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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Farquharson

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P is for Puffheads


“Unreachable, they shall one day be reached. Nameless, they shall one day be named”
The Book of Pi, Scroll 53, verse 6​

The Great Temple of Pi sat atop the Rock of Jarthok, the towering mesa which dominated the city of Jarthok, capital of Primordia. For three and a half millenia it had stood, the focus of Puffhead culture and society, place of worship and centre of learning. It was reached by an ancient stairway carved into the rock faces of the mesa, winding around the cliffs for 3,214 steps. It was a very laborious journey to get up the stairway or back down it. Of course, there was also an elevator.

The priest Huppletab was in the elevator now with his young charge, the acolyte Pi-Trobi as they descended to Jarthok, both of them gazing out through the glass at the sight of the sprawling city as it rose to meet them. Huppletab was nervous. He was on an errand which could either be one of the most momentous moments in all of Puffhead history, or the worst moment of his life. Young Pi-Trobi, the cause of it all, seemed oblivious to this, pressing his face to the glass and making little pink puffs from his head-vent in pleasure at the beautiful sight of golden Pi-Phara sinking towards the horizon before him.


Please, Pi-Trobi, try to act more grown up.

But Phati, I am not grown up yet.

I know, but we are going to see the Archprophet. Do you know who he is?

He's very important, right?

He is the most important person in the world. It is he through whom Pi speaks to his people. Well, that's normally how it works anyway.

What does Pi say through him, Phati?

Well, lots of things. It was through Archprophet Pagglerod that he revealed the Prophecy of the Holy Planets of Pi.

Oh – the thing about all the planets beginning with P being special?

Exactly that.

This portentous revelation had been given to Archprophet Pagglerod only sixteen years before. The Puffheads, it seemed, had been chosen by Pi as guardians of certain holy planets. All those that circled stars whose names began with the letter P. This would have been straightforward enough, except for one thing. The Puffheads had no names for the stars. None at all. It was forbidden to name the stars.

The other problem of course was that the Puffheads had had no means of reaching the stars. But the techno-priests had been working on it, and only three years ago had they cracked the secret of the hyperlanes which would open up the galaxy to them.

Now, a spaceport had been constructed and ships lay ready to begin the great quest to explore the galaxy and find the Holy Planets of Pi. But to do that, they kind of needed to know the names of the stars.


The DPS Sacred Scrutiny, the prototype Puffhead survey ship, docked at the spaceport of Primordia
The hopes of the Puffheads hung on an ancient prophecy contained in the sacred Book of Pi which spoke of the stars:

“Unreachable, they shall one day be reached. Nameless, they shall one day be named”

The prohibition to name the stars was based on this very prophecy. When it was first given over two thousand years before, reaching the stars seemed impossible. It would have been a lot easier to give them names. But now finally they could be reached – it was naming them that was the only obstacle.

Until today, perhaps, thought Huppletab, nervously.


You see Pi-Trobi, the Archprophet is probably expecting that Pi will tell him the names of the stars.

Oh.

Not, like, an eight year old.

Why, Phati?

Well, he's the Archprophet. That's what Archprophets do. They hear from Pi.

Oh. Well maybe he'll get some names. I only got a few.

What!? Only some? I thought you said you knew the names of the stars?

Yes. Some of them. Not all of them. That would be crazy, Phati!

Err... how many, exactly?

Um...

Pi-Trobi began muttering incomprehensible words and counting on his fingers.

Pi-Trobi, please don't do that.

What, Phati?

Say the names. Not yet. I don't think it's wise.

OK.

Pi-Trobi started again, his lips moving but no sound coming out. There was a pause.

Eight.

Eight!? Is that all?

Yes. I think so. Should I check again?

No. No, don't worry. Well, perhaps that changes things. A bit. Perhaps.

They reached the ground and stepped out of the elevator, quickly catching a transit pod to take them to the Archprophet's official residence. The guard at the entrance looked carefully at Huppletab's priestly medallion, then down at Pi-Trobi.

He's with me. An acolyte.

To see the Archprophet?

It is on a sacred errand. Extremely sacred. Historic, even.

The guard let out a blue puff of astonishment, before waving the pair through. Well, he thought to himself, these were after all historic days they were living through.

Your Holiness, I am Huppletab, priest of the great Pi, Creator of All, Sustainer of Life, Provider of Puff.

So it would seem. And your... companion?

This is Pi-Trobi, an acolyte from the Temple.

And you are here on... a “sacred errand”, I am informed?

Yes, Your Holiness. It concerns the Nameless Ones.

The Archprophet sat up and let out a pale turquoise puff. Curiosity.

Pi-Trobi tells me that he has been given the names of eight of them.

What?

A grey puff of incredulity, tinged with the red of annoyance.

He is not one to invent things, Your Holiness. I am inclined to believe his story.

But this claim – it is unprecedented!

Your Holiness, his name is Pi-Trobi.

In ancient Puffhead “one who hears Pi”.

It is a common enough name given by parents to their sons. Perhaps, in fact, it has given him ideas.

Sir -

Your Holiness.

Your Holiness, I mean, my parents didn't choose my name.

Then who did, child?

Well, it's kind of – written on the back of my head. Sort of.

What? Turn around and let me see.

Pi-Trobi turned around. The markings were clear enough. Each one not unusual in itself, but their arrangement was almost incredible. The Archprophet gave off a cloud of blue astonishment.

Well. This is indeed unprecedented! Eight stars, did you say?

I think it's eight, sir, Your Holiness.

Very well. Dusk is in half an hour. You will dine here in the refectory, and then you will report to the rooftop observatory, and you will show me the stars for which you say you have been given names.

Thus it was that Huppletab and Pi-Trobi found themselves later that evening with the Archprophet as he manipulated the huge telescope, the means by which the Nameless Ones could be studied, and perhaps persuaded to reveal their secrets.

Now Pi-Trobi, you must tell me very clearly which stars you can name. Where is the first one?

That one there. The bright one in that zigzag line.

The Archprophet gasped.

Pi-Trobi, what do you know of that star?

It's name, sir. Your Holiness.

Anything else?

No Your Holiness.

The Archprophet exchanged a look with Huppletab.

Pi-Trobi, it is the closest star to Pi-Phara. It is circled by not one but TWO habitable planets! It's name, Pi-Trobi? What is it's name?

That one is Kiram, Your Holiness.

Kiram?

Yes, sir.

Oh.

The Archprophet let out a yellow puff of disappointment.

So those are not Holy Planets of Pi as we had hoped they might be. Pi-Trobi, how many of the names that you were given begin with P?

There was a tense silence as Pi-Trobi thought for a moment.

Er... none, Your Holiness.

The air was filled with yellow as Huppletab and the Archprophet puffed out in unison.

Ah well, never mind, my child. Please continue.

And so the naming continued. Niamba, another nearby star, circled by a planet that, though almost habitable, was deemed too cold to live on. Wiertham, Nembus, Mecura, Horschim, Cardorth – all systems that would be easily accessible by the hyperlanes in only two jumps. The fact that Pi-Trobi, who knew almost nothing of astronomy, had picked these out among the hundreds visible, was enough to convince the Archprophet.

That makes seven, my child. Is there one more? But wait...

The Archprophet suddenly fell silent, closed all of his eyes, then gave a great shudder, and a great purple puff. Huppletab had never seen a puff quite like it before. After a moment, the Archprophet opened his eyes once more and briefly surveyed the heavens, Then he turned to Pi-Trobi.

Yes, my child. The eighth star? Show me where it is.

That one there, Your Holiness.

Ah yes. I knew it.

It's name -

Is Durbatur.

Er – yes, Your Holiness. Durbatur.

The Archprophet turned to Huppletab once more.

It is a sign from Pi. The lad is indeed “one who hears Pi”. For that one, I too was just given.


The first sacred hyperlane chart to be compiled showing the Eight Named Systems

From that day on, Pi-Trobi's life was never the same. He continued to live at the Great Temple on top of the Rock of Jarthok, but most days the Archprophet himself spent time with him during his daily visit to the Temple, instructing him in astronomy and in the study of the sacred Book of Pi.

Meanwhile, Archprophet Pagglerod addressed his people. The time had come he announced, when Pi had finally begun to reveal the names of the stars. The ancient prophecy was being fulfilled. The Nameless Ones were being named. The Unreachable Ones would surely soon be reached.

And one day soon perhaps, the first of the Holy Planets of Pi would be found.

 
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Farquharson

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Yes, it had to happen sooner or later. The "P is for..." Stellaris AAR. A long time ago I wrote P is for Portugal, an EU2 AAR in which Portugal conquered every province in the world beginning with P. Then came the CK1 version, P is for Passau, in which the County of Passau did something similar. So now the Puffheads have been tasked with taking this bizarre concept to new levels as they search the galaxy for stars beginning with P. The rule is that, to win, I have to own every habitable planet in a P system.

The vanilla namelist for stars only has about 50 (approximately 1 in 26) star names beginning with P. That seemed a little paltry so I made a mod (the first mod I've ever made for any Paradox game :cool:) to double this number. By my calculation, in the medium galaxy I'm playing in there may be around 45-50 P systems. Of course, only a few of these will have habitable planets. Perhaps 10 at the most. That may not seem like a huge challenge, but then, I'm not one that relishes huge challenges. And the quest does require me to search the entire galaxy, and may involve conquering systems located in very awkward places, such as the centre of a Fallen Empire or some such. We shall see. The fun will be in the journey! P systems that don't have habitable planets will be deserving of special attention, and I'll try to collect as many as possible, but I decided not to include them as a requirement for "winning", since that could end up costing me massively in influence to maintain a lot of ridiculously placed Frontier Outposts. Again, we'll see.

Oh, and I made a typo in the title ("Pufheads" should have two fs) :oops:. Maybe a friendly mod will fix it...
 

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You should actually be able to edit your own title these days. Check 'Thread Tools' at the top-right.
 

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All aboard the P-Lane!
 
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Farquharson

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A Year of Discovery


The Puffhead Space Navy was still in its infancy, a ramshackle institution which owned three prototype hyperdrive corvettes and a cramped office in the spaceport of Primordia. The truth was that very few of the Puffheads were convinced that such a thing as a Space Navy would be necessary, as there was quite probably no one for them to actually fight.

Captain Drubble was one of those who most definitely believed in the Space Navy, and one of the few Puffheads capable of flying a hyperdrive corvette. A veteran of the Dravjian War in which the so-called Dravjian Democratic Republic, the last heretic nation on Primordia, had been ruthlessly crushed, Drubble was now in command of the DPS Intrepid.

Each of the three corvettes had been sent out in a different direction to explore the hyperlanes in the neighbourhood of the Pi-Phara system. The DPS Resolute was headed first to Kiram, and would then work its way round to antispinward, while the DPS Courageous would pass through the Niamba system on its way spinward. While both Kiram nd Niamba were known to have habitable planets, Wiertham, Captain Drubble's first port of call, was not believed to contain much of interest. Once past it, he was to explore the lanes rimward from Pi-Phara.


The provisional plan of action
The three corvettes made their way together to the outer reaches of the system, and then each prepared to enter a different hyperlane. Of course, no one really knew for certain if the hyperdrive would work as planned so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that they did so.


Into the lanes
However the crews' fears proved groundless. The techno-priests had done their work well, and the drives performed perfectly. After just a few days' voyage through the lane, the Intrepid emerged in the Wiertham system.

Almost immediately, Captain Drubble noticed that they were not alone. Wiertham had an extensive asteroid belt, and from somewhere near it, the corvette was picking up some sort of signal. Though incomprehensible, it definitely indicated alien intelligence. As soon as this was discovered, Captain Drubble opened up a link with Primordia on the hypercomm system and asked to speak with Archprophet Pagglerod as a matter of the greatest urgency.


Captain Drubble, congratulations! I hear you have reached Wiertham.

Indeed Your Holiness, and it is not empty as we thought.

What have you found, Captain?

Well, I don't really know, Your Holiness, some sort of alien vessels. I'm requesting permission to attack.

Really? Are they hostile?

Well... they look quite hostile to me, Your Holiness.


Do you have any indication of their military strength?

Pretty hefty, Your Holiness, but that it is of no consequence to me and my crew. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the Great Quest!

Yes, I daresay, Captain. The trouble is, I'm not sure that attacking these aliens would in any way advance the Quest.

Oh.

You sound disappointed, Captain.

Well, I was hoping we could, you know, try out the snazzy new battle lasers on a real enemy, Your Holiness.

Yes well, perhaps we'll just wait till we've found a real enemy then. But I have some important news for you, Captain. Young Pi-Trobi has learned the name of the next system beyond Wiertham.

Excellent news, Your Holiness. What is it, if I may ask?

Paphlagonia.

What!? You mean, an actual P system?

It is indeed, Captain, as you say – a P system. The first one ever to be revealed. What we need to know is whether it has any of the Holy Planets of Pi within it. So, if you can temporarily curb your enthusiasm for reckless self-sacrifice, then your mission is to find out for us.


Absolutely, Your Holiness! If there is anything I would rather do than lay down my life for the Quest it would be to discover the first of the Holy Planets!

Well, I'm glad to hear it Captain. And may Pi guide you safely through the lanes!

Fortunately, the hostile-looking aliens of Wiertham did nothing to try to approach the DPS Intrepid as it prepared for its next jump, nor was there any sign of pursuit. As the ship emerged from hyperspace into the Paphlagonia system, the entire crew stood rooted to the spot before the scan display waiting for the initial readout. Were they about to discover the first Holy Planet?

It was a pitifully small system – only two planets circled the star Paphlagonia, each with one moon. The system-wide sensors therefore did not take long to come up with the scan results. Paphlagonia I was a large molten planet with a tiny barren moon. And Paphlagonia II... The entire crew suddenly erupted in wild and uncontrollable cheering – Paphlagonia II was a small desert planet with a breathable atmosphere. It was unmistakably the first of the Holy Planets of Pi!

A brief message was sent back to Primordia without delay: “Paphlagonia II: habitable. Praise be to the Great Pi!” When the news broke the entire planet was swept by a wave of euphoria that went on for days. There was a Holy Planet only two jumps away from Pi-Phara! True, there were some hostile-looking aliens in the intervening system, but, now that it was clear that a Space Navy would certainly be needed for the Great Quest, the means would be found to deal with them soon enough.

The Intrepid continued its voyage around the rimward lanes, but no more Holy Planets were found in that quarter. There was however an oddity in the Nembus system. The acolyte Pi-Trobi, who had hitherto been reporting the names of stars which Pi had revealed to him, insisted that the planet Nembus III also had a special name. It was in theory habitable, but far too cold for Puffheads to survive long. Its name seemed to be some sort of a message from Pi – the planet was apparently called “Fruitful Endeavour”.

This was a planet whose further investigation would almost certainly prove to be a fruitful endeavour.

Having completed a brief tour of the rimward systems, Captain Drubble was then instructed to follow a strategically located hyperlane across to the hubward arm of the galaxy, to continue his explorations there. He soon discovered the Plock system, in which he found another possibly habitable but very cold and mountainous planet, not unlike Fruitful Endeavour. It was another euphoric moment - clearly there were more than one of the Holy Planets within easy reach of Pi-Phara.

Captain Drubble also discovered more of the hostile-looking alien vessels first encountered in Wiertham. There were some lurking in Qeb Daraan, to antispinward of Pi-Phara, and more in Ubliea in the hubward arm. Each time he came across them, he was itching to train his battle lasers on them, but each time he was ordered to leave them alone for the time being. The sooner the Puffhead Navy was strengthened the better, he told himself in frustration. The idea of these aliens lurking so close to the Holy Planets was clearly an affront to the great Pi.

But what of the other two corvettes?

The DPS Courageous, whose mission was to explore the systems to spinward of Pi-Phara, was under the command of Captain Fripp. He had signed up for the Navy primarily as a means of getting away from his nagging wife for long stretches at a time. He was not particularly afraid of what might happen the first time his ship entered a hyperlane because no one had actually told him it had never been done before. On the other hand, he would certainly not have been interested in laying down his life in a suicidal attack on any hostile-looking aliens.

Fortunately for Captain Fripp, the nearby spinward systems held nothing of much note except perhaps the Ellamir system, where he found an enormous arid planet perfect for Puffhead colonization, as well as a smaller habitable planet whose climate was deemed too wet for most Puffheads, and another cold mountainous planet which Pi-Trobi insisted bore the enigmatic name of Gluggbath. During the first year of exploration, no aliens were found in this direction, nor any Holy Planets.

The antispinward systems were the responsibility of Captain Veerpa aboard the DPS Resolute. One of her first discoveries was a system whose name was revealed to be Pondicherry, but rather disappointingly, it did not have any habitable planets. Her next jump took Resolute to Cknoor from where the ship's hypercomm sensors picked up an intriguing signal from the next system whose name was Lox'Ungrak'O. Following this up, she found what appeared to be the home planet of another sentient race.

She immediately contacted Archprophet Pagglerod back on Primordia to report this momentous news. The Archprophet quickly summoned Techno-priest Puffleribba, head of the Department of Societal Research at the Great Temple of Pi.

Thank you for coming, Puffleribba. I know your time is precious.

Indeed it is, Your Holiness, but no doubt you have some pressing matter to present.

First of all, how is your research project into the New Worlds Protocol progressing?

Steadily, I would say, Your Holiness. Obviously when it comes to the colonization of the Holy Planets of Pi, proper preparation is of paramount importance.

Indeed, yes. Do you have some sort of time frame for when you might complete the project?

At present our predictions are that the protocol will be fully prepared in approximately five years time.


Ah. Not next week, then.

Is there a problem, Archprophet?


The problem, Puffleribba, is that Captain Veerpa of the DPS Resolute has just encountered an alien race in the Lox'Ungrak'O system. She believes they may be at a similar level of technological development to us. Making contact with them must be a priority.

What do we have to go on, Your Holiness? How do they communicate?


Well, obviously we've picked up radio signals and such like, but we need some top minds to work on deciphering the stuff.

That sort of a project could take months, Your Holiness. Even years.


That's what I feared. But the protocol for the Holy Planets takes precedence.

Precisely, Archprophet. But perhaps these aliens will pre-empt our percipience and put us in the picture themselves.


Perhaps, Puffleribba. But if so, let us hope they prove to be a peaceable progeny. It wouldn't do for preliminary proceedings to turn pugnacious.

For some reason, the Archprophet always seemed to find himself speaking like this when he was in conversation with a techno-priest.


So it was that Puffleribba continued her preparations for the colonization of the Holy Planets, and everyone waited to see if the aliens of Lox'Ungrak'O would make first contact.

Leading off from the Lox'Ungrak'O system to hubward was a curious dead-end hyperlane leading to another system. Captain Veerpa decided to investigate it out of curiosity, but expected to find little of interest. The name of the system was revealed to be Sol, and to Captain Veerpa's astonishment its third planet proved to be the home of yet another sentient race. What sort of race Pi in his inscrutable wisdom would have chosen to banish to this ignominious backwater it was hard to imagine.

She hurried away, lest the inhabitants proved to be in some way unpleasant, and continued her explorations on the rimward side of Lox'Ungrak'O. Word came from Primordia that one of the stars in that region was called Plograut, and anticipation was at fever-pitch aboard the Resolute as it made the jump into this system. There were just four planets in the Plograut system. But, oh joy! The second planet was a world of savannah plains, quite a promising place for the adaptable Puffheads. Captain Veerpa made the report back to Primordia, in the format that was becoming almost liturgical. “Plograut II: habitable. Praise be to the Great Pi!”

By the end of 2200, therefore, no less than three of the Holy Planets of Pi had been located. Two of them, Paphlagonia II and Plock III, seemed to be easily accessible for colonization. Plograut II was in a more awkward position, as the home of the alien race in Lox'Ungrak'O lay on the only route to it.

Much progress had been made, but there was still so much to do. Only a tiny portion of the galaxy had so far been explored, the completion of the New Worlds Protocol was still years away, and the Puffhead Space Navy was still in a pitiful condition. But Archprophet Pagglerod was persuaded that his people were up to the challenge.
 

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I have to chuckle and Paphlagonia. It gives me fond memories of Aristophanes.
 

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Praise be to the paragons who have prospected the first of the Holy Planets of Pi! May they be placated with prosperity and prodigious progeny!
Spoken like a techno-priest!
I have to chuckle and Paphlagonia. It gives me fond memories of Aristophanes.
Yikes! I didn't think you were that old...:p
 
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Meeting some Neighbours


At the end of the last episode, the Puffheads had completed the first year of the Great Quest, and had discovered no less than three of the Holy Planets of Pi. Now the intrepid Captain Drubble and his ship DPS Intrepid were continuing their exploration of the hubward arm of the galaxy. But as they entered the Avaconea system, something unexpected happened.

After centuries of inactivity, the drone mining station in Avaconea burpled into life.


### Alien objects detected. Spectrographic analysis will proceed. ###

### Burple burple ###

### Alien objects contain small quantities of valuable minerals. Mining operations must be undertaken. ###

### Burple burple ###

### Alien organic presence detected. ###

### Burple burple ###

### Data not relevant. Mining operations will proceed. ###


Captain Drubble of the DPS Intrepid who, along with his crew, constituted the above-mentioned “data not relevant”, heard this signal as a series of incomprehesible beeps and burples. However, the drone station had made rapid work of deciphering the Puffhead language, and a message now appeared on the comm screen.

Congratulations! You have been selected in our prize draw to participate in an exciting new mining initiative in the Avaconea system. You do not have to reply to this message, nor do anything else at the moment. You will hear from us shortly with details of your role in the operations. Should you wish to opt out of this once in a lifetime offer, simply open the attached form, fill in the details requested, giving as much information as possible about why you do not want to participate, and send the form back to this address. Replies will be processed within two weeks.

First Officer Spoggle, Drubble's second in command, turned to his Captain.

Oooh, that sounds exciting, doesn't it sir?

Are you crazy, Spoggle? This is obviously some kind of a scam.

Oh. Well, we'd better open the attachment then, and...

NO! Never open an attachment! Didn't they teach you anything at cadet school?

Um – I'm afraid I've forgotten quite a bit of it, sir.

Well, there's only one thing to do with a message like that, just del-...

Sir, look – there are some alien vessels approaching. Perhaps they've come to explain more about the exciting new mining initiative?

Then why are there so many of them? Surely they don't need nine ships just to give us some information? And they seem to be heavily armed ships at that.

Perhaps we should take evasive action, sir.

Ha! No, it's too late for that! This is clearly a hostile enemy and we cannot avoid combat. Finally we have a chance to go into action. Get the battle lasers ready for engagement, Spoggle!

Er... we don't have any battle lasers, Captain.

What? What do you mean, Spoggle? Of course we have battle lasers, we're a military corvette aren't we?

We just have these three nuclear missile launchers.

No lasers?

Absolutely none, sir. Should we get the missile launchers ready?

Yes, yes, all right. Good grief – call this a Navy!

The Battle of Avaconea went down in Puffhead history as the first combat of the Great Quest. Unfortunately, the DPS Intrepid stood no chance against the fleet of mining drones, who certainly did have lasers, which they now trained on the helpless corvette.


Thus Captain Drubble was finally allowed to fulfil his ambition, laying down his life in a suicidal attack on the mining drones. He died happy, unlike most of his crew who did not share his enthusiasm for getting fried to death by a battery of mining lasers. His last message back to Primordia was characteristically terse.

“Guys, we need a Navy. And GET SOME LASERS!”

There were of course no survivors.



### Burple burple ###

Congratulations. The mining operations in Avaconea in which you kindly agreed to participate have now been completed. We hope you enjoyed this experience. We will be sure to keep you posted regarding similar opportunities in the future. However, if you do not wish to receive any more communications from the Avaconea Mining Station, simply open the attached file and click the Unsubscribe link.

### Burple burple ###

Meanwhile, back in the home spiral arm and far to spinward of Pi-Phara, Captain Fripp of the DPS Courageous was not having much luck in his search for the Holy Planets. In fact, it was beginning to look like there were no P systems in that direction at all. This was a great shame, since the region also seemed to be curiously empty of any kind of aliens, either friendly or hostile. Captain Fripp was on the point of getting bored and was about to resort to investigating the 326 missed calls from his wife.

The Courageous was nearing a narrow bottleneck in the spiral arm where the plan was to turn back, when news came in from Primordia. Just beyond the bottleneck, it seemed, there was a red dwarf whose name had been revealed to be Pedro. With great excitement Captain Fripp continued on to this system and was rewarded by the discovery of a huge ocean-covered planet, Pedro II.


Admittedly, it wasn't that suitable for Puffhead colonization, but it was in theory habitable. It was the first new Holy Planet to be discovered in over a year, and back on Primordia the discovery sparked a planet-wide craze for Pedro the Red Dwarf souvenirs.

In comparison to the rapid progress being made by the corvettes, the DPS Sacred Scrutiny was barely moving. It had taken over a year to make a complete scan of the Pi-Phara system, and now Techno-priestess Praggla was taking her ship on to survey the planets around nearby Kiram. Archprophet Pragglerod decided that a second survey ship was a prerequisite for faster progress, and soon the DPS Sacred Search was launched.

The Sacred Search was placed under the command of Techno-priestess Pi-Dimbla, who began by braving the mining drones of Wiertham to reach Paphlagonia, which she had surveyed fully by the end of the year 2201. She then jumped over to the Nembus system to investigate the enigmatic Fruitful Endeavour.

The survey of the planet did indeed prove a fruitful endeavour. Pi-Dimbla made a report to the Archprophet in person.


Your Holiness, we have just finished our survey of Fruitful Endeavour.

Excellent, Pi-Dimbla. Tell me everything!

Well, it's not just habitable, Your Holiness. It is in fact inhabited – by a sentient race, of sorts.

Of sorts?

A race of giant insectoids who call themselves the Screk. As we already knew, their planet is very cold and mountainous, but of course, they are perfectly adapted to such an environment.

Well, that sounds excellent. These are precisely the sort of creatures we will need to help us colonize planets like Plock III! I would hope that they are devout worshippers of Pi?

Ah, no, Your Holiness. Firstly they are extremely primitive in every way, several thousand years behind us, I would say. And secondly, they do not appear to be very interested in worshipping anything or anyone. Also they appear to be fanatically xenophobic. In other words, any attempt to publicize our presence is likely to go promptly pear-shaped.


Oh dear. Perhaps we'd better not pin our hopes on this particular pack of provincial polypods.

Perhaps with a spot of proselytization they might be persuaded to participate, Your Holiness.

Perhaps, Pi-Dimbla, but that sort of project is beyond our purse at present.

It was happening again. Pagglerod quickly ended the communication before he went completely potty. But the discovery of the Screk did raise important questions. Just how sympathetic were other races likely to be towards the Great Quest? And for those who were unenthusiastic, just what were the best means to persuade them to co-operate?

Meanwhile, certain alien races were themselves observing the Puffheads with some interest.



Gertrude, Monty, look! This is where they're all coming from I bet.

Oooh, yes Rupert, it does look like this is the creepy-crawlies' home.

I still think we should have let them out of those tiny tin boxes they were trapped inside. I can't imagine they were happy in them.

I told you Rupert, my cousin Harriet let some out once and they all died.

But they weren't the same kind, you said.

I think they're all quite similar. Living on these lumps of rock and flying about in their tiny boxes.

They're so cute though, don't you think?

Um – not these ones, I don't think. They're a bit weird-looking.

Ah well, best to move on – we don't want to upset them or anything.
 

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Perhaps they should propriate with proper paraphernalia the Providential phenomenon to provide precise Prophecy, so they may properly plan, prepare and prioritise, and thus prevent a probable piss-poor performance by the next pugnacious Puffhead.
 
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Perhaps they should propriate with proper paraphernalia the Providential phenomenon to provide precise Prophecy, so they may properly plan, prepare and prioritise, and thus prevent a probable piss-poor performance by the next pugnacious Puffhead.
I think you've been talking to too many techno-priests! :p Regarding the lack od lasers aboard my corvettes, I had actually selected lasers in an earlier game start while I was still fiddling with the namelist mod, but had somehow failed to select them in the final game start. So when Captain Drubble was itching to use his lasers, I genuinely believed he had some. It was only when he started attacking the drone fleet and I saw these missiles shooting out that I realized something was wrong. :oops:
Pedro! :D

Also, perilous portents! D:
And more to come, I'm afraid...
 

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The Perilous Position of Certain Holy Planets

On progressing to the space age in 2200, the Puffheads of Primordia had been presented with the task of finding and protecting the Holy Planets of Pi, every habitable planet in the galaxy the name of whose star began with P. Just how many Holy Planets there were no one knew. There had been great jubilation at the discovery of three of them in only a year: Paphlagonia II, Plock III and Plograut II. These were followed by another, Pedro II, discovered in 2202.

But amid the celebrations and the souvenir-peddling, some were beginning to pose the perturbing question: just how many Holy Planets were there? At this rate, it was beginning to look like the Puffheads were going to have to conquer most of the galaxy just to secure the Holy Planets. And the galaxy was a big place. On the wall of his office, Archprophet Pagglerod had placed a chart showing the provisional plan for the Puffhead Space Navy's voyages of exploration.


Fortunately, as the gallant, though slightly under-equipped corvettes of the Puffhead Navy plied the hyperlanes of galactic space over the next few years, it became plain that the discoveries of the first year or so had been unusually profuse. By the middle of 2206, only one more Holy Planet had been located, the small moon of Platinum Ia, some way to antispinward in what had come to be known as the Hubward Arm.

But what was also becoming clear to the Puffheads was that they were far from alone, and the presence of multiple alien races and creatures with which the galaxy seemed to teem promised to complicate their task considerably.

In 2204 several alien civilizations made contact with the Puffheads for the first time, a moment the Archprophet had been anticipating with a mixture of excitement and fear. First to send a communication was the Lox'Ungrak-Va Consortium, the Puffheads' nearest neighbours not far to antispinward.


Since their name was such a mouthful, they soon came to be known as the LUV Consortium. Unlike the pitifully primitive Screk of Nembus, the LUV Consortium were a spiritual race who, it was thought, would be sympathetic to the Great Quest. Archprophet Pagglerod decided to test the waters by contacting their ruler, Executive Hask'Teragg, to speak with him directly.


Executive Hask'Teragg, it is a pleasure to meet you. I praise the Great Pi for this meeting!

The Lox'Ungrak-Va are equally pleased to make your acquaintance, Archprophet Pagglerod.

I'm afraid we Puffheads are having trouble with your species name. Most people have taken to calling you the Luvvies, or even the Luvvy Duvvies. I hope you don't mind.

Ahem, well that's very, er... touching, I'm sure. I hope you don't mind if we just call you the Puffheads. We are a businesslike people.

Not at all. I was really wanting to raise a question which is pressing on my mind, Executive. It concerns the planet Plograut II.

Plograut II, Archprophet? What about it?

Well, it turns out that it is a Holy Planet, and we Puffheads have been prevailed upon by the Great Pi to be its protectors.

Well let us see, Plograut II... According to our initial scans it is a very dry place. Barely habitable, it would seem.

Not at all, Executive, we Puffheads are rather averse to wet places. The vast savannahs of Plograut II call to us like a siren song.

Well, you're welcome to it, as far as the Lox'Ungrak-Va are concerned. The oceans of Qeb Daraan III, on the other hand, would be an ideal place for one of our first colonies.

Qeb Daraan was a system that lay between Pi-Phara and the Lox-Ungrak-Va, in space not yet claimed by either race. The DPS Intrepid had encountered a fleet of heavily-armed mining drones there.

Well, Executive, I don't think we would have any objection to your colonizing Qeb Daraan, but I have to warn you, if you receive any tempting offers from the drone mining station there, don't open the attachment!

Thank you for the warning, Archprophet. Now, if you don't mind, I have some pressing business to attend to at the moment, and indeed, most of the time to be honest. I'm sending you my business card. If there's anything we can help you with, don't hesitate to ask. I'm sure you'll find our prices are very competitive.

The Luvvy Duvvies, it had to be said, did not seem to be living up to their nickname. They even seemed a trifle mercenary in their initial overtones. On the other hand, they did seem quite happy about allowing the Puffheads to lay claim to the Plograut system. Allowing the LUV Consortium to try to clear and colonize Qeb Daraan in return seemed like a good deal all round.

Next up was a communication from the mysterious Humans of Sol III, otherwise known by the rather dull- sounding name of “Earth”. Their leader, President Marc Le Gall, looked like he might have some sort of a criminal record, judging by his dodgy appearance.


This only reinforced the Puffheads' initial misgivings about this race which the Great Pi appeared to have banished to an out-of-the-way hyperlane cul-de-sac. To add to their misfortune, they had apparently got off to a frosty start in their dealings with the Luvvy Duvvies, who clearly distrusted their fanatical individualism. Both civilizations had closed their borders to the other, effectively cutting the Humans off from the rest of the galaxy.

Nevertheless, the initial communication from President Le Gall to the Puffheads was amicable enough, and when, a short time later, he proposed a Non-Aggression Pact between the United Nations of Earth and the Divine Puffhead Planets, Archprophet Pagglerod agreed. Why anyone would want to even bother taking the trouble to attack them it was hard to imagine.


Next in line to make contact with the Divine Puffhead Planets were the Dima'Xanians of the Autocracy of Xani Nadih, situated in the Hubward Arm but not too far from Pi-Phara.


Despite their rather unnerving appearance, and the fact that they described themselves as “slaving despots”, as a race they seemed harmless enough. Fiercely collectivist, they would no doubt get on well with the Luvvies, and would find the Humans similarly abhorrent. As far as Archprophet Pagglerod was concerned, the principal problem was the fact that the Plock system fell squarely within their borders.


Unfortunately, they probably regarded possession of Plock as one the “internal affairs” which they were keen for other races to stay out of. The Archprophet sent a respectful message of greeting to their great leader, the Empress Ludremex I, and put the problem aside for the time being. Plock III was an alpine world, more the taste of the worthless Screk than that of the Puffheads or indeed the Dima'Xanians, who, like the Luvvies, seemed to favour ocean worlds.

Meanwhile, the three brave corvettes continued to push forward the borders of known space. A number of P systems were discovered, but it was not until the DPS Intrepid II investigated the Platinum system that another actual Holy Planet was revealed, the tiny moon of Platinum Ia. This was now quite a long way from Puffhead space, so although the discovery prompted plenty of interest, it did not seem to be such an immediate concern as the planets in Paphlagonia, Plograut and Plock.

More than a year after the discovery of Platinum Ia, yet another alien race made contact with the Puffheads. This however was the most disturbing encounter yet. It came from the Democratic Qwe'Pulci Sovereignty, a race in the Hubward Arm antispinward of the Dima'Xanians.



I am President Valdrig den Badir of the Democratic Qwe'Pulci Sovereignty. I demand to speak to your leader.

Greetings, sir! I am Archprophet Pagglerod and I am in fact the leader of the Puffheads.

Good grief! I thought you were some sort of bizarre pet. Do you suffer from a congenital body malformation or something?

Ahem, no President Badir, I am a perfectly normally Puffhead.

Well, forgive me if I just mute the video feed so I don't have to actually look at you.

Er... feel free.

Right, now. You appear to be a race of ignorant, fanatically superstitious dropouts, which is probably why your civilization is in the pathetic state it is.

Er, well...

In fact your very existence is an affront to Qwe'Pulci sensibilities, so your best bet would probably be to stay well away from us, and maybe we'll forget that you do exist, which would be preferable for everyone I'm sure.

Er, right...

Gee, what a bunch of losers.

* click *


The comm link went dead, leaving Archprophet Pagglerod with the uneasy feeling that his rather pitiful performance had put the Puffhead race in a very poor light. More worrying than that, far more worrying, was the chart which the Qwe'Pulci leader had sent, helpfuly outlining the borders of their space which the Puffheads were now forbidden to enter.


Not only did the Qwe'Pulci seem to occupy a huge area of space, but the Platinum system lay very near the heart of it, not far away from the Qwe'Pulci's home system. Pi was going to have to work some pretty powerful miracles if the Puffheads were ever going to get their hands on that particular Holy Planet.


The Qwe-Pulci fleet as sighted by DPS Intrepid II before the borders were closed​

Not long after this, yet another communication was received, from a race calling themselves the Commonwealth of Man. They were in fact Humans, evidently a breakaway group who had somehow managed to escape from Sol and settle just to antispinward of the Qwe'Pulci. Diplomacy did not seem to be a high priority for their leader, Grand Marshal Sidney Beaclair.



Greetings, Ma'am! My name is Archprophet Pagglerod of the Divine Puffhead Planets.

“Greetings”? A worthless concept in my opinion. We prefer to do business on the field of battle.

Well, funny you should mention that. This may seem like a bizarre question, but do you happen to own any star systems whose names begin with P?

It is a bizarre question. But we don't – why?

Well, in that case we probably won't be meeting you on the field of battle, Grand Master. Nothing personal though.

A pity, Puffhead. We could always rename one of our planets, if that would help?

Oh no! That wouldn't do at all! By the way, have you met your neighbours yet?

The Qwe'Pulci, you mean? Yes. We will deal with them in due time.

Well, good luck, Grand Master. And good bye.

Hah!

Perhaps, mused the Archprophet, these Humans had not so much escaped as been exiled from Sol. They certainly seemed like a people with whom it would be hard to share a planet.

Meanwhile, the progress of the Holy Planet project was moving forward. The construction ship DPS Servant of Pi was sent to build a Frontier Outpost in Plograut to ensure the sanctity of Plograut II. And in 2205, Techno-priestess Puffleribba announced the completion of the New World Protocol. Preparations for the first Puffhead colony ship, destined for Paphlagonia II, could now begin.
 

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Trying times for the Archprophet to be sure.

Say in my earlier post I was inspired :D
 

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Plock and Platinum present perplexing problems to be pondered. Particularly Platinum, as the Qwe'Pulci seem predisposed to prevent the planets in their possession from being poached.
I propose a proposition that the prior point is a premier post on this Puffhead parable.