have to set foot on primitive worlds, do you? Organics, too. I don't even want to imagine that.”

“You might have a point there... but we'll get a mention in the Archives.”

“Like millions of others. Woohoo, we've written history.”

“Spoilsport. I am looking forward to the experience.”



Hostile ships were incoming. Jite and Ladite went to their stations.

“How long do you think the primitives will last? Records of the last cycle show that the first battle hardly lasted an hour.”

“Keep focused.”

“My bet's on two hours.”
The Human ships were no match for Bodranite technology. Most corvettes of the attacking fleet fell one after the other before the station had even taken a scratch.

As the Human ships engaged, the shields fulfilled their purpose perfectly, as was not to be expected otherwise. Still, their capital ships packed quite some firepower. This battle would last a while.



Then Ladite's focus slipped. “By the Rolling Boulder.”

It was quite rare that a Bodranite used religious vocabulary. Science and knowledge were their religion.



But Ladite had seen what was following the Human fleet. They had not been informed of that. This was why he preferred his calm life on Font of Knowledge – no surprises. Knowledge was the basis of their society, their greatest weapon. Military hierarchy was named as the main reason for why the enemy's strength wouldn't be passed to the soldiers – they shouldn't be able to make their own plans, but rather follow the admirals' orders.

Now, Ladite guessed the real reason.


Fear.


Hundreds of Human ships, amongst them one so massive their own battlecruisers seemed like one of those corvettes they had shot down in comparison.

So much for harmless primitives.

“I think you've lost your bet, Pad.”

Then one of the big human ships' perdition beams hit their ship, and admiral Rycel Dian's order to retreat was not doubted for a second.



Both didn't react. For the impact had severely damaged the ship and killed them instantly.​


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<Galactic Emperor Leon II, imperial palace on Font of Knowledge, 28th October 2404, 07:42 Cherson time>

The years have led to the Bodranites to fully neglect any kind of planetary defences. That's what over-reliance on your spatial defences does to you, but Leon couldn't blame them. After all, when someone knocks on your door with Harbinger, they are quite useless, while expensive to maintain in peacetime.

A rational decision, one of these those damned rocks were so proud of. As they were of their civilization spanning “millions of years, five galactic cycles”.

Bullshit. They were advanced, no doubt about that. But can someone truly become so decadent that they just huddle in their corner of the galaxy popping grapes into their mouths for millions of years? He'd go insane within a day. Where's the ambition? The power? Curiosity, or as he'd put it, the thirst for new conquests? The drive for change, the life?

And didn't they believe in their superiority through knowledge? Pah. None of the previous civilizations managed to reach Human ingenuity. Harbinger is the greatest weapon the galaxy has ever seen, Thorismondi's latest discovery notwithstanding. Previous planet-killers left their target uninhabitable – not so Harbinger.​

But that's a question Leon would love to ask the Bodranite empress herself. It is for that purpose that he was landing on Font of Knowledge, before Harbinger would fire.


His strategy in the war was painfully simple, too. Just amass his entire forces in Zultar's Maw, then move in. Sure, the south was undefended, but nobody lived there anyway, and before an attacking fleet even reached inhabited systems, the war might already be won.

Especially if they split their fleet to take advantage of the undefended south.

Military theory was clearly something these "Keepers of Knowledge" had neglected to preserve over the ages.



Why take the risk of leading the assault force personally? It was not the rational thing to do. That alone would probably infuriate the Bodranites, which his cousin Alaric would find amusing.

He wanted to take part in the action – and he couldn't miss the chance to march in and humiliate the haughty Bodranite monarch himself. Besides, wielding Righteous Rage, he was the strongest soldier in the Empire – something unthinkable of a man 116 years old just a few generations back.

He could risk it. Crown Prince Kyrillos was ready should he be defeated. Which he didn't expect. Even five-metres tall rocks with a civilization spanning millions of years had to fight according to natural laws. Else he wouldn't have been able to advance that far in the first place.





The imperial shuttles were under fire from Bodranite footsoldiers as they descended, but the Bodranite imperial guards had no anti-air weaponry, so they couldn't stop the shuttles. Another rational decision – the most they had to handle for who knows how long were a few insurgents if there had ever been any. Certainly not an attack by a veteran invading force.

Leon deployed his greatest elite troops for this mission, the newly-created imperial legionnaires, together with his hand-picked imperial guardsmen, a good number of wizards amongst the 10.000 assaulting the palace, a gigantic complex. Himself included, leading the spearhead to break through the main entrance.

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Like an establishing moment for a superhero's (or supervillain's) strength, the Galactic Emperor cut a (bloody is not the right word... rocky?) swath through any Bodranite standing in the way, their elite guards a match for most legionnaires, but not for the Conqueror.

They did set up some sort of device that should cut the wizards' connection to the Shroud, but Righteous Rage's immense psionic power, able to be felt throughout the galaxy, simply overwhelmed the device, and so the playing field remained quite levelled – what the invaders had in experience and discipline, the defenders made up for with terrain and technological advantage.

A worthy fight, Leon found. Still, they couldn't stop the spearhead. Piercing through the hastily erected defences, the man was soon standing in what had to be the throne room, accompanied by thirty members of his Imperial Guard.



“Whatever you think you are doing, it is a great mistake.”

“Is it now? From where I am standing, you never should have meddled. Then you might have lived a little longer.” The High Emperor tried to identify the leader of the dozen or so Bodranites who sought protection behind their guards. It would be easy if he could see them speaking, but the rocks had nothing resembling a mouth. He wanted the empress alive - if that was the right word to describe it. Damned aliens.

“Human. We have seen civilizations rise and fall. We shall weather this assault as well.”

“Really? When I'm done, you will all be inert stone. I will not be lectured by what might become my new throne.”

“Throne? Then you must be their leader, primitive.”

“Such disrespect. Let's try again. Anna.”

The woman, captain of the Imperial Guard, took over seamlessly. She'd done the introduction often enough, even if it had been modified not too long ago. “You stand before His Imperial Majesty Galactic Emperor Leon II Thathicos, the Conqueror, the Bloody, the Demon of Light, the true heir of Theudis the War Saint, High Emperor of Terra, Emperor of Gothia, Francia, Japan and China, Lord Protector of the Colonies...”

Leon cut her off. “...et cetera, et cetera. Thanks, Anna. We don't have all day to cover my titles, but I still expect you to address me as befits a monarch.”

“We believe something else is in order. Respect due to one's elders.”

Leon chuckled. “Oh, but I am respecting you. I've come personally to extend my invitation from one monarch to another. That's more than I've afforded the Dabbax, Endurga, Gorf, Figyari, Hulfir...”

“Come to the point, primitive. All you do is test my patience.”

The Conqueror brandished Righteous Rage. “MY patience is all that keeps you alive. You would do well to remember who just invaded your palace and slaughtered your guards. There's no room to negotiate here. That I'm even speaking to you – it just satisfies my curiosity.”

The lithoids moved in a way Leon interpreted as having gotten his point across.


Then again, perhaps his interpretation was a little off.





<Thought record of Captain Daglug, Imperial Palace, Font of Knowledge, 28th October 2404, 08:00 Cherson time>

Our gracious “hosts” have finally moved out and left us alone. All it took was the great evil we spoke of invading their imperial palace before they thought they might let us contribute.

Had they fired their orbital death ray, we never would even have known if the Bodranites had acted. By the underworld, we still don't know if they did. Perhaps the Empire just invaded once they'd finished off our homes.

Time feels a little wonky here. I couldn't say if a year had passed or three hundred. I can only understand very little of the Archivists' technology. Still, even that was not enough to defeat the Empire if they can assault the palatial complex.

I've assembled the team. We have to try and save the Empress. If the Empire mows down the Archivists, they will do so with their death ray – and thus get their hands on their technology in pristine condition. So not only would they already be capable to take on an ancient realm and win – they'd emerge even stronger than before and could probably wipe out both frogs and bots at the same time.

Perhaps it's a good thing Kont Dite, the old admiral who had been dubbed “the Immortal” after surviving his fleet getting destroyed multiple times, has not survived whatever the Archivists have done to us. Any attempt at strategy against the Imperials would be doomed with an Evarite on the team.​

He'd probably just shout “For Evari!” in their language and get us shot to pieces by the undoubtedly elite troops awaiting us in the throne room. No matter how elite we are, I don't fancy my chances against the Empire's best in a fair fight.


As it is, we might have the element of surprise. Sneaking around unnoticed against the massive, seemingly ever-shifting walls of the Bodranite palace should be possible – after all, they are expecting to fight giant, ancient lithoids, and not a ragtag band of far smaller species.

Traces of the carnage litter our way as we get close to the throne room. Mostly Bodranites. Most unsettlingly, not just with holes in them, but some apparently cleaved in two. We stay clear of the fallen Imperials – the bastards can be nearly as dangerous dead as alive.​

The work of one of the two Imperial scientists with pan-galactic fame. Nonna Thorismondi is one of them – once the space storm was named after her, her eccentricities came to be known everywhere. Valerios Anteris is the other. Known only through second-hand testimony from the Human escapees – and his deeds. He's responsible for the Empire's genetic breakthroughs, from their cloning facilities to their terrifying biological weapons.

How do we know? They all bear a distinct genetic signature serving no biological purpose which, transcribed according to Human custom, translates to his name. The last ground battles fought against the Empire saw the whole arsenal of bio-weapons deployed, and in all honesty, I doubt the Bodranites can best Anteris' sick imagination in this field.

So stay well clear of any Imperial, keep the rebreather mask on at all times. And should we lose – then we should die. None of us should fall into the Imperial scientists' hands.

Proceeding to the throne room goes without incident. And there he is. The cleaved Bodranites should have been a clear indicator – the great evil is there in the flesh. The now so-called Galactic Emperor, Leon.

Brandishing his fearsome purple sword towards the highest of the Bodranite nobility and their remaining guards, twelve soldiers, ten nobles. Now if we can just... Oh, damn. They've seen us. Both our hosts and the unwanted guests.

Leon doesn't even turn around. “Abductees? Or are those the reason why you decided to try your luck against your inevitable destiny?”


The Imperials may be surrounded, but they've got the numbers – thirty-one against twenty-three – and the emperor's presence. The Vailon psionic had warned us – the Council of Ascension, the strongest psionics amongst them, had failed to overcome the blade's power, and it was determined that only continued heavy fire might break through Leon's shield.

We'd be dead long before it breaks. Still, the firefight hasn't begun yet – so we might have a chance to explore the emperor's motives. So that we'll at least make our last stand informed.

“Now the Archivists – are you insatiable? Why are you doing this? Why did you break the galactic peace?”, I shout, my aim unwavering from Leon's head.

The Human monarch doesn't seem like he understands, and then it hits me – of course he doesn't have a translator. Fitting for a man who loathes everything alien. The Bodranites responded in Gothic, as they were probably just as interested in his motives as we are. So I'll die without even an answer...

Or at least I thought I would, before the Vailon plays the interpreter and relays my words in what I assume was Gothic. He did say at some point that he'd learned Gothic, something his mammal tongue is capable of, during the days of the great Human craze on Vallgar. Makes me regret I never learned his name, for he's been immensely useful.

We've made too little amends with the old enemies. One reason why we've fallen.


“Curious. Alaric's games have led to something substantial, it seems. You've piqued my interest, so I might as well humour dead men.” Leon turns around, but neither he nor his troops let their guard down for a moment. One spark and the throne room becomes a slaughterhouse.

“I am not breaking the galactic peace – I am creating it. Believe me – we Humans are talking out of experience.”

“We Endurga also have experience. More than the Humans in galactic politics. We've had a similar mindset in the past – wars of conquest to ensure peace. But we've grown past that. For all it creates is more war.”


“And this is where you are wrong. A war can only create more war if there is more than one left standing. I bet that was your mistake. Nations are just like individuals in that regard. If one of the combatants loses, but is only left injured, he can one day fight again. If he's dead, then there's just one victor.

The galaxy is a big arena. Some fighters make shaky alliances. Because they somehow like the arena life, even if they fight, they never end their opponents. So they remain fighters locked in their arenas, even if some try to get the spectators on their side, change the rules in their favour, whatever.

While these fighters make alliances or enjoy their semi-retirement, we've trained. Arena life is full of problems. Problems that cannot be solved while the fighters all have their own ideas. What it needs is for one to come out on top so that he can control the arena. No more need to squabble over the delivered resources like food and weapons. No more need to please the spectators.

All are subjugated under the victor's will. A victor who may one day look beyond the arena.”


Leon's martial mindset comes at no surprise. The metaphor does work, though. The galaxy as arena, resources, the spectators as natural laws and the Shroud. As expected, there's no way to reason with him, but I have to try. “Why don't the fighters unite against the arena master and the spectators? Together, they can achieve the same, can't they? It is even easier to control the spectators.”


“That is the ideal of the weak. Lacking the strength to break free on their own, they rely on cooperation. It always sounds utopian. 'Gather our strength to emerge as a stronger whole. Peace and love.' Drivel.

We've seen that time and time again. These alliances only work as long as there's something strong outside holding it together. Without that, it collapses upon itself – the strongest has no reason to support the weakest. He deserves more and has the strength to take it. Internal squabbling over resources ensues, and the precious alliance falls apart.

Now imagine a world where everyone is equal. None stronger than the other. All resources distributed equally. Is that the utopia of your 'United Union'? For it is my greatest nightmare.

What do all these equals do all day? Nothing breaking their equality, that's for certain. Is that even life? A homogeneous mass of bodies moving in unison? No. That's life reduced to a very simple program, no reason to be, an existence of pure boredom from birth to death.”


“How is that any different from the absolute control exerted by the Empire?”


Leon smiles. “The Empire is the strongest in our scenario. It has full control over resources – if it wants to. It doesn't have full control over minds. It offers the chance to work yourself nearly to the top if you desire it. It rewards effort, while ensuring that everyone has what they need.

I should cite my namesake ancestor's conviction, the leading principle of Gothic emperors ever since over six centuries - 'God works in miracles – leaders achieve solutions.' By ensuring that there is an uncontested strongest in the realm – the Emperor – he can uphold law and order. He has the power to provide solutions to problems. Problems that would never be solved in a state of competition for none wants to give up their advantage, none willingly weakens themselves for the mere purpose of cooperation.

The Emperor is different. As he has everything, he isn't driven by desires that would tear alliances apart. He doesn't weaken his power when he does what is necessary. Abandoning an advantage for the greater good comes easy, as there is nobody he needs an advantage over.

The Emperor's control is the basis of a truly functioning society, where everyone can contribute to the extent of their skill and willpower. For the best choices are made with the best advice. That is the heritage of a long line of Gothic emperors culminating in Leon I's form of absolutism – a meritocratic monarchy with a strong bureaucracy, which leaves its citizens with plenty of freedom while holding the strength to tackle the world's problems.

Unlike in my nightmare scenario, the people doesn't have full equality. It has something far better - it can live according to its own desires, only with clear limits designated by law.

The people have a life.”



He clearly enjoys explaining his philosophy to us “lesser beings”. Perhaps I should play along to see where it leads. Not like we have anything else to do. “Assuming that it truly is the best form of government, and not the Union's democracy, the Traders' megacorporation or anything else – then why is there no place for us aliens in this world?”

“Have you already forgotten about the arena?”

“No. I just don't see how 'the arena' is compatible with your imperial thought.”

That visibly irritates him. “If only beaten down, the other fighters will keep striving towards the title of strongest and will inevitably come to challenge him. Insurrection is inevitable.”

“But how is it any different from the Human Empire? Why is insurrection not inevitable there?”

“People think in groups. 'We' know better than 'they' what 'we' need. Over time, the Empire has grown to be a single 'we', so it can be led by a strong monarch. The aliens are not 'we'.”

“You say 'over time'. Why not give us a chance to integrate into the 'we'?”

“For one, there are obvious biological differences who will always dominate discussion and hinder integration.”

“It was no problem in the Union.”

“My spies might want to disagree on that.”

The Krekk clan. “Not in everyday life.”

“Secondly, do try to control and integrate a such biologically diverse population that clearly outnumbers your army. Even Imperial strength can be stretched thin.”

“How did Earth unify then? I've been briefed on Human history – how could Gothia lead the unification effort without stretching itself thin?”

“A visionary's outside problem. The threat of swift annihilation. That was the power necessary to ensure integration – when given the choice to integrate or be ended, most people preferred integration.”

“Then I can only reiterate my question – why not give us the same opportunity?”

I don't need to know much about Human body language to recognize the pure hate Leon radiates now. I think I've won this discussion, just with a few questions.


It seems it all comes down to personal hate. He never forgave us for the assassination of his mother. Even according to his philosophy, with enough effort he could forge a galactic society as he desires. But he doesn't want to. He wants us all dead.​

Leon turns around to face the Bodranites again. His gaze is specifically directed towards one individual – the empress. The Humans have identified her.

Suddenly, the emperor stands next to Can Cite, cutting down the nearest soldier. I merely have time to notice that before-







<Bodranite Empress Can Cite, Imperial Flagship Theudis the War Saint, orbit of Font of Knowledge, 11th February 2405, 12:00 Cherson time>

Despite Leon's declaration of wanting the respect due to a monarch when he invaded her palace, ever since he abducted her, she had been treated like vermin and stuffed into a specially-made cell where she had been subjected to experiments that even the Archivists would deem unethical. Some of them were probably just basic torture for no reason at all.


Hypocrite.


The primitives had fried her implants with targeted EMPs, and Cite felt like a part of her had died. The mechanical enhancements were a part of every Bodranite, and the loss stung more than the following torture. She had lost all sense of time, and every slight movement startled her, unable to notice it earlier.

Like now. The guards opened her cell. Sapped of all strength, Cite hardly struggled as the small Humans forced her forward, moved her to the bridge of the enormous ship.

Her captor was standing there next to a vicious-looking contraption. Arms crossed behind his back, the “Galactic” Emperor looked at Font of Knowledge, ordering his men around without turning away. And who could blame him, this time? The view was breathtaking, as the Humans would say. The magnificence of her homeworld was a pleasing sight for the empress, invigorating her drained body a little.

“Have you enjoyed our hospitality?”, Leon mocked her.

Not that the empress understood. Without her implants, the primitives' language, hardly within her audible range, was just a random amalgam of sounds. She could only tell that he sounded pleased with himself.

“Feast your... I'd say eyes, but whatever... on a once-in-a-lifetime-show.”

Leon inserted his purple sword into a machine and pushed a big red button, before turning back to Font of Knowledge. “Observe.”

Can Cite now saw the vessels rotating above Font of Knowledge. Their speed increased, and they emanated a bright light. The light converged into a beam. A beam that was directed at the planet's surface. A blue glow engulfed her home.​

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That had to be what the other primitives had talked about. Warned them about. Yet in their arrogance, they had not acted until it was too late.​

Leon turned around. “I didn't want you to miss that.” He made a signal, and the guards moved in again. He pointed at the other contraption. “You can think about your mistakes a while longer. The guillotine only awaits you at the end of the war.”

As she was dragged back to her cell, Cite wept (figuratively) for the fate of her people. Millions of years of civilization, extinguished by a bunch of primitives in an instant. This fifth galactic cycle ended with their own defeat.




<Nonna Thorismondi, The Archives, 4th June 2406, 16:37 Cherson time>

The Bodranite Directors were defeated. Their definite end came with the execution of their last empress, meeting her end guillotined in Cherson. Leon clearly planned ahead for the two other “fallen empires”.

But in the meantime, Imperial scientists flooded the planet bearing the descriptive name of The Archives. The records left behind by the lithoids would keep science busy for a long time.

All their talk of “Fifth Galactic Cycle” made sense now. Apparently, the Bodranites had classified galactic eras as Cycles, their end always marked by some exceedingly dangerous crisis ravaging the Milky Way.

They were the last galactic civilization standing after the first cycle. Thus they had created the NEX Continuity for the second cycle, at a time when they were most certainly still in shock from the crisis and thus quite benign towards “younger” species. These robots were built to preserve life.

The Archivists and the Continuity broke at some point. Records will have to shed a light as to why. Perhaps the emergence of the Rax'Thalak as another galactic power with clear support of any life – the Bodranites turned more isolationist while hoarding the cycles' knowledge, as the frogs and bots “saved” species from extinction. The frogs' demand for people to “preserve” was not forgotten in the Empire.

The Empire might be able to learn something by perusing how the Archivists defeated the crises threatening the galaxy – though most certainly not from the last of the records, dubbed the “Human Crisis at the end of the Fifth Cycle”.

Though one particular piece of this final entry in the historic archives of the Bodranites caught Thorismondi's attention. The Archivists had dubbed the eras “Cycles” for a good reason – after the third, they had used the pattern to tentatively predict the fourth one – a prediction that came true with merely a few days of error.

The interesting part was that the date for the beginning of the fifth crisis was not yet reached. Did the Empire merely defy prediction or was there still something else to come?

A fascinating field of research, surely. While others studied antigravity generators and other technological marvels, she delved into crisis prediction, a new idea for “Shroud-walking” took shape in her mind.


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No surprise that the awakened empire fell. The other fallen empires better prepare or their doom will be swift.

I'm wondering what sort of end-game crisis will occur in this galaxy, or does the Empire count as the crisis at this point. :p
 
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The interesting part was that the date for the beginning of the fifth crisis was not yet reached. Did the Empire merely defy prediction or was there still something else to come?
Interesting. Though I think the Empire can handle anything the galaxy (or universe) will throw at them at this point.
 
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A crisis might be approaching? That could prove interesting.

Also, you successfully misled me into thinking that the End of the Cycle had been triggered. Good job. End of the fifth galactic cycle, indeed.
 
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And after a short summer break, just in time for the great heat here in Europe we reach the great (?) finale to the Gothic saga! Thank you to all readAARs and enjoy this last chapter. I'm sure you can guess what happens ;).

No surprise that the awakened empire fell. The other fallen empires better prepare or their doom will be swift.

I'm wondering what sort of end-game crisis will occur in this galaxy, or does the Empire count as the crisis at this point. :p
Taking on the FE which prides itself on being the guardians of advanced technology first doesn't really increase the other FE's chances.

I'm pretty sure that the Empire, even if not a crisis by name, is a full-blown crisis for anyone else. Really, the only difference is that they aren't planning to destroy the galaxy.
Interesting. Though I think the Empire can handle anything the galaxy (or universe) will throw at them at this point.
It's a good guess.
A crisis might be approaching? That could prove interesting.

Also, you successfully misled me into thinking that the End of the Cycle had been triggered. Good job. End of the fifth galactic cycle, indeed.
I wouldn't have that much hope in the crisis ;).

Well, thanks to biological ascension the End of the Cycle was never an option - and despite it all, the Gothic Emperors do remain Catholics, so I doubt they'd be willing to make a deal with something that might very well be the devil in disguise.
 
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GGW – VI
Great Galactic War – VI


<Imperial couple, Theudis the War Saint, 5th January 2410, 15:24 Cherson time>

“Their tenacity was admirable.”

“True.”

“Yet their fate was...”

“... inevitable. As soon as Harbinger was used the first time, the path forward was clear.”


Yuko knew that, and she had accepted the Dabbax's fate long ago. Drawing another parallel to her own people, she was sure that no matter the respect earned in battle, if the Goths had simply nuked Korea before landing on Japan proper (luckily that was technologically impossible at the time) then the Japanese culture would no longer exist.

The Dabbax fleet had not managed to earn her husband's respect. The ire drawn with the assassination of his mother was a hard thing to overcome. And with Harbinger's completion, their grave was dug.

Still, they fought to the last moment. Unlike the Hulfir and their last suicidal charge, the Dabbax had fired up their prototype shield generator.




It stopped Harbinger's beam for five minutes, a respectable achievement. More of a last stand than the Endurga, wiped out the 29th June 2408 with their last refuge in complete anarchy.

The Vailons were left. And the other ancients. By now, the fleet should be refitted with Bodranite-style dark matter generators and shields, as well as Human-developed dark matter thrusters.

Far from his battle plan against the Archivists, Leon planned a pincer attack against both fallen empires at the same time. The Empire's might should be able to succeed on both fronts.

He would take the War Saint against the machines, as they were the greater unknown in the coming conflict.



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<Imperial General Iordanes Ervig, The Preserve, 23rd April, 2412, 17:31 Cherson time>


The last toad defenders had surrendered. Good. Anteris wanted some of them alive.

Ervig shuddered at the thought. Man, was he happy not to be there. Anteris' lab was firmly on top of his nightmare list. Followed by the army's xenomorph division. The guillotine. Somewhere down the line there might also be falling into the enemy's hands.

Good thing he was an Imperial General, he suddenly noticed, for his nightmares wouldn't be aimed at him. Not a singular treasonous thought would ever form in his mind, that's for sure.

The toads might have been an ancient species, but they were also organics. So, unlike for the assault on the Bodranite palace he only heard from in second-hand accounts, the whole might of the Empire's bio-weapons could be brought down on their foe. Rax'Thalak resistance on The Preserve crumbled swiftly.

Not that there was that much in the first place. He had been briefed, of course, but the extent of the planet's whole purpose just hit Ervig when the last defender was dealt with. As soon as the Empire had officially seized control of the place, the aliens came out from just about everywhere.​


Unarmed aliens. Highly diverse aliens. Before Ervig could order them shot, they threw themselves in the dirt. “Master, we ambassadors are ready to serve.”

The toads' depravity was something to behold. The mass of suddenly-appearing aliens was just the tip of the iceberg, which the troops had of course noticed during the invasion. The small number of Rax'Thalak were the aliens' “caretakers”. The whole planet was basically a giant zoo – though visiting toads could enjoy every kind of imaginable pleasure provided by the aliens in their respective regions.

Every region had an ambassador who would ensure that their people were well-aware of their caretakers' wishes. The aliens' whole purpose was to entertain through their existence and service.


Service of... any imaginable kind. An Evarite – with not even a hint of animosity – offered to wipe the blood of the general's boots, while others proclaimed that “they lacked information about Master's anatomy to be able to please Master.”

Ervig had the “ambassadors” taken captive, got himself Imperial approval, then called for purifiers to cleanse the planet thoroughly. No trace of that filth should remain.

To think that the toads had the audacity to demand a Human contribution to their sick pleasure.




At least something good came of it. Ervig had been ordered to take the ambassadors to the capital, where the old Gothic tradition of throwing diplomats into the harbour could see a final revival.​


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<Imperial couple, orbit of Cradle, capital world of the Rax'Thalak Ancients, Theudis the War Saint, 26th August 2415>


“Is this really necessary?”​

“We've gone over it a few times, have we not?”

“True, but still – why invade when we've got Harbinger? Why let good people make a senseless ultimate sacrifice?”

Leon was grateful for his wife's insistence, recognizing it for what it was – challenging his plan like the ministers and public opinion might. The NEX Continuity had been wiped out with the use of Harbinger, after all. Of course, the monarch didn't need their approval, but things always worked better if he could get it.

“It's a signal, one that can only be sent in this final battle of the Great Galactic War. Against all who may believe that the Empire's military prowess is simply concentrated in its fleet now. Those who might think that they might carve out some lawless piece of land on planets which we certainly won't bombard from orbit.

With the creation of the ISD, I've sent one strong warning to all dissidents. This invasion will prove once and for all that Imperial might is superior, be it in space or in planetary warfare.”​


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“All these lives just for a warning...” The expression Yuko made while saying this made it difficult for Leon to concentrate on his task. It was one of those that made him love her and still cherish their marriage after nearly a century.​

“This is not something achieved without loss of life – but I am firmly persuaded that it is the path of lesser losses which I am walking.”

The Galactic Empress licked her lips. “And what about the devastation of Cradle after the invasion? Wouldn't taking it over in pristine condition be worth more?”

“We've taken over so many of these so-called ancients' worlds, learnt enough about their technology – we can rebuild it. In good Imperial fashion, not alien weirdness.”

Yuko leaned closer. “And will it be the end of the wars? Humanity's last enemy, vanquished?”

“Some Vailons are still alive, but yes. The fighting will end as humanity has claimed its rightful place.”

She whispered into his ear now. “And unofficially?”

“Thorismondi is closing in on a more permanent solution to the Anterine Problem. You know her – it can be done in a few days or a few years, but it will eventually be done. The warring will then likely resume, though it's not a necessity.”




Saying it out loud made him appreciate the “Anterine Problem” all the more. It reinforced the awareness that he still looked and felt like a man in his prime instead of semi-mummified debris. That he could bask in Yuko's radiant beauty, shining still like the day they first met.

The Anterine Problem, named after the Gene Master, Valerios Anteris. The man was still not dead yet – and he showed no inclination to part with the world of the living. Through fusing Bodranite technology and Human comm tech, Anteris had abandoned his reluctance to research further life-prolonging measures. Through an implant of Kelant's miniature wormhole generator, the Gene Master, ever serving as his own guinea pig, connected his memory to special storage placed on “some random asteroid”. No more “maximum storage capacity”, as he put it – memory and personality would remain intact over time.

This was all he needed to throw himself at his work with renewed vigour, periodically researching yet another technology that would prevent the effects of old age to take root. Taking pride in the fact that “every three years, life expectancy rises by five”.

He saw no reason why there would be a limit to his “fountain of youth” therapies.

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Great news, as Anteris by now had basically achieved functional immortality, and would likely achieve full immortality at some point... and that was the Anterine Problem.​

For now, there was plenty of (now) empty space in the galaxy to colonize, but with no real natural population decline at all any hope of the population stabilizing at some point through declining birth rates was gone. The Ministry of the Interior had already formulated a lot of plans for this situation despite it being in the relatively distant future, and most of them called for Imperial regulation of some kind, sometimes even as far as assisted suicide for those who felt they had lived long enough.

Leon took these plans to heart in his grand design for the future. Space and resources were the only limiting factors – so he would endeavour to make these unlimited as well. Thorismondi was looking into ways to reach places nobody could realistically reach any time soon.

With each new place within reach, the Imperial expansion would continue. People had called him insatiable many times before, and indeed, he was. The Empire would be, too. Insatiably spreading into the void.​

Leon was thinking about the prospect of adding Last Emperor to the list of his titles – not because the Empire would crumble, but rather because nobody would come after him. And with the Anterine Problem solved... he might take another step to increase the human population.

Not more cloning facilities. A small step, one which lasts a while. And only with personal significance.







<Council of Ascension, Jiindet, Vailon Citizen Confederation, 17th August 2420, 04:12 Cherson time>


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“Brother Lant's plan has, as of now, officially failed.”​

The Council let out a collective sigh of disappointment. Since the Empire had wiped out nearly all of them, Jiindet being the last inhabited planet, any stronger emotions had long ceased to be expressed on the Council.

At least, with the complete psionic awakening of the Vailon species, the Council had basically taken over the government – being the most powerful psionics and the last hope of the species, the Consul had entrusted more and more power to them until a telepathic plebiscite handed them absolute power, officially until the end of the emergency.

Knowing full well that said end might never come.


“Brother Jurg kept monitoring the Humans. Their jump drive technology makes any attempt to sever the hyperlanes a mere small gain of time at best.”​

“Jump drives? What is that? We didn't notice any Human ships outside of the hyperlanes.”

“The Empire is placing a great focus on technologies that are independent of the Shroud. Like their Gateways. These drives are in use for quite some time now, we just never looked for them before.

They somehow bend spacetime. We've no clue how, it is outside of our expertise. One weakness is that they need the clear coordinates of their destination as marked by a previously-passing ship.

Not only have Human vessels been in our Aniara system before, there's a good number of Humans in Aniara's starbase right now. Even if we severed the hyperlane, they'd be here in force with a fleet before we could mount an assault on the base.”


Another collective sigh. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Brother Jurg has seen something else. Something truly disturbing. The first Human presence in the Shroud is causing massive disruptions.”​

“Disruptions? In the Shroud? What? How?”

“We don't know how. All we can say is that the Shroud itself parts in front of her presence. It gets torn apart from our dimension. The Human, by all accounts, tries to reach past the Shroud.”​

Dumbfounded silence. Rare among the Council. “And what might she want to accomplish?”

“Who knows? The Shroud holds the power to divinity – what might await beyond that is anyone's guess.

We have no further choice.”


“You can't mean-”


“I do. We need to take a step we aren't ready for. All in favour...”





<Imperial scientist Nonna Thorismondi, Peudeanus system research station, 18th September 2420, 16:13 Cherson time>

“Are you sure, my Lady?”

She'd never get used to it. But by now, it had become some sort of official nickname – everyone but the Emperor himself called her that. Not Science Officer Thorismondi. Just as Anteris was the Gene Master, Georgios the Admin, she was the Queen of Discovery, always addressed as “my Lady”.

“Of course. We're close to fulfilling His Majesty's orders, and we shouldn't dawdle. He hates idleness.”

Expanding humanity's reach – that was Thorismondi's task. Her thoughts went to the Shroud immediately. Not to find a way to somehow live in there – that would be a folly, especially with the Vailons' influence on that dimension – and whatever was in there anyway.

Nonna, after thoroughly researching the Bodranite archives, theorized that the Shroud had not always been such a close parallel dimension, but rather that it had been artificially connected to our dimension. Early Bodranite spacecraft had no hyperdrives, but rather used experimental jump drives, with far longer travel times. The young Archivists faced another nation with similar goals as today's Vailons, until they disappeared.

Not long after, the Bodranite vessels developed hyperdrives. The extinction of that other species had something to do with the Shroud, Thorismondi believed. These aliens would have bound the Shroud to our dimension and “ascended” into it. Not reaching godhood exactly, but still becoming masters of their new home as weird psionic avatars like the one Lanckoronski's Griffin faced in the Toropia system.

This connection proved to be a boon to those who remained in the original dimension, as it could be shaped and used, something many different species figured out how to do. As far as the Archives knew, none had ever attempted to look beyond it.

Thorismondi thus tread new ground, which was exactly where she felt at home. Initial probing was promising. The gravitational centre between Peudeanus' binary stars made a great anchor to her highly-experimental research station, aiming to tear a hole into the Shroud. This one parallel dimension was so closely interwoven that to reach another one, they had to pierce through.

But once that was done, an endless amount of dimensions would be open to the Empire. Infinity within reach. The FTL-engines would need to be improved and made Shroud-independent to travel there, but that was the lesser problem.

Thorismondi flipped the switch. The parts began moving, and she took the rubber-band-like thing she had prepared specially for this purpose.


Her colleagues had no clue what she wanted to do, but that's why she was Lady Nonna. Some of the brightest minds of the entire Empire where thus watching in anticipation as she seized the two ends and began pulling them apart. Surely she wasn't just training her muscles.

The thing wasn't very elastic, so the ends hardly moved. The scientists began cheering her on as Thorismondi activated her SPELL. The thing started glowing purple.

“The anchor amplifies the rift”, she had explained before. “I won't just symbolically tear apart the Shroud – for the psionic avatars watching, I really will.”

The purple band slowly began showing cracks followed by rapturous applause. Then it snapped in two.

Nothing else happened.







Then some kind of translucent head peeked out of the still-glowing band's left end. Thorismondi kicked it and cut the Shroud-connection. The glow stopped, and the head flew through the air, hitting a wall.

“What do we have here?” The Queen of Discovery barely had time to pick it up before shrill alarms resounded across the entire station.

The head didn't come alone. The guards assigned to Thorismondi's team wasted no time. As the unmistakeable sounds of fighting came closer, their absolute priority was evacuating her.​

Thorismondi's personal ship, the Eureka, could finally prove what she always claimed – that it was the fastest vessel in the galaxy since she made some... adjustments... in a week she didn't remember.

The experiment was a complete success – the Shroud had been torn open, as was a portal to another dimension. Inhabited by some humanoid beings that were a fascinating subject for further study - apparently not being made out of matter.

Oh, and they also had a massive invasion force ready immediately, as if they had been waiting just for an opportunity like this.





Was this the End of the Cycle the Bodranites had predicted? The date was fitting into the prediction this time.​

As the Eureka raced away faster than whatever weaponry was aimed at it, Thorismondi looked forward to analyzing these beings further. The Imperial Fleet would have their hands full, but before long, His Majesty would invade these beings' dimension, she was certain.

Another task well done. And once the period of excessive violence was done – a whole new dimension was open for research.


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<Chintila Makretic, engineer on the Harbinger, orbit of Jiindet, 14th January 2421>

One last time, he prepared to go through his routine checks. The last known alien planet was at Harbinger's mercy. While the Galactic Emperor assembled the fleet in order to strike against the new threat dubbed “the Unbidden”, the greatest weapon ever built finished its clean-up duty.

Makretic sighed. It had been a good time. He loved this marvel of engineering, and the team, numerous as they were, had become his family. 42 years of his life, well-spent. Yet soon, it would be over.

Only a small core would remain behind to deal with maintenance. He'd do his best to be assigned to this team, but as much as he hated to admit it, the “best and brightest” of the Empire would be needed elsewhere if Harbinger saw no more use. So he would need to do his work, but not excel... tough.

Either way, His Imperial Majesty had just given the signal. Time to get to work.

Or well, he wanted to. But instead of walking through the colossus to check if everything worked, Makretic suddenly found himself surrounded by weird purple as far as he could see. What the...


“SO THE COVENANT HAS BEEN SIGNED.”

The engineer didn't hear that – he felt it.

“THE CYCLE ENDS. YOU ARE NOT FOUND WORTHY.”​

Vailon trickery!

“THE TIME HAS COME TO DESCEND TO THE MORTAL WORLD.”

Oh shi-


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<earlier, Vailon Council of Ascension>

“My dearest Sisters and Brothers, the time for deliberation has ended. The Imperial death ray is in orbit.”

“Where are the reinforcements?”

“Still far away, Sister Pelm.”

“And the ripples in the Shroud? Don't they stop the Empire?”

“The thing preparing to fire shows us that whatever is happening over there, it's not enough.”

“We've done everything we could. Almost.”

“You can't mean...”

“It's our last hope!”

“We aren't ready!”​

“We'll never be!”

“We'll all die!”

“We'll all die anyway!”


Stunned silence.


“All in favour?... Good.”


The heads of the Council delved into the Shroud. They would insist that they were ready to become gods. More likely, whatever entity they contacted would consume them all.

It would then wreak havoc amongst the Humans at least.

And the slight chance remained for their apotheosis to actually be completed.



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<Marshal Melanie Leroy, Theudis the War Saint, Peudeanus system, 16th February 2424, 22:46 Cherson time>

Leroy kneeled. She'd been the Imperial Marshal ever since Audaric stepped down. Sure, her fleet had been defeated before, but still she never experienced battles as intense as the last ones.

Thorismondi kneeled next to her. The eccentric scientist was beaming. His Imperial Majesty looked satisfied as well. She couldn't blame them. She would probably also be smiling if she was one of them.

After all, the Unbidden threat had been vanquished. The last of the 500 vessels invading the Milky Way was reduced to some weird energy debris.


Leroy's report pointed out the War Saint's critical role, just as the titans'. The Unbidden had a devastating advantage in weaponry, able to disintegrate matter – as long as they were in range. The Empire's saving grace was that half their ships were dealt with before they could get close enough – and then, mostly the ships equipped with null-void beams chewed through their shields and hulls.​

Weaponized entropy was the answer to these weird energy-beings.

The invasion had dealt a lot of damage to the fleet, with nearly 1000 ships lost on the Imperial side. Victory is the only thing that matters, but this high price was the reason why Leroy wasn't smiling like the Emperor and the researcher.

Still, she couldn't help but smirk at the notion of "Great Galactic War". It had now found its end, but despite consuming the entire galaxy - due to the nature of the conflict, casualties (Human ones) were lower than during the Great War in the 20th century. The Sentinel War would remain the bloodiest conflict in Imperial history.


“Excellent work. The spatial navy fully deserves a few weeks of rest and celebration. The 10th February shall become an Empire-wide day of celebration! The end of the Great Galactic War!

But while the troops can relax, our work has only just begun.”​


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There it was. Leon's raw ambition, his endless hunger. It was what made him great. The right man at the head of the Empire. Leroy would follow him to the end of the world.

But no, that wouldn't be enough.



Thorismondi chimed in at Leon's signal, as he bade them to rise. “Indeed, Your Majesty. Just as we thought, the portal has stabilized, the Shroud is cleanly broken in the Peudeanus station.

The Unbidden left my anchored station alone, apparently realizing that it was their entrance into our dimension. Unaware that it can freely be regulated, or unable to know it, uncaring, whatever. In any case, it's just like another gateway now – only that instead of a different system, it leads to another dimension.”

Leroy continued. “Once Lady Nonna and her teams have researched the residue from the Unbidden, we've got all advantages on our side. Develop countermeasures to their matter-disintegrators. Equip the fleet specifically to deal with their ships. While keeping the range advantage – the things won't know what hit them.”

“It is highly unlikely they've sent anything they've learned about us back to their home dimension. The spatial navy won every battle, and the bases and research stations they've attacked were unarmed. They simply couldn't have recovered anything of military value.”

“Not to mention the heavy losses they've no doubt sustained – complete with uncertainty about their fate. That's disastrous for morale. If the things have anything like human thought, any further trans-dimensional plans will meet with heavy opposition.”

“I very much doubt they know that the portal originates in Human ingenuity and can be opened again at will.”

“So, with the passage of time, we can mount a full-on surprise assault against a foe who likely doesn't expect it. With luck, they've not remilitarized much.”



The Galactic Emperor contently looked through the great window of his throne room to the Peudeanus research station. “Thus, a new frontier opens. The path opened by the Dove and walked by the Saint – it is a path with no end.”

Leroy didn't take the monarch for much of a nostalgic nor a poet. But even as a French herself, she understood what he meant. With the Space Age, the Gothic mindset had spread throughout every culture, and when parallels were drawn in history, it was the Gothic expansionism that stood at centre stage.

People looked at Gothia's success, how it had become the Empire – and they decided that if this was the result of the Imperial policy in space (preferably without a second Miracle Crisis), then it was a good outcome. That it was at the detriment of the aliens was a price well worth paying.

Would it have turned out differently with another history to look back upon? With another spatial neighbour than the Evarites? Who knew. Who cared, too. She was proud of being there as foremost soldier of the Empire.


“And the Shroud thing in Aniara?”

Thorismondi spoke up. “It isn't a threat. My educated guess would say that the Vailons attempted to do what the Bodranite contemporaries did – move into the Shroud. Apotheosis.

Yet divinity was out of their reach. Whatever Shroud entity they connected with absorbed them and half of Harbinger's segments instead. Perhaps it was angry at us for having torn through the Shroud.

The combined psionic energy of six billion Vailons is enough to make that thing take permanent residence in our dimension – but not enough for it to become a truly powerful, godly reality warper. It's merely a bigger version of the psionic avatar Griffin has destroyed before.”

“At your command, it shall be dealt with, Your Majesty!”

“Once you've judged that the troops had enough rest, move out, Marshal.

Then we shall bolster our forces again and prepare for the Unbidden.”​


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Truly a historic moment. After a long rise that began with Philaretos the Heretic, Count of Cherson since 870, the last in that line, Galactic Emperor Leon II, has fended off an interdimensional invasion in 2424. And is preparing his own. As one story ends, the Empire opens a new gate.



“Eternity is within reach.”










*************************************​

My plan was to wait until the crisis triggered itself, but it took its sweet time and didn't come before both FEs were annihilated. So I triggered both Unbidden and Prethoryn at the same time. When the Vailons were reduced to a single planet, I added the End of the Cycle for them.

The Empire dispatched them handily, even if the Unbidden cost them half their fleet. Sure, the Prethoryn might still show up, but armed with shiny new matter-disintegrators, they wouldn't stand much of a chance.

So it's a good time to call it a day. The Empire has achieved functional immortality and opened a portal to another dimension – the multiverse should hope that some of them might be able to coexist.​
 
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The Empire's almost as hungry as the Unbidden. Both are always hungry for more land, resources, etc.

This was a great conclusion and I'm glad to have seen Gothia's rise since their beginnings on the Crimean steppe!
 
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To think that a tiny county in Cherson would eventually expand into conquering the entire galaxy and soon dimensions beyond. A glorious day for humanity, if not anyone else.

Sad to see this end, but if you end up starting a new AAR, I'll be ready to come along for the ride. :)
 
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