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GregoryTheGreat

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Emerging from the Shell (2200-2210)
Debate about what to do with the newly proven hyperdrive system was omnipresent on the the Network, a referendum that became synonymous with the 2200 election. Shellbounds insisted that any use of it could draw hostile extraterrestrial attention, while the more optimistic countered that learning about the rest of the galaxy would be the only way to learn more about and survive such threats, making liberal use of the old cliche, “You have to know the quorlfish’s camouflage pattern before you can avoid her.” Finally, the more adventurous won out in the argument and vote, leaving newly elected First Speaker Paggro to execute it.

281990_20181005144622_1.png


Paggro was actually an archaeologist by trade, starting on excavations of the ancient city of Shugg during her late maledom. When she transitioned she was appointed project lead. Her efficiency in the role would lead to the discovery that Shugg’s rulers had actually used their volcanic rift’s heat for metal forging (a technique previously thought to have been developed much later), catapulting her into fame, which she parlayed into regional and then global office on a platform of institutional reform and governmental efficiency. Paggro actually had strong personal reservations about exploring with the hyperdrive, but resolved to execute the will of the Consensus.

More vocally supportive was Shusk, who volunteered to travel on the first exploratory ship herself with her entire harem. While opponents scoffed at it as a publicity stunt, the endorsement of key astronomers willing to join any team she led, ended up making it a reality when the referendum passed.

281990_20181005145256_1.png


The images sent back by that first team to explore Maasym were inspiringly beautiful, even if economic forecasts about the value of the system would later prove over-optimistic. The resulting enthusiasm led to the Hrakk region funding their own expedition led by favorite daughter Glabonsch.

To Shusk’s eternal chagrin, Glabonsch would actually be the first one to discover proof of alien life, when her time found the greenery of algae on Rixim Prime, and the strange patterns that this algae formed across Rixim’s oceans. Just four months later, Shusk would find an abandoned cargo pod orbiting a gas giant in the Maasym system and be the first to prove the existence of alien intelligence when she opened it and found a cache of what appeared to be jewelry, but even then, but even that would be undercut when Glabonsch found that the algae network had actually been constructed as a massive biological computer.

281990_20181005151605_1.png


When the Consensus voted to station a permanent research outpost on Rixim, rather than on Maasym as Shusk insisted, she melancholically took it as confirmation that she had lost her place in history by those narrow few months, driving her to over-ingestion of chloride, which would develop into an addiction. Yet, her greatest triumph would come not even a year later while exploring the Iflore system. Shusk’s team came across what appeared to to be another ship, initially taking it to be an abandoned wreck like the cargo pod they had discovered the previous year. In fact, it was still active (if damaged), and being operated by a sentient arthropodal species which called themselves the Screk. After establishing a mutual system of communication through reference to mathematical principles over the course of a few months, Shusk learned that their ship had been stranded for months after a malfunctioning hyperdrive sent them far from their intended coordinates. Their supplies and food were running low, with nutritional deficiencies so dire that they were experiencing an outbreak of neurological parasites. After intense debate, Shusk agreed to let them onboard in a sealed environment geared towards their survivable environment (they weren’t aquatic to the Spiruponderans' surprise.)


281990_20181005151959_1.png

The rescued crew was quarantined in the research station orbiting Chiblosch, where their communication methods (consisting primarily of pointed clicks and antennae flicks) was further decoded. Eventually, the crew explained to the researchers how to contact their homeworld of Baccotri, which they said was ruled by a united democratic government similar to the Consensus. The public debate on whether to do so was even more fierce than that for the use of the hyperdrive (after all, alien intelligence had only been hypothetical then), but eventually those in favor won out.

281990_20181005152051_1.png


Fortunately, the United Screk Union was grateful to the Consensus for rescuing their scientists and quickly agreed to mutual non-aggression. With celebrations of this diplomatic victory punctuated by observations of a beautiful comet seen from Cyggia, the ideological optimists took the opportunity to confidently argue that the Spiruponderans had little to fear from alien life in general, that only peaceful life could achieve the technological strength to reach the stars. Even after evidence of an ancient xenocidal race of cyborgs was unearthed, such naive views would reach their apex as the Union agreed to collaborative research (though the improbably apparent similarity between the Union’s technological development and the Consensus’s fueled cynical suspicions that the Union was hiding their true technological capabilities), and the discovery of both collectable dark matter available and a mysterious gate around Abaddon’s Demnse. In this giddy atmosphere, the last few independent states on Cyggia voted to join the Consensus, unifying the planet for the first time in its history.

281990_20181005154845_1.png


The idealism came to an end the year after Unification, when Shusk came across what appeared to be a massive, scarred fleet of unidentified warships illuminated in the harsh red light of the Zedran system. When they fired upon her, she fled. Only several months later did the Consensus learn that these “Gargaxton Free Warriors” were abominable monsters who delighted in violence--a truly shocking and alien notion for Spiruponderan mind.

281990_20181005155624_1.png


Withdrawing, a deeply rattled Shusk found a strange pulsing of a the star Afrmyke on her ship’s sensors. When a member of her harem said that it might just be a sensor malfunction, an addled Shusk rumbled furiously “I’ve found two alien civilizations. How many have you found? That’s right: none, because no one else has ever found any but me. We’re heading to Afrmyke.” Grumbled considerations of declaring her unfit for command due to regressive male-like behavior dissipated when they came across an unidentified alien craft surveying planets in a nearby system AND in Afrmyke itself.

These would turn out to be scout ships for a strange, mystical-commercial organization calling itself the Cuddlesnux Warm Huggerate. They were small, creatures who had elevated their huddling together for warmth on their cold homeworld into a spiritual doctrine of loving embrace, which they were determined to spread to the stars, along with commerce. This baffled the Spiruponderans on several levels, but they seemed relatively benign, and would later agree to peaceful coexistence with the Consensus.

281990_20181005161348_1.png


The fact that Afrmyke’s apparent strange pulsing would indeed turn out to be a sensory malfunction as Shusk’s critics had suggested would be largely forgotten, especially after the star system turned out to be host to an industrialized civilization, meaning Shusk had discovered four out of the four known living alien cultures. Her subsequent election to First Speakerhood in 2210 was practically foreordained.

281990_20181005195511_1.png

2210 Political Map.
Clockwise from the north are the Gargaxton Free Warriors, the Spiruponderan Consensus (us), the United Screk Union, the Cuddlesnux Warm Huggerate


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Welcome to my first AAR, the tale of peaceful snail scientists trying to survive in a (probably) violent galaxy.
 
Last edited:

GregoryTheGreat

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Prologue: Background
The Spiruponderans are a race of highly intelligent creatures with some similarities to the seasnails of earth, namely having a large protective shell which inhibits rapid movement. The majority of the species are citizens of the Spiruponderan Consensus, a digital democracy which prizes scientific accomplishment.
281990_20181005200354_1.png


Homeworld
Spiruponderans hail from Cyggia, a wet world orbiting a pair of binary stars, and in-turn orbited by a ring of vapor and debris from the Spiruponderans early adventures in space travel. The planet is primarily covered in shallow oceans and seas, moreso now that global warming raised the seas even further. Its richness in conductive metals and magnetic ore would be a key catalyst for Spiruponderan civilization.

281990_20181005202319_1.png


Spiruponderan History
While the ancestors of Spiruponderans had been using stone and kelp tools for hundreds of millennia, the truly great early advancement was the generation of electricity. As with early human control of fire, this was a slow and dangerous process resulting in a lot of singed tentacles, but harnessing the planet’s abundant copper and magnetite deposits presented many advantages. Setting up electric traps allowed them to both catch smaller, faster prey, thus increasing the protein in their diet, as well as warding their caves against predators. Early civilizations grew up around strong currents and thermal vents which could be used for massive power generation. These civilizations would eventually discover techniques for electroplating and electroforming, allowing for the creation of metal tools. The resulting mining boom and abundance of metals led for the creation of long-distance wires and communication, which both extended the power of these civilizations and decentralized them, particularly once fossil fuel-induced climate change extended the planet’s seas. While there was conflict between these various states, the Spiruponderans have little stomach for violence, and treaties between them soon developed into a global arbitration body, and then a democratic government acknowledged by most of the planet (with a few scattered isolationist-states still refusing to accept its legitimacy.)

Spiruponderan Psychology
Spiruponderans are slow, but deep thinkers, the evolutionary legacy of creatures who can’t move quickly and so has to take action very thoughtfully and deliberately, carefully considering every possible long-term result of a course of action. This drives them paradoxically to both discover more about their universe (thus reducing uncertainty), and to take pleasure in predictable and slow-paced activities (such as agriculture.)

Spiruponderan Biology
Spiruponderans are serial hermaphrodites: born male, they only transition into becoming female after growing to a certain size, or if no females are present for significant time. Historically this would mean that elderly females would rule over harems of half a dozen males until her death, when the largest male would replace her. However, the rise of modern agriculture (and contraception) has allowed for substantial food surpluses, meaning that more Spiruponderans have been able to obtain the necessary mass to transition earlier, meaning that contemporary ratios are only one female for every two males. While this has led to some advancements in male rights (they are now able to vote after 20 years of age), the idea of male leaders is as unthinkable to Spiruponderans as a child leader.

The Spiruponderan Consensus
The Spiruponderan Consensus is a federalized digital direct democracy, essentially a sophisticated government by internet forum voting (though they call their internet analogue "the Network"). Policy changes are proposed and modified by the general citizenry (who often form into ad hoc committees to iron out details), coming to a general vote when a petition reaches a certain number of eligible citizen endorsements proportional to the population affected (so planet-wide policies naturally require more endorsements than local ones, but local policies can only be voted on by their local populace.) Fortunately, Spiruponderans tend to be rather civically engaged (in addition to highly intelligent), so public discussion and policy making remains relatively level-headed and informed. Consensus citizens can also select any citizen as their proxy to vote on certain issues, a common practice for highly specialized policy (in which the proxies are recognized experts) or less engaged citizens. In 2200, males are eligible for votes and endorsements, but their voices are equivalent to 1/4 that of a female, owing to their perceived lack of maturity and the fact that many simply select their female mates as a proxy.
The First Speaker is an elected official whose chief power literally has the right to speak/post first on any issue (or select proxies to do so on her behalf.) While this might seem weaker than comparable executive positions, it gives them great agenda-setting and issue-framing influence in public discussions. Due to the position’s intrinsic high visibility, she also tends to collect a plurality of proxies. Traditionally, candidates are selected based upon their scientific accomplishments--though the public voting procedure means that it tends to favor high visibility celebrity-scientists.
The actual implementation of government policy is handled by a civic bureaucracy overseen by an Executor [the in-game Governor of the Core], but bureaucratic policy tends to be so precisely prescribed by the Consensus with specified procedures for so many different possibilites, that there is relatively little decision-making for the Executor and her officials. Thus the position is relatively low-visibility with Executors continuing in the position until death.
Judicial and arbitration functions are technically handled by Consensus vote like everything else, but are generally delegated through chains of vested proxies, except in especially high-profile cases where citizens may consciously choose how to cast their votes.
 
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Macavity116

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I’ve found two alien civilizations. How many have you found? That’s right: none, because no one else has ever found any but me.
Please tell me that was her campaign slogan when she ran for the top job. I'll vote for Shusk!
 

GregoryTheGreat

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Please tell me that was her campaign slogan when she ran for the top job. I'll vote for Shusk!
Spiruponderan political campaigns generally use excruciatingly long-winded speeches rather than slogans, but that was indeed effectively the core argument of her campaign.
 
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stnylan

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Very good couple of posts to start us off.
 

Nikolai

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Good start. :)
 

GregoryTheGreat

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The Battle of Rixim (2210-2212)

Shusk ran on a platform of expansionism and she delivered on that promise handsomely, ushering in a golden age of prosperity and scientific advancement. Ironically, the first major colony during her tenure would be on Rixus Prime, whose discovery by Glabonsch (and the first proof of extra-Cyggian life) had caused Shusk so much anguish. However, the Consensus’s vote on the matter had been finalized even before Shusk took office, so she kept her tentacles loose for the cameras in a joyous facade when she spoke in effervescent platitudes as the science facilities were set up on the new world. The brief 6-hour speech played well to Shusk’s nascent base of supporters (who called themselves the National Evolvement League), by playing up the prosperity that the Consensus would reap from ongoing expansion and scientific advancements.

The scientists themselves largely ignored the speech praising them as they got to work analyzing the strange algae bio-computer spanning the planet. In the coming years, their analysis would lead to breakthroughs in automation that would render mining entirely conducted by robots within two decades, but first there were other claimants to the planet.

While all the major states of Cyggia had voted to join the Consensus, there were millions of dissenters within each of those states who for one reason or another did not wish to abide by the Consensus’s rulings. Many of them had petitioned to be allowed an autonomous enclave on either Cyggia or Rixim, only to be voted down by the Consensus, which was largely uncomfortable with the idea of discordant dissidents banding together. And those fears would come to pass.

The Dissenters (as they called themselves), led by a wealthy industrialist named Gaschl, quietly started buying up transport ships, and arming them with re-purposed mining equipment, with the goal of claiming Rixim by force. They were counting on the Consensus lacking the weapons and political will to contest their claim. What they weren’t counting on was a particularly clever young engineer named Ethogg assigned as chief technician on the Rixim spaceport.

When the Dissenter ships warped into the Rixim system, proclaiming their intentions and armaments, almost everyone’s first instinct was to surrender, but Ethogg was inspired to develop a cunning plan based upon theoretical physics and footage of Gargaxton warships firing so-called “missiles” at each other. She pointed out that the station stored a considerable amount of fissile material as fuel for ships as well as replacement engines and coverings, which could be re-engineered into “automated ships” which would detonate in nuclear fusion reactions when near the Dissenters. The others on the station were initially horrified at the idea of killing their fellow Spiruponderans, let alone doing so by emulating Gargaxton tactics, but after a very long debate it was considered preferable to letting the potential technological marvels to be gleaned from Rixim lost to the Consensus and left to their enemies. (The actual technical viability of this theoretical massively explosive fusion chain-reaction was a side argument which was more quickly settled with some diagrams.) In the three months before the Dissenter’s ships reached the station, the technicians had welded together the nuclear missiles and some transports retrofitted with mining equipment of their own.

281990_20181005204419_1.png


The Dissenters fled after their first ship was destroyed. As soon as she returned from rescuing the Dissenter’s lifeboats, Ethogg and the rest of station’s command staff were arrested and put on trial for murder.
On Cyggia, most were initially revolted to learn of “the Monster of Rixim’s” deeds, but many were eventually swayed by her arguments for their necessity. After 6 months of a very politically divisive trial, the jury declared Ethogg Not Guilty, but condemned her to oversee the expansion and operation of what was generously called the Consensus Fleet, based upon her designs.
 
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stnylan

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I like the idea of Ethogg being trialled for murder - that fits the Ethics quite nicely.
 

GregoryTheGreat

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Early Expansion (2212-2223)
Domestic Affairs
Life on Rixim rarely lacked excitement or mystery. Aside from the omnipresent hums, coos, and pops of the ancient algaeic computer network, the scientist’s facilities would suffer regular plagues of hyper-fast-growing acidifying kelp-like plant corroding their equipment, including the suits they wore to properly filter the high-niacin waters of the planet. Biologists hypothesized that the kelp was bioengineered by the same creators of the algaeic computer as a means to cleanse contaminants and preserve the integrity of the bio-circuitry. Fortunately, within two years, they had not only developed a chemical response to inhibit the kelp’s growth, but reverse-engineered its rapid growth in a way that could be hybridized with Cyggian crops, leading to an agricultural boom. This bioengineering research also had a knock-on effect in conjunction with the necessary innovations of keeping Spiruponderans alive in an alien chemical environment leading to major advances in medicine, which combined with crop surpluses would lead to an explosion of the Spiruponderan population that would persist for decades.
But despite all that they would learn from it, the Rixim computer’s fundamental purpose and operations would remain elusive, a point highlighted within the first year of planetfall when a sea-sized portion of the algae suddenly rearranged itself into what appeared to be a mining facility/thermal-powered factory covering hundreds of cubic kilometers. Not wanting to spurn a gift-schnorglogg, the scientists sent some of the automatons they had devised (based on inspiration from Rixim’s bio-circuitry, which is why they are sometimes called “Riximians”) to staff it--a solution that would work for several months until the automata mysteriously disappeared into the depths of the facility in 2215.

281990_20181005210346_1.png


Compared to that mystery, the Second Battle Rixim just months before seemed almost mundane, even as the Dissenters martyred themselves entirely, throwing all three of their ships into a determined wave of nuclear missiles and the newly purpose-built Consensus Fleet in a senseless waste of life.
The Consensus’s consistent collective attention to Rixim had the side-effect of keeping the planet’s discoverer, Glabonsch, prominent in everyone’s minds--a valuable brand name on which several leading academic institutions sought to capitalize.Firstly, she was named Chairwoman of the Institute of Higher Learning (the Consensus’s premier educational consortium), and then First Scholar of the Academy of Scientific Ascendancy, a think-tank directing scientific priorities for the advancement of the Consensus’s interests. Glabonsch herself was almost entirely a figurehead in both cases--too busy conducting ongoing exploration of the distant eastern frontier to play any part in either group’s operations, but the appointment of First Speaker Shusk’s “old rival” as Shusk thought of her (entirely unknown to Glabonsch) to such a prestigious position would nettle her to no end. In mid-2015 when the Dissenter’s base of operations would ironically turn out to be in Maasym (the system Shusk had first traveled to and pushed for as the first extra-Cyggian station instead of Rixim) was the cause of many dark jokes on the Network, as well as a truly lengthy chloride binge by the First Speaker.



281990_20181005211750_1.png


Fortunately for Shusk, events would soon let her turn the narrative back in her favor. The raid on the Dissenter base in Maasym in late 2015 provided firm evidence of Gaschl supplying material support to them, justifying Consensus seizure of his substantial interstellar transportation network. Then a supply ship heading to Afrmyke discovered an abandoned Gargaxton habitat floating around Edasich IV, which could be retrofitted into living quarters for colony ships. Shusk pushed for these resources to be directed towards settlement of two new worlds (both of which were conveniently the sites of where Shusk had discovered extra-Cyggian civilizations.) She argued that their development would be vital both for continued scientific progress and to relieve the population pressures projected on Cyggia. In mid-2216 the Consensus voted approval of her plan.

281990_20181005212136_1.png


The first planet to be colonized was Iflore Prime, where Shusk had begun the first interstellar communication when she came across the stranded Screk crew. The massive ocean world of Iflore Prime was rich in ores, geothermal energy, and scientifically interesting phenomena courtesy of its many active volcanoes.
Though the second planet to be settled, Afrmyke Prime was somewhat drier than ideal (being covered more in marshes than proper oceans), it was perfect from both a scientific and political perspective. The Afrmyke system was where Shusk had discovered the [civilization] and where xenosociologists were covertly studying them still.


Foreign Relations


The United Screk Union
281990_20181005221911_1.png

The Screk puzzled the Consensus. Firstly, the Consensus saw the Union’s representative democracy as a primitive pre-Network relic compared to their own direct democracy. The Consensus understood the need for a technocratic bureaucracy to inform the populace and execute its decisions,but the idea of vesting elected officials substantial personal power of their own (as the Union did in their president and legislators) seemed regressive. Worse still, these leaders weren’t elected based upon their scientific accomplishments, and so many had poor technical backgrounds and enacted uninformed policies. Yet paradoxically, the Union considered the Consensus to be less democratic just because female votes counted for four male votes.
Most in the Consensus regarded this attitude as either cultural posturing or Screk misunderstanding of Spiruponderan biology. The Screk could be born female and their gender ratios were evenly split, so in their cultures females were not held as especially mature or socially dominant. However, public exposure to Screk culture of empowered male figures would inseminate the idea of greater gender equality, especially as the ongoing population boom not only dramatically increased the population of males, but the number of males who had grown up knowing of alternatives to Consensus gender norms.
Allegations of Screk support for male-led Spiruponderan pirates in the border regions between them would strain relations, but the primary reason preventing closer ties was Screk antagonization of the Cuddlesnux Warm Huggerate.
While the Union’s politicians gently chided the Consensus for not meeting Screk definitions of democracy, they positively railed against the Huggerate as a chicanerous oligarchy defrauding its people. Wary of being drawn into their conflict, the Consensus politely declined Union overtures for a formal defensive alliance.


The Cuddlesnux Warm Huggerate
281990_20181005213913_1.png

The Cuddlesnux were a different sort of puzzle altogether, namely how such a dim species managed to achieve spaceflight, let alone hyperlane travel.
While Spiruponderan scientists (especially physicists) were sometimes frustrated with the Screk’s lesser capacity for spatial or causal reasoning, the Cuddlesnux had a special gift for taking a small amount of information and then rapidly coming to an entirely wrong conclusion which they would then refuse to reconsider no matter how long one spent explaining their error. After the first few years of contact, it was soon concluded that the best diplomats were those skilled in educating young Spiruponderan children, a staffing decision which improved relations dramatically (though the new diplomats’ career histories were kept secret from the Huggerate.)
While some of the difficulties in communication were based on innate neurological differences, others seemed to be cultural: citizens of the Huggerate had been indoctrinated from birth for generations in a dogma exalting warm physical embrace as a divinely transcendent communion. While Huggerate evangelists were eager to sell anyone lessons on how to experience or give a “True Hug”, the theology was incomprehensible to a Spiruponderan at best, and obscurantist nonsense at worst. The Consensus was moved to pity at the Cuddlesnux plight of suffering under these dogmas, and so authorized the Institute of Higher Learning to open educational outreach branches across the Huggerate. Though Huggerate bishops occasionally censored lectures and textbooks by the Institute’s professors as heresy, the Huggerate’s Board of Directors was mostly happy to welcome (and later, subsidize) the Institute providing an unparalleled technical education, and it would prove a keystone in positive relations, which hit a high point in 2217, when Consensus explorers identified and returned a large Huggerate wrecked shipment of minerals.

The Gargaxton Free Warriors
Conducting diplomacy with the Gargaxton was like trying to negotiate with a hurricane. It’s best to give up and simply watch the terrible, destructive beauty beauty from afar.
Fortunately for the Spiruponderans, the Gargaxtons were too focused upon warring among themselves for motivations no Consensus explorer was brave enough to inquire about. The Consensus’s primary source of information on the Gargaxton’s were foolhardy documentarians filming their battles in action and the occasional adventurous scrapper hovering on the edge of the system hoping to pick up some valuable refuse from a battle.

The Elaaminid
281990_20181011203706_1.png

The Elaaminid were the inhabitants of Gluggaben, an arid planet in the Afrmyke system, from whose barren soil that had managed to coax abundant crops through irrigation systems so sophisticated that they impressed even the Spiruponderans with their ingenuity. Though the Elaaminid had many diverse cultures, plants and water were universally revered. In some places, however, their worship was becoming overshadowed by sun cults which practiced the secret art of creating photovoltaic solar power cells as an alternative energy source to hydroelectricity.
Spiruponderan xenosociologists covertly observed these developments through satellite imagery and aerial drones. Whether they should interfere more directly was the subject of much debate, though how they would do so was just as contentious. Though they expressed it very differently, the obligation to share technology with lesser civilizations was shared by both the Union and the Huggerate. The Union was actually in the midst of doing just that with a people called the Resethi, who had recently reached spaceflight. A few more altruistic Spiruponderans agreed with them, but most agreed that it was undesirable, given the uncomfortable issues it might raise about rightful sovereignty of the Afrmyke system.



The Sub-Afrmykians

Considering her intent in selecting the planet for settlement, it is yet another irony of Shusk’s life that Afrmyke Prime would be where--for the first time in Consensus history--someone other than her discovered sapient aliens. In 2223, a team of geologists traced improbable geological disturbances deep below the surface of Afrmyke, to a massive series of underground caverns with a civilization of Sub-Afrmykians. After establishing communications (the worm-like creatures communicated with very low-frequency calls echoing through the stone), the Spiruponderan xenologists were able to convey the Consensus’s peaceful intentions and lay the groundwork for coexistence. Suffice to say, xenosociologists were overjoyed to have not one, but two primitive alien civilizations to research in the same star system.

281990_20181006181358_1.png


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Extent of the Consensus (2223)


281990_20181011202719_1.png

Consensus and Surrounding Empires (2223)
 

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stnylan

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Nice diplomatic round-up.
 

GregoryTheGreat

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The Synchronicity Conundrum

While Spiruponderan scientists would unravel many enigmas throughout these decades, one problem in particular would vex the entire Consensus (as well as intellectuals of the Union), driving both their curiosities and fears. First formalized by the philosopher and mathematician Fermigg, it questioned the sheer improbability of three species so near each other in the galaxy having independently developed hyperspace travel within a few decades of each other.

The United Screk Union had developed their hyperdrive just 15 years before the Consensus, and the Huggerate had done the same just 20 years before them. Furthermore, the [name], whom the Union was guiding into the galactic community seemed to be on track to develop it themselves maybe 50 years after the Spiruponderans. Considering the millions of years of evolutionary history for each species, the fact that they should make the same technological achievement (in that and several other fields) almost simultaneously (from a geological perspective) seemed exceedingly unlikely.

The myriad proposals for this “Synchronization Factor” included a hidden puppeteering intelligence or civilization guiding development, the unintentional influences of the Gargaxtons, a telepathic connections between the species allowing them to share inspiration subconsciously, and even the notion that the civilizations were all part of a simulation. (The Cuddlesnux, of course, had their own vague explanations about all sapient beings being guided toward the Universal Transcendent Embrace, but few outside the Huggerate listened to them and fewer still bought their high-gloss books or tickets to sermons on the subject.)

The search for the Synchronization Factor would only become more urgent after a revolutionary discovery in the galactic east in 2227.
 

GregoryTheGreat

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Very good couple of posts to start us off.
Good start. :)
Thank you.
This is my first AAR and I'm still learning, so don't hesitate to offer any suggestions if you have any.

I like the idea of Ethogg being trialled for murder - that fits the Ethics quite nicely.
Yeah, as a Fanatic Pacifist society they haven't had a war in centuries, so deciding what to do with the people who use violence to defend them might be a surprising challenge for them.

Nice diplomatic round-up.
Thank you. I tried to find a good balances between depth and brevity, game information and my own narratives.

This is *great* -- your space snails are delightful.
Thanks. I'm glad you're enjoying them. It's a delight writing them.
 

GregoryTheGreat

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The Masculinist Crisis (2219-2226)

The 2210’s had been a transformative decade for the Consensus. By its end most Spiruponderans (4/5ths of whom were male thanks to expanding brood sizes) couldn’t remember a time before the hyperdrive or alien contact. Daily discoveries in space were overturning old theories faster than new ones could be developed, while technological advancement in automation allowed hundreds of millions to escape from excruciating mining labor to lucrative research positions funded by the Academy of Scientific Ascendancy. Consensus art, music, and media were transformed with the influence of Screk and to a lesser extent Cuddlesnux themes, hybridizing into radical new forms.

With everything in flux, many young Spiruponderans started to experiment with alternatives to long-held social norms, like long-term living independent of a harem-group, non-heterosexual relations, and greater male equality. The frontier worlds quickly blossomed into hubs for experimental communities, but male rights would face a backlash after the 2219 Seinides Massacre.

Male rights groups (or “masculinists”) idolized the United Screk Union as a model of gender equality, and Screk activists often lent them rhetorical and sometimes material support. The Union thus became a major travel destination for angry young males looking for ideological clarity, and the spaceport of Ethiuq, the last Consensus stopover before the Union became a minor hotbed of proto-militant masculinism.

The movement found its first hero in late 2218 when an older male technician named Baggog organized his co-workers to steal two transport ships they were repairing. The heist worked perfectly, and Baggog himself was seen by many on the Network as a loveable rogue, an archetype common in Screk media. Baggog was unfortunately afflicted with a hormonal insensitivity condition preventing him from transitioning regardless of his age, size, or social position. His condition spoke to the insecure fears of many males that they would never attain femalehood, and so should strive for male rights.

When Baggog captured three more ships (without casualties) while preying on traffic in Oreb, the system between the borders of the Consensus and the Union, he rose further as a divisive figure. High-profile scientists like former First Speaker Paggro (now leading Shusk’s old ship in archaeological expeditions in a nearby solar system) even spoke sympathetically on his behalf as a tragic symptom of male mistreatment. However, his image would sour when he launched a bold strike deeper into Consensus territory.

281990_20181005215240_1.png


His raid on a research station in Seinides would end tragically with the destruction of the station and the deaths of hundreds of personnel. Reports to the cause differ, with the most generous interpretation being a warning shot gone awry and setting off a chain reaction in the reactor, but no one disputed the lethal results. The system’s defense forces, once tolerating the pirates gamely, retaliated by launching the nuclear missiles (a revision of Ethogg’s designs, now on most stations), destroying one of the ships. Bagogg fled back to Oreb to repair his ships, but the damage to his reputation could never be mended.

With the roguish hero of masculinism and the only Spiruponderan male leader in two centuries vilified as a mass-murderer of scientists, advocating for greater male political representation seemed insane. Resolutions to eliminate male suffrage altogether might’ve passed, if not for the larger male population’s lukewarm opposition. Meanwhile, the Union’s offer for a military alliance a year later only further raised suspicions among certain (slightly paranoid) circles that the Screk were secretly supporting Bagogg for their own ends, in this case as a pet boogeyman to encourage the formation of a joint force that could be turned against the Cuddlesnux.

Bagogg’s fortunes only worsened: the commercial traffic in Oreb had grown less sympathetic to his cause and more familiar with his ambush tactics, preventing him from capturing any more ships. When he returned to Consensus territory in 2222, the Consensus fleet was waiting for him. The raiders evaded Ethiuq’s fortifications and turned back the fleet with the loss of two ships, but pressed once again into Seinides. This time the commanders of the starport showed no hesitation, destroying the last two ships in nuclear fire.

Most of the masculinists disowned the movement after Seinides, but a small core would radicalize further, venerating Baggog as a tragic martyr murdered by the matriarchy. These “Baggogites” would take up their namesake’s place in Oreb, forming a raider fleet and terrorizing the northwest territories from 2224 to 2225. So fanatical was their leader, Aboglor, that he even injected himself with a hormonal cocktail to prevent himself from transitioning into femininity.

281990_20181006183256_1.png


Eventually, the tired Consensus fleet would wear them down, after many losses of their own. The Union fleet’s sudden move to destroy the Baggogite hideout in Oreb and claim the system before the Consensus fleet could capture and investigate it only further inflamed conspiracy theories. Even for those who didn’t suspect the Union’s covert support of the masculinists, many feared that the Baggogites would become a recurring menace.

Luckily, in 2226 the Consensus would be the beneficiary of an entirely different conflict. Travelers through the Edasich system followed a strange distress signal to find a Gargaxton escape pod. The inhabitant, Mop Kokongi, had freshly escaped from a battle between two Gargaxton clans, which had vowed to take no prisoners of each other during their blood feud. Having been especially foresightful and canny for her kind, she had secretly equipped her own escape pod with a hyperspace drive, as she anticipated the conflict going poorly (a critique ignored by her overconfident superiors) and had no interest in being atomized while helpless in a lifeboat. Mop Kokingi pledged a lifetime of service to her rescuer, as was her people’s custom. Suffice to say, the freighter ship captain wasn’t sure what to do with the lifelong servitude of a battle-hardened alien warlord.

281990_20181006185010_1.png


However, she thought the Consensus might have an idea. Indeed, when word reached First Speaker Shusk, she thought that Mop Kokongi would make an excellent admiral--she had seen more battles in her lifetime than the Spiruponderans had seen in a millenium. The Consensus required some persuasion (fearing the barbarism that the Gargaxton might unleash with their fleet), but ultimately accepted the argument of her experience, once firm guidelines were placed on her conduct.

Being the first Gargaxton that the Consensus could talk with at length without fear of violence, Mop Kokongi provided unprecedented insights into many aspects of the Free Warriors’ culture, as well as the revelation that both the Union and the Huggerate had been covertly paying clans to raid the other--news that revolted the Consensus and led to diplomatic fallout with both.

Just as importantly, news that the Consensus fleet was now led by this fierce barbarian leader terrified any would-be Baggogites from taking up piracy, preserving the peace for a decade.

281990_20181006185030_1.png
 

stnylan

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Another interesting aside in the societal mechanics fo the snails.
 

Nikolai

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Experienced generals are always welcome. Well, except for in the cases of Empires who just scream EXTERMINATE! :D
 

Vilhelm

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Figured I might as well stop by and say this is a great AAR! I especially like the complex situation with their matriarchal society and increasing advocacy for male rights, and how you integrated this struggle with space pirate raids.
 

GregoryTheGreat

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Another interesting aside in the societal mechanics fo the snails.
Figured I might as well stop by and say this is a great AAR! I especially like the complex situation with their matriarchal society and increasing advocacy for male rights, and how you integrated this struggle with space pirate raids.
I'm glad you're enjoying it.
I realized that I was going to have two problems:
1. Justifying the existence of piracy in a fanatically peaceful society
2. Justifying why the pirates might have male leaders in a rigidly matriarchal society
I then realized that combining these problems could cleanly resolve both.

Experienced generals are always welcome. Well, except for in the cases of Empires who just scream EXTERMINATE! :D
Fortunately for Mop Kokongi, the Spiruponderans are reflexively non-violent, and with the influence of the Screk lately, they're mildly xenophilic.


In the next post I'll be experimenting with a somewhat tighter narrative focus on a viewpoint character for the shocking revelations of 2227, rather then the broader historical narration used thus far. (Now taking all bets as to the viewpoint character's identity and the nature of the revelation!)

Unfortunately, due to work, the next update may take a bit longer to come out. As minor compensation, I've now added information in the second post about how the Consensus actually functions as a government.
 

GregoryTheGreat

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On the Trail of the Synchronization Factor: Part 1, The Past is Present (2227-2229)

Research Camp Alpha Sleeping Quarters, Ethiuq C IIIa, Ethiuq System, 2227.02.06

All things considered, Paggro was enjoying post-First Speakerhood.She would always treasure her time in the position, but all the work managing the Consensus had left her no time to indulge her first love: archaeology.
She might’ve originally had her concerns about exploring with the hyperdrive 17 years ago, but she couldn’t doubt the pleasures it had allowed her like piecing together the stories of civilizations from before Spiruponderans had evolved their third brainlobes. Her own brain was tired after 18 standard hours overseeing excavations of eons-old angular stone structures on this frigid moon’s continuous wind cut into her skin through her suit, so she was relaxing in her sleeping quarters by casually reviewing the publicly posted dispatches from other explorers shared with the Consensus. They were mostly humdrum survey summaries of barren worlds interspersed with clinical scientific analysis.
Suddenly, an image stabbed into her eyes like an icy knife. It was unmistakably the 14 Spined Tendrils of the Untold carved in obsidian in the center of 6 twisting black granite columns, as she had unearthed in her youth in the ancient city of Shugg’s volcanic forges, where it was worshipped with cruel sacrifices as the All-Consuming One. She still remembered the inexplicable chill of that altar room in the midst of a volcanic rift.
But this picture wasn’t from Shugg. It was from an asteroid so distant that the light from Cyggia at Shugg’s height wouldn’t reach it for another 45,000 years.
She checked everything about the file looking for a mistake.
She wasn’t sure when she started screaming.

Paggro focused on consciously breathing the water of her sleeping quarters, being mindful of it flowing through her skin, and into the folds of her gills from whence it would nourish her brain, her tentacles, her shell, and the egg gestating within her. Her three favored consorts looked on with concern and fear. They needed comfort.
“It was a nightmare,” she reassured them.
This was technically true. The terrible altar had recurred in her dreams for over 50 years now, filled with phantom figures enacting horrific rites to shrieking chants.
Her harem obeyed her dismissing gesture and returned to their room, though Raggia looked skeptical. (As they left, part of her briefly felt a small pang of guilt for treating her consorts so imperiously--she generally considered herself progressive in regards to male rights--but in times of high stress it’s easy to fall back on biologically-enforced reflexes reinforced by millenia of cultural norms.)
She composed a private message for Gethmar (whose team in the galactic east had surveyed the laser-carved asteroid), asking for confirmation of the findings, and oh-so-casually noting certain peculiar similarities to ancient Spiruponderan shrines and practices.​


Shrine Central Chamber, Asteroid Designation SSD-138, Eiol System, 2227.02.07


“Did you mention the microscopic inlays of the spiral patterns in our posting to the Consensus yesterday?” Gethmar asked over her suit’s mic Dispatch Officer Qorrigg.
“They were only discovered after I dispatched it,” he apologized, “but I’ll be sure to write it up right away.”
“Not yet,” replied Gethmar, pondering the message on her heads-up display and the laser-carved temple around her. Her geophysicist dated its creation at 300,000 Cyggian years ago...
“You want to save that for a really impressive post showcasing all the evidence of the creators’ technology?”
“Just don’t make any more posts until I explicitly tell you to do so.” Gethmar stated flatly. Like many males, Qorrigg’s eagerness to please often motivated annoying attempts to anticipate female intentions, something for which their immature, hasty minds were poorly equipped. More urgently, though, Paggro’s reference to ancient Shugg’s ritualistic use of spirals was both troubling and intriguing considering their recent findings. Material analysis of the shrine’s walls had identified laser-etched microscopic spiral patterns covering them, which were in-turn fractally composed of even smaller spirals. This iteration continued down to at least five levels of spirals within spirals, down to the limits of their equipment’s ability to detect--their true limit was impossible to determine. Stranger still, these patterns seemed to exist everywhere on the walls, ceilings, columns, floors: everywhere. This required incredible laser etching or perhaps nanotechnology to accomplish this, all to seemingly no purpose.
She glanced uneasily towards the tendrilled idol at the center of the structure. At least to no purpose that she could fathom.​


Research Camp Alpha Sleeping Analytical Office, Ethiuq C IIIa, Ethiuq System, 2227.02.07

Paggro hadn’t slept.
She desperately tried to focus on the mundane details of lithographic scans of Ethiuq C IIIa. The improbably geometrical geological formations here would’ve arisen millions of years ago, comfortably remote from her and Spiruponderan-kind. One of the things she’d always liked about archaeology was that sense of safe distance: she could observe and scrutinize the denizens of the past, without the past being able to observe her, let alone harm her. Now that past seemed both too alien and too close.
The void of the unknown gnawed at her. No matter how she tried to fixate elsewhere, her thoughts kept falling into loops, trapped, wandering through the labyrinthine implications of if the Synchronization Factor was indeed associated with worship of the All-Consuming One.
It wasn’t helped the next day by Gethmar’s reply. Her team’s scans suggested that there were three materially similar asteroids in nearby systems.
After at least an hour of hesitation, Paggro agreed to help analyze them via the Network. (It was the only real option, as it would take Paggro at least a year to reach them by shuttle, not that Paggro minded keeping her distance.)
There might be no greater Spiruponderan fear than fear of the unknown, but the only way to truly overcome that fear is to conquer the unknown with knowledge.​

281990_20181006193119_1.png



Research Camp Alpha Communications Room, Ethiuq C IIIa, Ethiuq System, 2227.12.02

“...so, in light of the Benefactress and Undaunted Pictograms’ marked similarities to Cuddlesnux proto-script Turig IIIa, Screk early Homodan writings, and Resethi Dunline alpha, in ways structurally distinct from all their contemporaries, especially in regards to their syntactical loops, and the fact that all three are associated with especially advanced cultures for their times,” concluded Raggia in his video-dispatch to Gethmar’s team, “there is more than sufficient reasons to consider them as having shared influence and thus I believe these known scripts could have additional use in decoding the pictograms.”
Bringing her young consort into the project had been a difficult decision for Paggro, but a good one. Despite the predictable tide of comments doubting male scientific analysis that his speech would receive on the Consensus, he was among the foremost experts on comparative xeno-linguistics. But then, he was from the first generation to grow up with Screk movies or where his internship at the Institute’s Huggerate Outreach Initiative was possible, so how could any female of today possibly compare? Paggro had identified the similarities of the second and third shrines’ pictograms to ancient Shugg’s writing system almost immediately, but she never would’ve known about the alien scripts. It was at times like this when he displayed the fruits of his confident curiosity that she remembered why she had selected him as a consort.
Still, the similarities to three other spacefaring civilizations’ writings only further supported the hypothesis that Synchronization Factor was somehow tied into these shrines. She worried that neither Raggia nor even Gethmar seemed to share her degree of apprehension about the implications. Gethmar was probably busy contemplating how the ongoing publicity from her findings could rocket her to the First Speakership--at least that would explain the positive spin that her team continued to put on their postings to the Consensus. Probably thanks to that framing, it seemed that only a minority of Spiruponderans didn’t share in the general excited anticipation for answers.
Perhaps if they had experienced what she had in the temple in Shugg they might feel otherwise.​


281990_20181019173311_1.png


Bridge of the ISS Schlobbjor, Mareid System, 2228.06.16

“We’re sure that it’s neither the Union nor the Huggerate?” asked Gethmar.
“The Institute hasn’t reported them having vessels anywhere near this far east,” replied Captain Sorgg, “so unless they’ve been keeping really quiet about it and evading our intelligence--”
“And you know it’s not Gargaxton because…?” Gethmar interjected.
“It fits no recorded structural profile of the Gargaxtons--” began Sorgg.
“Furthermore,” cut in Intelligence Analyst Barr “analysis of Mop Kokongi’s interviews suggests that they don’t come out this far either. Though it could be from the ‘dwakam’ she’s referenced to the north of Gargaxton-space.”
Two years ago Gethmar would’ve felt nothing but joy to have found an unidentified functioning alien spacecraft. No one but Shusk had ever done so, and that was 20 years ago. Now, her excitement hd been tainted by Paggro’s fears. Aliens this far out, near the shrines could only be their creators--perhaps the creators of Spiruponderan civilization--or even the species as a whole, if the mysterious spiral-marked box that Glabonsch had found two months ago in orbit around a star indeed contained genetic material compatible with Spiruponderan genetics, as she claimed. It was all so dizzying and so massive, dwarfing Gethmar’s little political ambitions. But at this moment, she needed presence of mind.
“Officer Qorigg, open live Consensus broadcasting,” she commanded. “Officer Dorgg initiate first-contact protocols, utilizing the modified asteroid-derived pictograms as the tentative standard in Phase 3c.”​




The aliens seemed to grasp the pictogram syntax derived from the asteroid-shrines rather quickly, which contributed to the belief that they had created the shrines, until they asked if the Spiruponderans had visited the aliens’ homeworld approximately 15,000 Cyggian years ago. Apparently they understood the pictograms so quickly because similar systems had been used in two of their early civilizations.

281990_20181006195910_1.png



The Imperium of Ztrakpor-Ohdri as they called themselves, was not the Synchronizing Factor, merely another product of it. Gethmar’s team left ongoing discussions to Consensus specialists and continued on to the final shrine.

281990_20181006201112_1.png


Research Camp Alpha Dining Hall, Ethiuq C IIIa, Ethiuq System, 2229.01.03

“Of course the spiral would be the key to understanding it,” Paggro sighed when she heard the news, “Meditative gliding in looping spirals was practiced by monks for millennia, and I suppose there’s every reason to believe that it was practiced in Shugg as well. So, naturally the Shrine to the Percipient should only reveal the underlying pattern of its glyphs to the properly meditative.”
“Yes, I’ve been digging through the scans all morning. With this, and the Ztrakpor-Ohdri’s ancient script--,” began Reggia so excitedly that his voice cracked lower.
“Oh,” they said simultaneously, as they looked at each other. Vocal cracks were a sign of oncoming transition. Paggro had feared that it might happen, considering all of the attention and praise Reggia had been receiving for his presentations to the Consensus.
“Congratulations,” she offered, after an awkward pause.
“...Thank you.” they replied, adjusting to the suddenly lower register. “Uh, as I was saying, that I think we can definitively, um, confirm the ‘spiral-marked ones’ as a reference to Spiruponderans, and ‘the Ascension’ indeed seems to be a multi-step process somehow closely related to the ‘Many-sided Doorway’, though the other terms need further analysis, possibly years-worth.”
“Agreed,” said Paggro absently, a dozen thoughts competing for primacy in her mind.​
 
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