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Ours is a Sea of Stars

A Tale from Vienna


It has been some time since I have last put my pen to paper in discussion of my native land. Ours is a Sea of Stars is meant to provide a chronicle of our history since the days of our first voyages beyond our star of Habsburg. Grand Duke Augustus, Imperial Prince of the House of Habsburg, and our first emperor to cast humanity into the stars came to his throne at the age of twenty-three. This had been a time when the great golden age of scientific advancement had reached its most high, and just a few years after the Grand Duke’s coronation in front of the whole of humanity, the twin inventions of human expansion had been perfected. The warp drive had long been a fickle invention, fit for inorganic travel only, but in the first year of the revised galactic calendar the last of the human trials came to be a resounding success. This unlocked the stars to humanity in a way that cannot be understated, but the most revolutionary change was the second of the twins. The colony ship, a centralized hive structure that could allow the transportation of hundreds of thousands of people safely and efficiently in sub-light conditions. When the two were combined, the world began to proclaim with one voice: “Ad Astra Per Aspera!” and our ancestors did not fail to heed that call, and the stars were earned with our collective blood, sweat, and tears.


Our homeworld lay near the furthest rim of the northern sector of our galaxy. At first it was a small enterprise, but mining had already proven to be the dominant mode of economic expansion before the perfection of warp drive. The first wave of our pioneers were the scientists who discovered alien worlds, and fast behind them were the mining crews to seize the opportunity to grow rich. Alpha Centauri and Bernard’s Star were the first systems to be put under the plow of progress, and following right behind was the expansion into the Zirq system. Great wealth was to be had, which is what eventually led to the creation of piracy. A former captain of an Iwamoto class naval vessel went rogue to the north of Zirq. Shanaya Poojary began raiding miners and traders, and her small fleet soon swelled up in size. Admiral Igor Alexyev was ordered to track down and bring the criminal to justice, and the two engaged in a game of cat and mouse for some months before finally forcing a pitched conflict in Stratal. Shanaya Poojary eventually went down with her ship in the 9th year of the revised galactic calendar. Remnants of the piracy would eventually be subdued in the years ahead.


The Pirate Captain Shanaya is highly idolized in modern fiction about the early expansionary period, but by far the greatest revelations were what we now take for granted. The existence of alien life. Many scientists and theorists had suspected that the galaxy would have life beyond the Habsburg system, but no one was certain of this, and many made compelling arguments that the inherent randomness of natural selection would have made any notion of even finding recognizable alien life a laughable enterprise. To some extent, they were right. A very, very, small extent. Otherwise, it is just as ludicrous as it sounds. While Shanaya and Igor were battling along the mining lanes, alien life had been quite hostile and even more abundant. Far from being alone in the galaxy, it was becoming hard to travel three systems without having a science team being driven out by hostile forces. The Unith System may be home to one of the older colonies of mankind, but it took until the waning days of the Imperial Highness’s reign to fully root out the crystalline entities that blocked the system’s beautiful worlds from view.


Which leads to another important point to stress, given the state of the Habsburg system, many feared that the colony ships would be unused given a complete lack of habitable locations for settlement. One scientist remarked that the whole enterprise had been done backward since the notion of a colony ship being invented and perfected while any terraforming processes that could work were still centuries away seemed ludicrous to them. One would assume he died of embarrassment, or sheer humility when worlds with continents, oceans, plantlife, animal life, and rich near-perfect matches of nitrogen and oxygen seemed frighteningly common, and many more similar, almost compatible worlds also seemed to exist. Hell, even our first system to fully explore, Alpha Centauri, had within it three potential worlds for colonization. Far from being a useless invention for its time, the world seemed full of possibilities that all but demanded a seemingly immediate reaction. In the 14th year, a series of colony ships went westward to the untamed galaxy beyond Baynard’s Star. The colonists found themselves in a world almost exactly like Vienna, and the colony of Al-Karak was founded. Things had begun to look up for the empire.


However, as the colony was first developing news from research teams Himpra system about an organized empire began to trickle back. Some fears and concerns were voiced in Vienna, but hundreds of thousands had already landed, many more were on their way, and at the time it was not yet clear that such a state would be any different from the other alien species the human race had encountered. Small, weak, and easily dispersed with the Tapei class destroyer, if they proved hostile they would not last long. Some hundred naval vessels moved into the region around the developing colony and Vienna waited. They did not have to wait long. The Great Xu’Lokako Hegemony, reptilians from a desert world dispatched ships into the space around Vienna. They had surfaced not too long before, just decades before the first year of the revised galactic calendar. They had established a colony around one world, and were now building another in the Jinkath system. The Jinkath system was closer to Al-Karak than Alpha Centauri was to Vienna, and Al-Karak was closer to the Xu’Lakako Hegemonic homeworld than to Vienna. Panic seized the leadership of the Grand Duchy, and messages of peace were broadcast to the Hegemony. At that time the leadership had not known how new their power truly was, but soon the extent of the Hegemony was made known to humanity, and border outposts were established to clearly delineate the borders of our space.


Up until that moment the Grand Duchy had not believed in the necessity of trans-stellar boundaries, and only vaguely defined the galaxy in what was within reach of Vienna and what lay beyond it. Now a craze emerged among the military and political elites of Vienna, elites that had slumbered in the centuries of peace since war had been resolved on earth. Their response was regularly derided as overzealous by the intellectuals of society, but in the end it may have proved vital in ensuring the long term viability of the Grand Duchy and of the human race. The budget of the navy was doubled, and after establishing a perimeter to the west, our scientists were sent eastward down the spiral to uncover all that lay beyond our sight. If there was the Hegemony, there would be more lurking somewhere in the now darker, more crowded stars. The Saldar Array was established into what was then the farthest extent of human knowledge, and in the next two decades a great expanse of territory was uncovered. No contact with another alien interstellar civilization would be established, but dozens of potential habitable worlds were uncovered and the colony ships were dispatched in a now fully controlled state fashion. If humanity did not take those lands, someone or something else might.


That is not to mean that there were not dangers and horrors lurking in space – an entity known as the space amoeba and a series of crystalline entities blocked westward expansion for years. The new Tapei-Class was not enough, and the Salzburg Class emerged center on stage. Larger war ships, they were more heavily armored and armed. Their construction took a great deal of time and effort, and thus the duchy still relied heavily upon the Tapei and Iwamoto class cruisers. The navy, divided in two, had amounted to some one thousand three hundred ships. It was believed that the Duchy had been in a position where the Hegemony could not assail us, and this optimism resulted in a lethargy. More than half of the fleet was stationed permanently far beyond the core space of Vienna, and instead lay around the tropical world of Kishkandha as other colonies began to spring up to connect that far outer world with the home world. It had been believed that the Grand Duchy would have the time to expand, to grow, and we had become dismissive of the power of a rival. It was arrogance, and we would suffer for it.
 

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The Smell of Blood in the West



In the same year that Grand Admiral Igor died of old age an era ended for the people of Vienna. Less than three months later, the Great Xu’Lokako Hegemony declared war. The core defensive fleet around Vienna marched to defend Al-Karak, and scored a small victory there against a fleet number in the hundreds. It was a victory, one that had encouraged the admiral Lin You into pressing what he thought was an advantage. The world of Jinkath as laid under siege and its orbital array was destroyed. If this was war, then the human race could ride its tide to an easy victory. The Xu’Lokako were baffled by this stupidity. Their government had never lost its taste for blood and warfare, and its government was based around the rule of strong military men who could command armies with absolute discipline. The pacifistic materialists from Vienna needed to be educated in the light of their more martial ways, and they evangelized their truths writ large in the deaths of tens of thousands of sailors. Cathiox, Admiral of the First Star Hunter Corp sent a main force of some eight hundred vessels at the very core of Vienna. Admiral Lin You received the panicked pleas for help from listening posts about Cathiox’s advance. The navy had to act quickly and the siege of Jinkath was abandoned.


The Admiral had made a straight line to confront Admiral Cathiox, and the two fought a terrible battle around the orbital station of Vienna. Admiral Lin You had an initial advantage, and seemed to dominate the Xu’Lokako’s smaller ships, but what they lacked in firepower they made up for in sheer numbers. A second fleet arrived to assist Cathiox, and the two caught Admiral Lin in a pincer. Lin sought to retreat, and merge with Admiral Philippa York’s frontier force that was only months away from joining the conflict in full force. His emergency FTL jump, however, took him further away from Admiral York’s command, and the Admiral Cathiox sought to eliminate the enemy before he could regroup and recover. Admiral Lin moved backward and forward, desperate for reprieve, but the First Fleet was destroyed in the Barnard’s Star system. All men went down with their ships, and it was the first great tragedy of the war. Lin had prevented the fall of Vienna’s orbital station, its shipyards, which allowed for the completion of an entirely new class of warship. The Resolute was a class of battleships that dwarfed all that came before it, and the 38 year old captain Jeanette le Roux took command while the colonies sent in what smaller vessels they could. Vienna in its panic had resettled its population to the stars, leaving behind only the Imperial Prince himself who refused to withdraw in the wake of terror and war. His nephew, Lucius Salazar, withdrew to the Ocean World of Delgovicia, where the Pirate Shanaya once found refuge.


Admiral Philippa York had been desperate to meet up with Admiral Lin, that unyielding admiral had tried to save a lifelong colleague, and to add the greatest insult to injury the Admiral York had been just days away from rescuing Lin’s first fleet. She was in the very same star system, and had watched as the last of Lin’s forces went down to a man. She was out for blood, and immediately the two enemies went to conflict. York had a more advanced force, and boasted three Salzburg class vessels. However she lacked support vessels, and very quickly the dangers of an overreliance on large ships became known to her. She was able to destroy the Xu’Lokako vessels by the dozens, but there were dozens more and many more were on their way to seize this chance to eliminate the last effective force. York had seen the enemies die off in droves, but had been blind to her own losses. The fleet withdrew only when the admiral’s ship itself was destroyed, and the second Grand Admiral perished in the soundless vacuum of space. Just five vessels were able to limp away, but thankfully among them were the other two Salzburg class warships. The smaller vessels could be replaced, but only Vienna had the capability of producing Salzburgs, and she was critically endangered. For the second time, the Grand Duchy knew defeat. Yet, this was only the beginning of a much longer conflict.


Grand Duke Augustus Habsburg spoke before the imperial assembly of Vienna, where he gave an elegy for the fallen. This old man, this man that had seen humanity into the stars, spoke before his people in their hour of need. To the defeated men who returned, he openly embraced them as heroes who had done well simply to have returned. To the dead, he offered tears in thanks for their service. He nearly choked when he smiled before all of humanity and prayed that they could take a good rest now, knowing that they had given their all and that their families were safe and secure. To hear accounts of it, all cried at that point. Others may say that it was Jeannette le Roux who saved the Duchy in its darkest hour, but call me a sentimental man at heart. It was that man who saved the empire, our Grand Duke. Jeannette received her commission as Grand Admiral before the entire human race at that moment, and in the broadcasts that are still played in every classroom in our great empire, Augustus Habsburg embarrassed the young woman and proclaimed that with her in charge his heart held no worries. The young woman whose command may have been criticized by all before that moment, overnight became the confidence of the nation. The Grand Duke had not chosen poorly.


The second fleet was in dire need for upgrades and repairs, and naval yards from around the empire were putting forward what ships they could for the war effort. Sometimes no better than old mining ships and even more archaic surveying ships were brought forward. Some old men and women who claimed to have fought against the pirates offered their service for the war effort, and Igor’s widow became actively involved in the defenses. The restored Second Fleet now under the command of Admiral Jeannette Le Roux became a powerful force, perhaps almost as powerful as the combined fleet might have been under Lin and York, while the shipyards of other worlds were never silent – even if this meant putting a tremendous strain upon the Duchy’s economy. A strain that will be discussed at a later time. Admiral Cathiox’s force, the First Star Hunters, had been severely damaged by the two conflicts. He had won the battles, but he had not yet won the war – and the danger of a restored human force had made him worried. Too weak to advance, he bided his time in the Al-Karak system and had the Xu’Lokako Hegemony support him. Cathiox was a man who may even have become the next leader of the Hegemony, as the man who seized the human empire.


Though initially reluctant to leave Habsburg and Vienna, when word came that Cathiox was about to be supported by a substantial force of some 38 smaller vessels, Admiral Jeanette le Roux departed to meet Cathiox. If admiral Cathiox could recover and grow stronger, then the war would drag out forever. The Duchy could not survive that economically, but Cathiox was no fool. When he learned that another naval force was approaching him he moved from system to system, dragging along the Admiral. At one point Cathiox returned to Habsburg, but withdrew upon Admiral le Roux’s arrival. Immediately afterward Cathiox and his support fleet withdrew to the Xu’Lokako home world. Cathiox had attempted to pull in a young and inexperienced admiral deep into his home territory and they destroy them. Admiral le Roux did not rise to the bait, and instead attacked the Xu’Lokako colonies, trying to draw the admiral out of hiding. Fearing the possibility of failure, the shipyards at home were never silent, which meant that Cathiox would have to engage for once the colonies were dismantled, one world could not outperform our empire.


Jinkath was the first to be rendered helpless. Without landing vessels, a lengthy siege would be pointless. The Admiral left in full force for Lytirin shortly thereafter. The fifth Star Hunter Corp fled without a fight upon her arrival, and Lytirin’s defenses and shipyards were destroyed and the Admiral moved onto the Ashimax system where the story was repeated. The Xu’Lokako Hegemony was being crippled, but the Xu’Lokako had done nothing. Impulse eventually got the better of the admiral, and she went to the Xu’Lokakolliji System. While in the system the second fleet was almost immediately outmatched. Cathiox’s strategy might have crippled the Grand Duchy’s naval capacity, if not for Admiral Le Roux’s tactical positioning. While outmatched, by using her larger vessels for cover she was able to withdraw damaged, but without losing a single ship. At that point, the admiral fled back to Vienna for repairs and to meet up with a smaller support fleet. Cathiox’s force was stronger, but not by much, and only by relying upon fixed defensive positions. In the open, with new support, the advantage was hers.


What happened over the next few years were a series of battles of attrition, each eating away at the defenses of the Xu’Lokako. Admiral Cathiox was a resourceful foe, and he managed the defenses of the home world excellently. Cheap, easily salvageable ships were employed en masse, making it difficult for progress to become sustained. However, Admiral le Roux was able to make the losses of the Grand Duchy’s navy relatively minimal, and every few months another small series of ships would be ready to send to Vienna. Even Al-Karak would be put into the war effort. Disaster nearly struck when Cathiox feigned a breaking in his formation, and Admiral le Roux pushed her forces to press an advantage, but this backfired. The young admiral lost a quarter of her forces when the second fleet found itself surrounded. This was a set back that would be mourned later, but le Roux learned from her mistake and Admiral Cathiox would never again be in a position to attain victory over the human race. The Xu’Lokako had intended to conquer the heartland of the Grand Duchy and leave the outer colonies in the far east to themselves – easy prey for later conquests. Now feelers from the military government were offering a truce, clandestinely, and without going through what might be considered public diplomatic channels. They were ignored. The Xu’Lokako would be subdued and made into a vassal of Vienna, a protectorate of our western frontier at that time. The Xu’Lokako refused, but they would not refuse for long.


After that initial setback, le Roux was far more cautious about her advances upon the home system of the Xu’Lokako. Though she lost a good deal, in two years time she was in an even stronger position, and in ten she was joined by a mixed fleet of humanity’s finest. In her fifties, the fleet admiral led a force of some 4000 strong against Cathiox, who had just half that number at his command. Atrititon had paid off, but as had the cultivation of some five colonies of the Grand Duchy. Kishkandha, Al-Karak, Delgovicia, Nuevo Cadiz, and Xanadu. With Admiral le Roux destroying any attempt at rebuilding the infrastructure of the Xu’Lokako, even Cathiox’s rather ingenious ways of ensuring a continued war effort slowly collapsed. He was crushed, decisively, in the year 56. The shipyards of Xu’Lokakolliji burned airlessly as General Xidlaxi prepared for an invasion that never came. When admiral Cathiox fell in battle, the admiralty of the Hegemony bickered with each other, and eventually one side was able to maneuver successfully enough to seize power and accept Habsburg terms. The Grand Duchy had been avenged, and one might think this was the christening of our birth as a major power in the world, but instead it would soon highlight just how weak we truly were.
 

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Whispers and Frenzies


Victory had come at a cost, and the unwieldy navy that Grand Admiral Jeannette le Roux commanded to victory against the slain Admiral Cathiox and the crippled Star Hunter Corp was soon dismantled. There was no means to afford it, and when the galaxy’s only known rival to humanity was beaten into submission, cooler heads in Vienna prevailed. Humanity let out a collective sigh of relief. That sigh was heard to the sound, and a sudden, seizing terror gripped the heart of Vienna before even a moment’s rest could be found. The Dominion of Cithbon Qa became known to the Grand Duchy of Habsburg when one of their research vessels came into contact with some of our own near the farthest extent of our firsthand knowledge of the galaxy. About twice as far east as Kishkandha, where the spiral makes its curve towards the galactic center. Our six worlds were magnificent to behold, I am sure. The Qithin had 10 worlds, and almost twice our population. Their fleet power was equivalent right when we were downsizing due to the crushing expenses of continued fleet maintenance. While halfway across the galaxy, humanity had just been shown that at the height of their imperial power, like a phoenix from the ashes of war, they were half the size of the very next empire we encountered, and the Cithin were an empire, as we would find out.


It is almost funny how one state could go to near crushing poverty over fleet maintenance to near crushing poverty over colonial maintenance. Upon seeing that we were about half the size of our perhaps only remaining enemy in our local galactic arm, a policy of rabid state sponsored colonialism developed. Grand Duke Augustus had always supported the idea of large families and population growth, now he encouraged the construction of a colony ship in every system that could possibly make one. The widely loved monarch may not have had despotic powers, but he did have some direct constitutional prerogatives, and could have ordered some colonies to form. Instead, through the authoritas of our Imperial Prince, the man who guided his people through the dark days of despair, the human race mobilized for mass expansion. Over the next few decades, it was humanity that would soon surpass the Cithin, and then even more so as the dozens of world settled by mankind began to populate and spread. It is deeply ironic that the expansion to stop the Cithin was in a number of ways funded by the Cithin. Though the building of temporary border outposts to block expansion beyond a certain point put our people’s influence at all time lows, and the yearly budget of the central government was consistently so deep in the red that our people would have been bankrupted a dozen times over, we never once were in want for raw material resources. The Cithin an inverse problem.


Every few months the Grand Duchy of Habsburg would send raw material resources to Kithlar, and every few months Vienna would receive a proportional amount of raw cash reserves. Common economical sense would have suggested that inflation would have skyrocketed to the point of rendering the imperial currency useless, but given the expansive nature of the empire and the explosion of population it did not cause a noticeable disturbance. That, at least, is the recorded take, but a few seem to speculate that the reason why inflation did not destroy our empire with the immeasurably large amount of foreign capital pouring into our empire was due to an arrangement between private corporations and the government that most of the funds would remain electronic and not touch the market too much, too soon. That raises its own questions, and it is ultimately a difficult prospect to do too much work into at this point. The distance is too great in time, and the records tightly controlled for a simple observer and recorder like myself to be able to answer fully. The romance and spectacle of aliens, plagues, wars, and harrowing tales are far more my forte.



Which brings us to the Kishkandha Plague. To this day, the Kishkandha Plague remains perhaps one of the most praiseworthy home front theater of the war against the Xu’Lokako, and it continued into the first few years of the second expansionary phase. It started around the time of Admiral le Roux’s attrition battles against Cathiox, and soon spread throughout the planet. Kishkandha, a lone isolated world, and perhaps humanity’s only outpost should the war be lost, began losing people in large numbers. Though fear was spreading across the colony and one in four started dying from the disease, the empire at large could do nothing, and could not even stop the disease from spreading. All that would have been required for the plague to sweep the empire, and perhaps lose the war, would be for the people of Kishkandha to break and flee. Yet they did not do so. While some had attempted to flee, it was the people of Kishkandha themselves who stood resolute against such action. Old governor Rashid Qaderi even managed to ensure that the shipyards remained working in orbit, as he himself remained in the colonial capital with his charges to care for the sick and dying – eventually succumbing to the disease himself. Ships were constructed in vacuum, and no individual ever touched the ships for an atmosphere was never given to the ships, and as a result the ships were clean for use in war. They would be picked up, and a functioning life support unit would be given to them later.


After the war concluded, the plague still raged on. The capital eventually had to be abandoned, but it was around this time when the Grand Duchy could begin to devote its energies to saving the planet’s population, and by the year 62, the people began to recover. A monument was erected in honor of the planet, and the people, at that time. It is sometimes easy to forget that this lonely world was, in fact, ever so lonely, or was ever the last hope for humanity if the war came to an end. There was the ocean world where Prince Salazar withdrew to, but that was a world on the fringes of the galaxy with no means to expand, and only enough resources to make a meager surplus. Humanity there would have withered on the vine. It was only in Kishkandha that free humanity had an opportunity for a rebirth, and it was there where we almost lost it to plague and disease. Now Kishkandha is at the core of the human empire, and is the center of a sector of some seven worlds and hundred billion people. The sense of pride I feel chronicling their achievement is overwhelming, and their story has been a triumph for our people.


Of course, the road to that future was filled with more space battles than one could shake a stick at. The systems of the far east were not pacified or peaceful when the war ended, and a full third of the systems were as of then unexplored due to hostile alien influences. The Grand Duchy tolerated no threat to humanity from such enemies. Crystalline Entities were tracked down and eliminated, space amoeba were not tolerated to live, and other less notable threats were eliminated in due haste. The greatest threat to human expansion were the enigmatic energies circling around the Zantaris Black Hole. They were the most powerful disorganized enemy force in the galactic arm, but while hostile to any approaching their territory, they did nothing to harm those outside it. The Zantaris Black Hole would only be cleared of the threat sometime near the dawn of the second century by Admiral Kyra Bhandary, a protégé of Admiral le Roux. This was long after the arm was largely lightly settled, and in some ways became an afterthought of Grand Duke Lucius Salazar in the waning days of his reign.


In some ways, this frenzied panic of an expansion was a mistake. While we could not have known it at the time, the Cithin were fanatic xenophiles ruled by spiritualism. They sought not to spread their ways through the sword like the Xu’Lokako, but rather through the art of alliances and federation building. Though they were larger, this was only because they were older. Those anthropoids were notoriously slow breeders, and while they were expanding north along the arm, this was actually in response to our existence. We had given them so much materials that their economy had been put into overdrive. Intelligent and strong, the Cithin came to us as friends and trading partners, and would continually pressure us into joining an alliance, which we politely refused. We only truly began to find this out after the formation of the Righteous Concord between themselves and the United Avabbian Constituents. Their empire was even stronger than the Cithin’s, but were located even further away and had seemingly no ill will. Grand Duke Lucius Salazar was the one to establish embassies with the two parties of the Concord, and the two empires became close friends of the Grand Duchy in the second century.


Which perhaps should bring me to a concluding remark for this portion. Grand Duke Augustus Habsburg died in his early 90s, and when he died humanity was by far the largest state in the galaxy at that time, though we did not yet know it. His nephew would continue the expansion, but its pace would become much slower and methodical. The Duchy’s finances were only barely salvageable at the point of his death, and only through the extensive use of sectoring underdeveloped worlds, and several of the sectors would have budget concerns for decades after their formations. Had the Cithin and the Avabbian not been discovered, such an expansion would have been impossible financially which is an irony on at least three different levels. I respect him, and to a certain extent love him. History is always the best fiction, and people like him are the best characters imaginable. Perhaps it is the nationalism or the romanticism in me speaking, but I remember the immense pride he gave me for our empire and our adversity. While there were other trials ahead, none, perhaps, were more acute than his. I mentioned before that he was a family man. It was always a sense of shame for him that he had been born infertile, but at his funeral a rather touching note was given by a veteran of the Xu’Lokako war. Though he may not have had any biological children, while the war was raging the soldiers saluted him and toasted to him as their old man. I really wish I had the talent to express their feelings in writing, but really I can only advise you to read more about it on your own.
 

scholar

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Waiting anxiously for the EUIV -> Stellaris converter. :p

This looks interesting.
Keep up the good work ;)
Thanks guys, right now I'm just experimenting with a narrator for my playthrough. So far I am regretting the normal setting with only eight other empires, since it will probably be smooth-ish sailing until a late game threat. There will be a couple more updates, and then I might put it on observe for a while to see if anything cool happens.
 

Eid3r

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I'm writing my AAR year by year, which means, I'm used to slow-time. (Sometime, almost nothing happens). It's just an occasion to introduce character, or deepen an aspect of your empire, society, empire. :)
 

Deaghaidh

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Waiting anxiously for the EUIV -> Stellaris converter. :p

This looks interesting.

Surely you'd need to at least do Vicky first.