eoncommander

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Ouch, a shame you couldn't get an equal peace in the end...

Yeah that sucked. I hit 100% war exhaustion right after my first attempt to seize the varelviv starbase, and then there just wasn't enough time to reclaim all of the systems. Chances are, though, the vailons will be back once the truce is over.

The next post is going to be pretty short, covering the aftermath of the war, the selection of 240, and a brief census. I'll also detail a few of the (many) new species with whom the vailons have come in contact, of which, a preview:

FirstContactAeriaHusila.jpg
RagerianCloseUp3.jpg
RagerianCloseUp4.jpg
 

Nikolai

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War exhaustion is a bitch...
 

Vilhelm

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Well... this Coalition could be interesting. Is it mere coincidence that they look like valions, or the result of a long-lost colony ship a la the Commonwealth of Man?
 

eoncommander

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War exhaustion is a bitch...

From a gameplay perspective, it reflects a 'mistake' not doing a humiliation war goal, because I think I could have forced a surrender on those terms, but liberation has much stricter requirements. Looking back, I'm actually quite happy about this. Life in the galaxy shouldn't be smooth sailing.

Well... this Coalition could be interesting. Is it mere coincidence that they look like valions, or the result of a long-lost colony ship a la the Commonwealth of Man?

You'll have to wait and see ;)

Elsewhere, I noticed, in reviewing my work, that I left out footnotes in a couple of places. When I post the next update, I'll go back and edit those chapters, mostly for those who discover the story in the future. I'll also be correcting some errata that crept into the narrative - specifically, I'll be removing 'den' from the names of the vailons in the first two chapters, and I will correct the spelling of the marauder clans that border vailon space. In my notes, I wrote it down as Qfevoz, but they are instead the Qvefoz (and yes, I needed to triple-check even as I was writing this to make sure I got it right this time).
 
Chapter Eight - Aftermath

eoncommander

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QuadrantIn240.jpg

The southeastern quadrant of the galaxy in 240.

After the War

The TUG emerged from its first interstellar war relatively unscathed. Though the offensive campaigns had largely failed in their objectives, the first decade of the conflict was an uninterrupted string of successes for the Unified Navy. The defensive posture of the primary task force allowed the vailons to fend off repeated attacks by the superior numbers of the VIS fleet. All of the combat was contained within the border region of the two polities. No varelviv force ever threatened the home worlds; the enemy was prevented from cutting the shipping and trade routes that were the lifeblood of the war effort. In the months after the end of the war, the Assembly investigated the administration’s conduct of the war, eventually producing a formal report of their conclusions. Though they found numerous instances of individual mistakes, the Assembly recognized that this was inevitable in such a large and complex undertaking. On the whole, the body concluded that the war plans were sound, and they were effectively carried out; while they made numerous technical recommendations to address minor issues, the Assembly praised the structures currently in place and expressed the belief that those structures would continue to serve the TUG well, should another conflict arise.

Once the last offensive by TF Mirasma failed, Vakor signed a status quo peace treaty, resigned to the formal surrender of several star systems and grateful that Overlord Spagruum I had not demanded more in the settlement. The treaty left the TUG in control of the Orthama system, isolated from the rest of vailon-controlled space, but the Director-General struck an agreement with the states of the Glorious Axis to allow the resources from Orthama to flow through their shipping networks and take the long route back to the central processing facilities on Tebazed. The accord also included a formal ten-year truce and provisions to prevent incursions by varelviv slave raiders, though nobody on the vailon side of the negotiations truly expected these terms to hold.

Within days of signing the peace treaty, Vakor returned the TUG to peacetime economic policies. In a speech announcing the changes, she acknowledged that the war had been hard on many vailons, but she also expressed her belief that the vailon people were stronger for having experienced these sacrifices. Factories which had been converted to producing war materiel reverted back to consumer goods production; the administration once more allowed trade to flourish organically, rather than directing it towards specific activities. Internally, the administration had extensive discussions about whether to disband the fleet, now that the war was over. A complete return to the status quo ante bellum for the TUG would have seen the end of the militarization that had occurred over the course of the conflict; vailons had very little interest in aggressive expansion, and many felt that a standing navy would inevitably run counter to this ethic. However, the sudden war had very clearly demonstrated the need for a permanent military; though the vailons might not be interested making war, their neighbors obviously felt very differently. The varelviv were still a very real threat, and Vakor believed that their efforts to enslave the vailons were not over. The administration, without any real public debate, allowed the naval establishment to stay in place. It would serve as the primary defenders of the TUG, but it would also inalienably alter the character of the polity over time, in ways unpredictable to those who made the decision.

The Galactic Community

The vailons made contact with several new species during the war; after its end, a much wider galactic community came into evidence. Whereas in the first few decades of space exploration, the vailons viewed their budding relationships, positive or negative, in a bilateral light, each new relationship isolated from the rest, it was rapidly becoming clear that the international stage would require much more complex diplomacy. This was amply demonstrated by an incident that occurred during the war, even though its significance escaped many at the time. In 233, representatives of the Qvefoz clans reached out to a vailon captain at a trading station in the Ussaldon system, on the border with tribal territory, asking him to relay a message to the administration. A particular clan wished to secure safe passage for one of its fleets through TUG space. This clan had been contracted by an unnamed party [1] to conduct a raid on a planet belonging to the Mandasura Prime hive. It was an unexpected request, and Vakor and her staff debated it for several days. Relations with Mandasura Prime were civil, if not exactly friendly, and Vakor had little desire to set a precedent of condoning such actions. However, practicality won out in the end. The vailons had no spare fleet with which to resist a hostile clan; even if they could spare TF Mirasma from the front for a few months, the Naval Staff projected that it would present no threat at all to the marauders’ cruisers and battleships. Vakor agreed to a cease-fire with the clan, and the fleet flew through vailon space in mid-233, striking awe in all who witnessed its passage.

The incident with the Qvefoz was a preview of the complexities that began to confront the vailons in the second half of the 230s. At the very end of the war, a new species made contact with the Glorious Axis, and through them the TUG. The mirovandians of the Galactic Mirovandia Commonwealth first flowered near the equator of their homeworld, and they kept their societies far away from the harsh tundra climes that had dominated the ecology of the planet until recently. In the last few centuries, the mirovandians expanded outwards, using the new tools of industrialization and digitalization to tame the environment and the many birds and mammals that were their natural predators. This experience led to the general belief that technology, properly guided towards positive aims, would allow them to overcome all obstacles and create a better, more just society. Those who resisted the inevitability of technological utopia were considered fools and either excluded from sharing in the newfound wealth or else forced to submit to the control of the rapidly forming global state. Now in the process of joining the galactic community, the mirovandians brought a similar attitude to negotiations with the federation. The vailon delegates to the summit on Kan Jukla found their plantoid counterparts irritating at best, but the mirovandian outlook had much in common with the crusading ideals of the mith-fell and the hissma. The summit ended with the mirovandians officially considered associates of the Glorious Axis, [2] though the future held the promise of closer cooperation.

FirstContactMirovandian.jpg

The Glorious Axis granted association status to the mirovandians in 239.

Though the vailons and the mirovandians would have their differences, a cordial relationship took hold. In late 239 the two administrations reached an agreement to share communications, putting the TUG in contact with several dozen heretofore unknown spacefaring species from across the galaxy. Many of the empires would play only a peripheral role in TUG politics and diplomacy, but together they created a distinct sense of a galactic community. A few of the new contacts are highlighted below.

Dabbax Solidarity – The Dabbax Solidarity was born of a successful and (mostly) bloodless revolution by the working classes against their capitalist masters. In its wake, the victorious revolutionaries set up a society of worker collectives, fanatically devoted to the maintenance of an equitable and just distribution of resources among all the people. In the interstellar age, the ruling cadre of the Solidarity firmly believed that their neighbors would inevitably trend towards a capitalist and, finally, a communist system, following the same dialectical progress that their own society had witnessed. Though maintaining friendly relations with those neighbors, the dabbax were known to occasionally give a little push to help foster a fellow society of comrades in revolution.

Coalition of Aeria Husila – The ragerians of Aeria were ruled by an entrenched elite of military officers, descendants of the victorious party in a decades-long civil war fought between inhabitants of the ragerian homeworld and the pioneers that settled the other planetary bodies of their home star system. The latter, headquartered on the moon of Husila, eventually won the war with a concerted bombing campaign that killed most of the political and military leadership of the Aerians; the current military junta covered up the acts of fire and blood with a constant stream of propaganda glorifying the Coalition and the ruling elites. Though the external appearance of the ragerians was remarkably similar to that of the vailons, DNA analysis conclusively showed that the two species had little in common genetically, and the similarities were simply an (admittedly extreme and unlikely) example of convergent evolution.

FirstContactDabbax.jpg

FirstContactAeriaHusila.jpg

Belmacosa Empire – The Belmacosa Empire formed the fulcrum around which the diplomacy of the northwest quadrant of the galaxy revolved. For millenia, the belmacosans had looked towards the stars and marveled at the expanse. This sky was their birthright; all they had to do was reach out and take it. The empire viewed their neighbors simply as its future dominions, and it had the military might to back that claim. In response, a pair of federations had formed, one purely of a prudential nature, the other with more substantial bonds between the member states.

FirstContactBelmacosan.jpg

Propitious League

Yibrak Council – Yibar Prime was once a thriving world of green and blue, similar to Tebazed in many ways. Sadly, a series of geo-engineering projects gone awry led to collapsed ecosystems and rapid desertification of much of the planet. Many yibrakian societies broke down suddenly and destructively, and the total population fell approximately 50% from its peak. The remaining yibraks coalesced around a spiritual vision of a natural world lost forever, and a fierce determination to never let such a catastrophe befall another biosphere on their watch. Now, a holy tribunal ruled amidst the ashes of their hubristic past, ensuring that the yibraks did not stray from the true path of salvation. Acutely aware of the threat posed by the belmacosans, they agreed to form the Propitious League with their unenlightened neighbors, the Great Caloctora Bloc.

Great Caloctora Bloc – The Great Caloctora Bloc had a long history of coups and counter-coups, the latest bringing a cabal of military officers to power 60 years prior to first contact with the TUG. This ruling council had survived for decades only by merging the policing apparatus with military forces loyal to the regime and using the constant reminder of the might of the state to keep potentially unruly subjects in line. Despite these upheavals, the caloctoran citizenry remained committed to a fair and just society, governed by a formal system of honor that defined every interaction. Unique among the known species in the galaxy, the caloctorans had almost no visceral reaction to alien races, a testament to their inherent adaptivity. As a result, their empire was becoming known as a free haven for the poor, the persecuted, and the downtrodden; all were welcome with open arms, as long as they too submitted themselves to the honorable principles that gave society its structure. Though the Bloc had little love for the over-zealous yibraks, their relations with the belmacosans were even worse, and they set aside their differences with the arthropoids to form a defensive alliance against the threat the imperialists posed.

FirstContactYibrak.jpg

FirstContactCaloctora.jpg


Favorable Entente

Sathori Union – The Sathori Union had a pair of distinctive institutions, working together to ensure the stability and prosperity of the realm. Within the formal government lay a disciplined bureaucracy, determined to see the apparatus of the state function efficiently. Its partners in this effort were the major guilds, above all the mining guilds who controlled the natural resource production of Sathoria. Together the institutions dominated sathorian society and guided the Union as it began to explore the nearby regions of the galaxy and expanded in search of new resources to exploit. Upon meeting representatives of the Hythean Alliance, they quickly recognized the opportunity for mutually beneficial cooperation, and immediately began negotiations for commercial agreements and explicit spheres of influence. From these initial talks, the Favorable Entente was born.

Hythean Alliance – The founding charter of the Hythean Alliance defined two enduring principles for the state: the defense of life is the defense of liberty, and the defense of liberty is the defense of property rights. At times in its history, the Alliance struggled to live up to those ideals, but those ideals endure to the present. Hythean space exploration was driven by the mining guilds that dominated the economy, as they were constantly searching for more wealth and resources to entrench their position. These guilds were the first to encounter their sathori brethren, and they are almost entirely responsible for building and maintaining the relationship between the two neighboring states. Cooperation has only deepened since first contact, and by the 240s there was very little distinction between the hythean and the sathori economies. Savvy observers expected that the distinctions between the two governments would eventually disappear as well, as the brother guilds continued to integrate.

FirstContactSathori.jpg

FirstContactHythean.jpg

A Census

The end of the war and four decades of exploration made 240 a good time to take stock of the growth of the TUG. The vailons now numbered a little over 28 billion, spread out across three planets and numerous space stations in 24 star systems. The wartime economic policies had slowed growth on Tebazed considerably; the 210s and ‘20s had seen a mini population boom on the planet, as the vailons greatly expanded their resource base through the exploitation of deep-space mining facilities. The settlements on Eldetha and Varba, however, continued their exponential growth through the war, as the war effort generated a tremendous demand for the raw resources produced on the colonies. By 234, the population of Eldetha had grown enough to require a major urban center to support it, and by 238, with the population level hitting 500 million, the administration of the planet had grown to the point of de facto independence from the Colonial Directorate on Tebazed. Varba, meanwhile, was also growing quickly, and looked to be only a few years behind Eldetha on its own trajectory to independent governance. The growth of the colonies led to a previously unasked question: what sort of administration and representation was appropriate for the rapidly maturing colonies? It was a major political question, but as the contemporary political debates were decidedly focused on the metropole, [3] this question was put off for another time.

While population growth fluctuated, economic growth stayed fairly consistent in this time period. In the first four decades of interstellar expansion, raw resource production had tripled over the production levels the vailons had achieved on Tebazed in 200. At the same time, the production of secondary materials, including the advanced alloys used in deep space construction as well as the consumer goods sectors, had increased fourfold. The exponential growth in the economy had in part been fueled by stellar expansion, as hundreds of new deep space mining and research facilities had been built over the four decades. These operations accounted for approximately 50% of the additional production. The remaining growth had occurred in planetside operations, including both the capital and the two colonial worlds. Looking forward, economists in the Directorate expected most economic growth to be concentrated in planetary expansion, whether from expanded production on already-settled worlds or from the growth of new colonies on the several habitable but unpopulated planets currently within TUG space. The projection was primarily informed by the geopolitical situation of the region: vailons were blocked from further expansion in every direction, [4] and nothing suggested this fact would change in the future. This conclusion led the Directorate to begin making plans for a new round of colonization, starting with the small moon orbiting Daraasta III, located deep in the Shining Pearl Nebula near the galactic rim.

The Selection of 240

After the war ended, it shocked many in Sedrin to realize that the next director-general selection was less than a year away. Though the Long War had been fought mostly in the background of everyday life on Tebazed, it was still all-consuming for those involved in the administration of the government. The politics of the TUG had grown stolid, and tired, over the fifteen years of the conflict. The current leadership, including Director-General Vakor and the leaders of the major factions in the Assembly, were old, mostly in their 70s and 80; they had all come of age in the pre-spaceflight era. The war had diverted many young and talented vailons into the military, as the Unified Navy needed to rapidly build out its capabilities. Compared to the previous generation, relatively few found their calling in politics. As a result, the political scene seemed to lack a new generation of dynamic leaders, even as the old generation was aging quickly.

Compounding this problem, none of the major political factions were prepared for a formal campaign. In fact, they viewed the prospect of a campaign immediately following the sudden end of the war with dread. The post-war settlement had scant time to establish itself before the selection, and the new director-general would inherit a fragile and messy situation for which they would be held accountable even though they played no part in creating it. For her part, Vakor recognized that the next few years would be difficult for anyone sitting in her chair, let alone someone with no executive experience. Though she was now 87 and looking forward to retirement, the other would-be contenders for the office were all older than 70 as well. Everyone seemed to want the status quo to hold; all that remained was figuring out how to maintain it.

For the first two months of 240, talk of a potential deal floated around the capital, as leaders from the various factions met nearly every day. At the meetings, the parties mooted a power-sharing arrangement, but eventually concluded it would be unworkable. Instead, at the end of February, several weeks after the official end of the Director-General’s second term and the opening of the selection process, they announced a deal to preserve the current situation for the next several years. Vakor would resubmit her name for selection and go unchallenged by the major factions. In exchange, she would pledge to serve for only five years at most, retiring by the end of 244 if not earlier, and she promised to avoid any new policy initiatives. Her short term would be devoted to rebuilding the stability of the TUG, and, hopefully, grooming a new generation of leaders. For six weeks, Vakor toured Tebazed, explaining the deal to the citizenry; in return, polls showed that a majority of the population gave its support to the agreement. In late April, after a brief flirtation with insisting on a real competition, the College assented as well, and Vakor was reinaugurated on April 25, 240, for what would surely be, one way or another, the last time.


Footnotes
[1] Though the Qvefoz, in a surprising display of discretion, refused to reveal the name of the group or empire that had hired them, analysts in the diplomacy section were fairly certain it was agents of the Commonwealth who made the arrangements.
[2] The same status the TUG held.
[3] This was true both of the contours of the debate and the politicians themselves, all born before the dawn of the current era made offworld colonization a possibility.
[4] To the northwest (coreward) by the varelviv, to the southwest (rimward) by the Qvefoz, and to the northeast by the Glorious Axis.
 

Zeogludon

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This is a terrific AAR. I love how you've managed to weave narrative together with the game mechanics in a way that feels very nature. Your little breaks for first person narrative are also really well written and capture a lot of political dynamism.

I just wanted to say splendid job and I'm 100% subbed
 

eoncommander

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This is a terrific AAR. I love how you've managed to weave narrative together with the game mechanics in a way that feels very nature. Your little breaks for first person narrative are also really well written and capture a lot of political dynamism.

I just wanted to say splendid job and I'm 100% subbed

That is so kind of you to say! Thank you!

In other news, I think I am done promising "short" chapters, since even Chapter Eight, despite only covering ten months of gameplay, ran to 3300 words. As you may have noticed, I tend to be quite verbose in my descriptions. [1]

As for what's next, I'm working on the next post after having played to 2248 in the game. I've also started writing the next interlude; between the two stories, it will probably be a few weeks before the next update (but then two in quick succession). Hopefully, by the time I am ready to continue playing, the devs will have released a bunch of bug fixes for 2.3 (which I understand has a couple of bad bugs right now, so I'm kind of afraid to keep playing at the moment).

Footnotes
[1] Some people have accused me of rambling in the past, but I say they just don't appreciate the finer details of storytelling :)
 

eoncommander

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RossN

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Just finished reading through this in one go, and I have to say I love this AAR. While the war might not quite have resulted in a great victory I think you handled it admirably. :)

Now, let's see how this Autumn term for Vakor goes...
 

Jonocat25

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I've just finished reading through this AAR and I'm impressed with the depth of your writing, particularly how you've spun the shallow in-game diplomacy into detailed politics (astropolitics?)

Too bad the vailons didn't get a BFF neighbor situation like the Sathori and Hytheans did.
 

eoncommander

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Better luck in the next war ... which will surely come to you!

Thank you! But will it come to the vailons... or will the vailons go to it?

Just finished reading through this in one go, and I have to say I love this AAR. While the war might not quite have resulted in a great victory I think you handled it admirably. :)

Now, let's see how this Autumn term for Vakor goes...

Can't say I've never done that for your AARs. I am sorry that you had to abandon your current projects.

I have to say the Vailon truly scare me. Their adherence to meritocracy and equality and their path towards it is.....frighting.

I find this to be an interesting reaction! Not at all what I would have expected. Could you explain further? I'd love to understand better. (And then, maybe incorporate some of the ideas into the story?)

I've just finished reading through this AAR and I'm impressed with the depth of your writing, particularly how you've spun the shallow in-game diplomacy into detailed politics (astropolitics?)

Too bad the vailons didn't get a BFF neighbor situation like the Sathori and Hytheans did.

Thank you so much! I have no elaborate vision for the diplomatic aspects, I'm really just making things up as I go along. Seems to be working out so far.

My grand vision for the campaign was to forge alliances and eventually a strong federation, and so far the vailons have been unlucky in their explorations. On the bright side, this way probably makes for better storytelling.
 
Chapter Nine - Transitions

eoncommander

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Goodbyes and Hellos

Shortly after the Selection of 240, Barim den Adasga retired. Over a long and storied career, she had left her mark as an explorer, a scientist, and a close ally and friend to Raldirm den Vakor. Among the first vailon pioneers to explore the near stellar systems, she captained the ISS Bathradurion during its inaugural mission to chart the rimward stars; in that capacity, she discovered the first extrasolar habitable world, a planet which would eventually become the growing colony of Eldetha. She served ably as the head of the Science Directory for 25 years, and guided the Xeno Liberty Initiative, directly or indirectly, for over three decades. Adasga’s retirement would be the first of many among the old guard in the next ten years. Her replacement as Director of Science was Vabrig den Telnik, a 52-year-old career civil servant, never previously noted for any dynamism or exciting talents. Vakor expected him to serve as an adequate caretaker until a younger generation of leaders could emerge.

Just before the selection, in February of 240, the Glorious Axis launched a preemptive war against the genocidal saathids. In the previous few years, mith-fell expansion had brought them in close contact with the fanatics to the north. The first attempt to negotiate a truce had also been the last, as the mith-fell delegation had been attacked and destroyed the moment they entered saathid space. The saathids remained resolutely incommunicative, but the mith-fell leadership believed it was only a matter of time before they set their sights on conquest and annihilation. They felt they had no choice but to try to cut down the threat before it materialized to menace all the races of the galaxy. In the sixteen years since the signing of the Treaty of Hissom, the Commonwealth had grown in wealth and strength. Unmistakably the leading power in the region, they dominated the federation and cajoled their nominally equal partners in the hissma into a sudden and unannounced invasion of the saathid border systems.

CommonwealthRelations240.jpg

By 240, the Commonwealth had greatly outstripped their neighbors in wealth and military might. They took it upon themselves to protect the region from all threats.

The onset of war influenced the contours of a growing dynamic in the quadrant. As associates of the Glorious Axis, vailons enjoyed free movement in the member states of the federation, and reciprocal access was granted as well. Throughout the last decade, there had been at first a trickle and then a steady stream of migration in the region. Advances in commercial space travel had only recently made it possible to transport large groups of civilians across the vast gulf between inhabited planets. The number of migrants exploded, reaching the hundreds of thousands annually by the late 230s. With the end of the varelviv-vailon war and the beginning of the mith-fell war on the saathids, the flow of migration changed, from net emigration out of the TUG to net immigration into it. For obvious reasons, few vailons settled in varelviv territory; the vast majority flowed into the Glorious Axis, where the mith-fell had colonized a number of ocean planets which were open to all who wanted to work. Many vailon seekers of fame and fortune, out of step with their own species, took this path.

The reverse flow grew very quickly in the late 230s and early 240s, as economic pressures in the Commonwealth pushed more and more mith-fell to seek better opportunities. The Commissariat fervently supported a free market economic system, except where the system conflicted with the interests of the mining guilds; a typical working-class citizen could not expect to be well-compensated for their labor. As the mith-fell war effort intensified and drew more resources towards itself, the economy plunged into a recession. While those working in war industries could expect to do very well, civilian industries were very hard hit. Unlike some similar economic systems, the Commonwealth had a very weak social safety net, and many laborers were thrown into poverty and crisis. In such circumstances, moving abroad became a much more attractive option. Some looked to their federation partners; but the biomes settled by the Union tended to be very arid due to hissma physiology, and it was hard for mith-fell to find suitable environments in which to live. On the other hand, the TUG placed a strong emphasis on the welfare of its citizenry, and vailon habitats had many similar characteristics to those found on Kan Jukla. Many mith-fell migrants made the transition into vailon society easily, and significant mith-fell communities cropped up in every region on Tebazed and on each major colony.

In much smaller numbers came political dissidents, though this community became much more vocal in vailon society, generally being of an outspoken nature. The Commissariat, fearful of calls for civilian governance, kept a tight control on political debate in the Commonwealth. Though not a police state per se, the government did routinely harass opponents of the regime, of which there were plenty. The dawn of the space age created new opportunities for the Commissariat to make problems go away; the loudest dissidents could be driven into true exile, forced to settle in hissma or vailon space where they would no longer be heard by the mostly apolitical Commonwealth citizenry. A small but thriving community of these exiles had grown in Sedrin by 240, granted semi-official status by the vailon administration, but not yet given full citizenship due to the displeasure this would engender in the Commissariat.

Mith-fell dissidents were not the only highly visible aliens in the capital in the early 240s. A few months after the beginning of Vakor’s third term as Director-General, she finalized an agreement with the Prossnakans of the Curator Order to provide vailon researchers access to a wealth of information in their databanks. The Prossnakans had established the organization in the distant past: as their empire collapsed in a long-forgotten calamity, they tasked the Order with preserving their collective knowledge, with the ultimate goal of rebuilding after the fall. This task, they failed to complete; whether by attempting and failing, or by never attempting at all, they would not reveal. Over the millennia, the Order had kept their databanks, witnessing the rise and fall of many galaxy-spanning civilizations, always watching and never interfering. It had long since turned towards decadence and indulgence, selling access to its computer terminals in exchange for entire cargoholds of gold and luxury goods. Some in the administration believed that paying off such gluttonous and debauched people would inevitably end in disaster. While Vakor acknowledged their concerns, she believed that the data their researchers would gather was priceless and would hopefully secure a permanent technological edge over their erstwhile (and likely future) enemies. By the end of 240, several Prossnakans had established themselves in Sedrin, overseeing the team of scientists interacting with the database and ensuring that they did not overstep the bounds of their contract.

Vakor had directed the Tebazed Unified Governance effectively alone for 41 years. Now nearing 90, she was visibly aging, and in the first few months of 241 she began to hand off certain responsibilities to subordinates. When the decline came, it came fast. By the middle of the year, Vakor had been confined to bed, and the vailon state prepared for the end. This was an unexpected turn of events for the political world, which had expected to have several years to rebuild itself before throwing itself into another selection. However, out of respect for the executive, an informal truce was implemented; the fight for what came next could wait until after Vakor was gone. Finally, early in the morning on August 2, the Director-General died peacefully in her sleep.

Raldirm den Vakor oversaw an era of massive change for the vailons. She broke with all precedent by running for, and winning, a second term in office, challenging theoretical norms protecting against authoritarianism. In times of crisis, especially in the early years of the war against the varelviv, she projected calm and strength, creating an aura of confidence that pervaded the administration and indeed the entire populace; it was on this foundation that the vailons warded off a catastrophic collapse when faced with invasion. Her record was not without blemish. Some blamed her for the factionalism that crept into politics during these decades. Others, with much more cause, looked back at the Hissom Summit as a foolish endeavor and the formation of the Glorious Axis as a missed opportunity to secure the vailons from invasion for the foreseeable future. Vakor was never able to fulfill her goal of finding and cementing a stable, long-term ally. Nevertheless, the diplomatic failures are only relevant insofar as the TUG was able to transition into an interstellar state, and the shock of that transition was well managed by Vakor’s administration. This was her most important legacy, and it was justly celebrated by all vailons in the days after her death.

Out of Nowhere

Vakor’s death, so soon after the selection, left the various political factions unprepared for a renewed campaign. Her third term was a mere fifteen months in length, not nearly long enough to reset the political field. It had been two years since the end of the war, and the economy was just barely stabilizing at a comfortable peacetime level. Of the leaders of the three major factions in the Assembly, one had retired and one had died in the last year. This might have left Suldirm den Harak as the favorite to be the next DG and the Peaceful Progress Initiative in position to make major gains in popularity, but the distinctively isolationist streak in their philosophy capped their support amongst a citizenry generally in favor of comity and understanding with their alien neighbors. If anyone in the previous governing coalition dissented, they did so in response to the war and the perceived continued threat from the fungoid slavers corewards of the TUG. This left the field open to new challengers from outside the political establishment, challengers who had very different ideas about the direction of the state.

Four candidates vied for the selection in 241. The famed explorer Raldirm den Hullos emerged from semi-retirement to take over the mantle of the Liberty Now Council; she looked to continue the legacy of her old friend and colleague Vakor, with a focus on building a new generation of leaders from across the political divide to take over the governance in a few years’ time. Rodrig den Tarrob, a persistent nuisance in many quarters, launched his evergreen campaign for high office. This time, however, he had won the backing of Harak and the PPI; Harak, for his part, judged that a fresh face was needed for the PPI’s platform, and he believed that Tarrob would serve as a suitable front to see his ambitions finally fulfilled. The PPI had spent the fifteen years of war arguing for a quick peace and a turn inwards, but when a suitable peace was finally obtained, some vailons realized that a newfound hatred of the varelviv greatly outweighed any practical considerations of maintaining a watchful truce. These revanchists were drawn from all sections of society and all factions, and they channeled their frustrations through the campaign of Feldirm den Sukar, a leading physics researcher who had mostly stayed out of politics until recent events inspired her to speak her mind. This group remained disorganized through the course of the selection, but many sober-minded observers feared their potential to wreak havoc on the state should they grow in strength in the future.

SelectionOf241.jpg

The Selection of 241 was the nastiest campaign in living memory.
The fourth candidate was another unknown, though a much younger one at that. Vabrig den Telnik had only recently been posted to a senior position in the Directory, having taken charge of the Science Directory upon Adasga’s retirement the previous year. He was born in 188 in a small city in Hemberar and grew up as the space age blossomed in the 190s and 200s. In his cohort, he was known as a gifted thinker but not a particularly effective debater, the usual mark of achievement in school. After graduation, he began working as a lab assistant at a facility deep in the Hemberar Ice Sheet researching geothermal power generation. Very quickly, he decided that the researcher’s life was not for him. By 210 he had moved to an administrative posting at the Science Directory in Sedrin. Telnik’s climb through the ranks of the directory was fairly linear, an unusual career path in a species where the most talented individuals can argue their way into any job, no matter how high-ranking. In 233 he found himself in a senior sub-cabinet position, as the head of the Consumption Section of the Science Directory. He remained in that posting for seven years, as his career seemed to stall at the highest level below the political actors at the top of the bureaucracy. His colleagues believed him to be extraordinarily apolitical, with some even whispering questions about whether he voted in the biennial Assembly elections. This reputation earned him one further promotion, to the head of the entire Science Directory in 240 when the organization suddenly found itself in need of a caretaker.

But despite his reputation, Telnik had plans for his career, and for the TUG. He hid his ambition from all but a small circle of close friends, the only people he had grown to trust and confide in during his life. By some combination of good fortune and good strategy, these friends had themselves all been incredibly talented and uniformly occupied high-ranking positions in the Directorate or the navy. With these individuals backing his campaign and lending it the credibility of serious support, Telnik was able to eschew the now-traditional political jockeying among the various factions. In fact, this may have been a key element of his support; though he refused to explicitly campaign on the growing factionalism of high politics in Sedrin, the implicit rebuke to the existing political organizations attracted many to his platform. This platform was extensive and detailed, and it reflected a unified vision for the future course of the vailons. Major new infrastructure projects, a doubling of the size of the merchant fleet, and, most importantly, the founding of several additional colonies on the habitable worlds in controlled systems, would create vast wealth for Tebazed and provide funding for a massive expansion of warship construction. The expanded fleet would in turn allow the administration to project power for the first time. And though he did not say this out loud, his ultimate goal was renewed war with the varelviv, this time with the vailons taking the initiative. With good planning, the TUG would be able to reclaim lost territory from the previous conflict and push deeper into VIS space; with good planning and some good fortune, they would be able to end the threat completely by overthrowing the government of slavers.

With such a potent mix of ideologies and personalities, the campaign quickly descended into a free-for-all. No single issue dominated the debate; and without a focal point, the candidates often reached for direct attacks on their opponents’ plans as a way to fill the void. In this new paradigm, the candidates of the traditional factions quickly fell behind. Withering criticism by the other two candidates eroded support for Hullos and Tarrob, while the institutional interests of their backers prevented them from attacking their opponents successfully. Their positive arguments were unable to counter the relentless negations offered by the newcomers, and their poll numbers tanked by September. Meanwhile, Sukar made speech after speech decrying the stagnancy of the current system, which she claimed left vailons everywhere under the acute threat of enslavement by an alien menace. To land her point, she continually emphasized the thousands of vailons captured in varelviv raids since the truce began; these brave individuals, she argued, were languishing in horrendous conditions because of the “prudence” of the Vakor administration. This accusation tainted not only veterans of Vakor’s government but also anyone involved in the political system, including the two candidates backed by major factions. According to Sukar, rescuing their enslaved brethren and taking revenge on the VIS should have been the only priority of any administration. But this line of criticism did not extend to Telnik, and he was able to use his insulated position to win the support of a plurality of the population, not enough to claim a mandate but enough to show that the vailons still were not a martial species and had no wish to be turned into a war machine.

The race stagnated in this position, with attacks growing increasingly vitriolic as the campaign dragged on. Finally, in early October, the College stepped in. Asserting its authority for the first time in generations, the magisters declared an end to public debates and speeches in the campaign. Though the public input was considered a vital part of their decision-making process, it was never intended to be the sole criteria for selection. Instead the College invited the four main candidates to a private formal debate on October 7, after which the magisters would choose the next DG. Theoretically putting each of the four on equal footing, the debate in fact crystallized Telnik’s advantages over his fellow contenders. He exuded an aura of confidence and competency in sharp contrast to the other three who spent most of their time attacking each other. The magisters only deliberated for one hour after the debate. Telnik was the choice, winning 78 out of 103 votes to become the 25th Director-General. Within just a few years, he had catapulted from a faceless bureaucratic role into the highest office of the TUG.

Telnik had few friends, even after waging a successful campaign for the selection, but he did have his plans. After Telnik’s inauguration on October 8, he immediately launched his first initiative: a new colonization drive, focused on the ocean world of Grunthirst IIIa, and, on the promise of receiving citizenship in return, recruiting mith-fell from immigrant communities to be the pioneers for the TUG. This proved to be controversial; despite their openness and belief in pluralism, the vailon public had not yet considered the possibility of becoming a multi-racial society. Many were shocked to find this change suddenly thrust upon them, without the public debate that it should have engendered. Though the mith-fell colonists would all be émigrés from the Commonwealth, most vailon individuals still looked upon the neighboring power and its citizens with mistrust. The three major factions, left out in the cold after their resounding defeat in the selection, took this as an opportunity to curb any power Telnik might think of wielding at their expense. They formed a grand coalition in the Assembly, pledging opposition to this initiative without due consideration by the current citizenry of the TUG, whose rights might be diluted by the addition of new members to their society. Moreover, they pointed out that the Commonwealth might feel entitled to assert claims over a planet settled by their own citizens, even if it were nominally controlled by the TUG. These were arguments designed to sway the public, and they did. Polls showed that a majority were opposed to the initiative on prudential and procedural grounds: vailons were not necessarily opposed to having an open society; they just wanted to be able to consider it themselves without it being forced upon them.

It was much to the political world’s shock, then, when Telnik ignored the debate roiling the Assembly, where his few allies and friends were defending his program. Instead he proceeded directly to implementation, signing up thousands of mith-fell for spots on the colonization ship. Funds were set aside for construction, slated to begin in the new year. As the weeks went by and the program continued apace, three camps emerged. The first, and smallest, was comprised of those who had supported such an initiative in the first place and were happy to see it continue. These were vailons who celebrated openness, and they wanted to extend the vailons’ natural inclusiveness to include all sentient beings. The second camp was united in opposition to Telnik, whether rooted in concerns about the accumulation of power (this applied to most political figures in the capital) or simple uncertainty about the merits of the policy. The third group, however, proved decisive. For many vailons, this was a very abstract problem, not directly connected to their everyday lives. They might have been slightly disposed to lean one way or another, depending on their individual toleration for others, but it wasn’t a critical issue for them. Presented with a fait accompli, they accepted it. Though they would never be vocal supporters of an open society, they helped create an undercurrent of support which allowed the colonization drive to succeed. The keel of the newest colony ship was laid down in orbit around Tebza in February, 242, without so much as a speech in support by the DG.

Telnik had laid down a marker of how he intended to administer the state, ignoring all political opposition and focusing on the implementation of policy to the detriment of his supposed public duties. After this initial success, he moved quickly to consolidate his executive power, beginning with the upper echelon of Directorate positions. Valdrig den Vagors had been the Director of Labor and a part of Vakor’s inner circle of advisors for the entirety of the previous administration; his institutional knowledge was unparalleled, and most observers expected him to remain in the position for several more years under the new administration while a successor was groomed. The new Director-General had other ideas, however. Telnik did not know Vagors; he did not trust the old guard administrator. So he forced Vagors out in March 242, convincing him to retire in return for being named to the College at the next available opening. It was a soft enough landing for the aged advisor, and it allowed Telnik to name his own Director of Labor, Galdrig den Piriam, a close friend whose judgments and advice he trusted implicitly. There was some feeble protest to the arrangement from the Assembly, but Telnik once again felt free to ignore them. In the course of just a few months, the major factions, so recently defining the course of events for the TUG, had been shown to be very brittle and ineffectual when confronted with a determined outsider not beholden to their interests. Even the venerable Suldirm den Harak, still clinging to power in the PPI, began to pull back from his antagonistic approach, recognizing the waste of energy it represented in the new regime. By mid-242, Telnik was excluding Assembly leaders from even the most routine discussions of executive policy, leaving him to wield extraordinary power in directing the affairs of the vailons.

DGTelnik.jpg

Vabrig den Telnik had plans.
New Worlds

The colonization drive was in full swing by 244, with the two colonies of Firintarogga, on Grunthirst IIIa, and Ferdera, on Daarasta IIIa, establishing themselves within a few weeks of each other in the middle of the year. Beyond that initiative, Telnik’s administration only prioritized a few long-term infrastructure projects; they were not looking to execute major reforms to the economic system. It was in the diplomatic realm that he looked to make an immediate impact. For three decades prior to his selection, the TUG had worked to forge alliances with its neighbors to counter the threats it faced in the region. It was the view of the new Director-General that this campaign had failed and should be deprioritized, if not abandoned. Tebazed’s immediate neighbors, now ensconced in the Glorious Axis, had proven to be fickle; and once the Commonwealth had roped in a buffer state between themselves and the slavers to its west, it turned its attention to the north, to that “enemy of all races,” the saathids. Whether or not their neighbors were accurate in their assessments of risk, the predicament that the vailons found themselves in was due to the prudence and practicality of their erstwhile allies, and so the vailons must also be prudent and practical in their dealings with other races and other states.

As Telnik conceived of it, self-sufficiency in defense had three components. First and foremost was economic independence; interstellar trade may have been great for building wealth, but it was critical in times of war to ensure adequate supplies were available, and the best way to do that was to make sure the TUG was making everything it needed itself. Second came the fleet, the centerpiece of modern interstellar militaries. A growing internal economy would help fund the expansion of the fleet, and investments in research would keep it on par in technology with its potential adversaries. The third pillar of Telnik’s plan was projecting diplomatic strength. He had no wish to turn the TUG into a hermit state, focused inwards and ignoring the wider galaxy. Instead, he planned to use the new economic and military strength to take a more active role in galactic affairs. Cementing a strong alliance would be easier, as the vailons would bring more to the table. More favorable commercial deals could be negotiated. And the TUG would be able to counter its rivals more directly, potentially ending threats to Tebazed permanently.

Telnik had started working on the economic component of his plan from the moment he was elevated to the Director-General’s position. Within the first month of taking office, he ordered an overhaul of the shipping network, currently a hodge-podge of trade routes that, as the TUG expanded, were added one on top of another without any concern for efficiency. At the same time, the administration commenced work on a shipbuilding program, aiming to double the size of the merchant fleet within two years, to take advantage of the newly streamlined shipping lanes. New planetside building projects were also prioritized, both on Tebazed and on the outlying colonies. The colonists on Varba in particular received a major investment to build out the basic infrastructure of the colony, leading to the planet becoming a net exporter of resources by the end of 242.

These economic investments began to show returns quickly, which allowed the expansion of the naval fleet to continue and even accelerate. Within the first two years of Telnik’s term, the navy had reached its highest ship count ever. The Naval Staff, newly empowered to request resources from the administration, advocated for a fleet size of 40 warships by the end of the decade, judging that this would be sufficient to defend the TUG from varelviv aggression after the ten-year truce expired. The DG agreed, and the shipbuilding continued apace. New techniques in power generation and engine design were integrated into the fleet, and a joint military and Science Directory program began research on the next generation of interlinked point-defense systems to defeat the new class of missiles that varelviv raiders had begun to show off in recent years. Finally, in 244, a team from the Engineering section kicked off a project to greatly enhance vailon capabilities in orbital construction, with the medium-term goal of building major expansions to the deep-space stations orbiting Con Viab and Tebza.

These years also saw the beginnings of Telnik’s diplomatic strategy taking shape. On the far side of VIS territory, the Cyggan Empire and the Seban Commonwealth had very recently negotiated an end to hostilities that had been ongoing since virtually the moment of first contact between the two states. In the aftermath of the war, the insular cyggans began to look outwards for the first time. The empire established an embassy on Tebazed, as well as on the capitals of several other regional powers. In 242, however, the cyggans suddenly broke off diplomatic relations with the VIS. After the conclusion of the varelviv-vailon war, the slavers began sending an increasing proportion of their raids into imperial space, an intolerable situation for the xenophobic cyggans. Telnik spotted an opening, and he approached the cyggan embassy in Sedrin about the potential for cooperating in anti-varelviv activities. The ambassador was receptive to the overtures; though Emperor Slugradeb I and cyggans in general were mistrustful of all aliens, they acknowledged that practical considerations weighed in favor of coming to a limited agreement. While they were not willing to go so far as to promise to come to the aid of the vailons should the varelviv invade once again, and interstellar distances mitigated against joint anti-slaving operations, the cyggans were willing to sign onto an intelligence-sharing agreement as well as a formal non-aggression pact.

Meanwhile, the Seban Commonwealth was also beginning to engage with the powers in the southeast quadrant of the galaxy. Their interests, of course, ran directly counter to the interests of their arch-rivals. When the TUG and the Cyggan Empire announced their cooperation pact, the seban diplomatic arm denounced the agreement, and withdrew their embassy from Tebazed in protest. Instead, they turned to other potential partners in the region, looking to sign deals with them before the cyggans had a chance to do so. In 246, they found success in this endeavor, coming to terms with the Union on a commercial pact and a research-sharing agreement. Most importantly for the sebans, the hissma also agreed not to engage in any formal dialogue with the cyggans. At the same time, a large delegation spent many months on Kan Jukla, attempting to work out a similar agreement with the mith-fell, but the Commonwealth preferred to keep their options open, and they did not finalize a deal.

All the while, tensions between the vailons and the varelvivi remained high. Though the VIS had not yet violated the truce terms of the peace treaty between the two states, provocations were a regular occurrence. Within a year of the ceasefire, Overlord Spagruum I returned to denouncing the vailons regularly in the overlord’s weekly hyperwave addresses. At the same time, slaving raids returned, despite a ten-year moratorium enshrined in the treaty. These were of smaller scale than those seen prior to the war – the TUG defense system had been strengthened and anti-slaving patrol units were becoming more effective with every attempted raid – but still a nuisance and an offense. The varelvivi slavers had turned their primary focus west, towards the Cyggan Empire, but they still opportunistically attacked cargo ships venturing outside the defensive envelope provided by Starbase Con Viab, and occasionally sent raids deeper into vailon space. It was obvious to everyone in the Telnik administration that this would boil over at some point; but there was division over the question of whether to address the impending crisis proactively. A diplomatic offensive was more in keeping with vailon traditions, but the Director-General strongly believed that only a direct approach would be decisive. By the middle of 247, the first stages of his plan were moving forward. The two new colonies of Firintarogga and Ferdera declared themselves self-sufficient within a few weeks of each other. Going forward, they would contribute to the wider TUG economy, rather than being a drain on it. And the diplomatic maneuvers were bearing fruit, as cooperation with the cyggans continued to deepen. All that remained, now, was seeing the remainder of the plan out to its logical conclusion.

GalaxyIn248.jpg

Tensions simmered below the surface in 248.

Footnotes
[1] Perhaps because of the enforced isolation of such a remote location, though when asked about it during the campaign he said that he preferred the direct activity of the bureaucrat to the very narrow horizons of the scientist.
[2] The model for this, of course, were the grand debates that took place during the Space Referendum campaign in 198.
[3] Accounts differ as to whether this was a mutual agreement, or if Vagors was removed against his will and given a magister slot to ensure that his true feelings on the matter were kept out of the public eye.
[4] VIS raiding activity had picked up in the aftermath of the war, but it remained at a much lower level than prior to the invasion. The varelviv had come to fear the vailon defenses, it seemed, and only small raiding parties attempted to slip past the great bastion of Con Viab with any success. As a result, not since the Great Raid of 223 had any varelviv ships been seen inside of Commonwealth or Union space.
[5] Though the government on Cyggia referred to itself as the ‘Cyggan Galactic Empire’, this was an audacious claim for a polity that controlled just a handful of star systems and just a few planets, and most non-cyggans referred to them simply as the ‘Cyggan Empire’.
[6] NB: By convention, the isolated term ‘Commonwealth’ refers specifically to the Mith-Fell Commonwealth, direct neighbors to the TUG and senior partners in the Glorious Axis, while other entities that use that descriptor will always be referred to by the formal name of the polity, a la the ‘Seban Commonwealth’.
 

Nikolai

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May The Plan be fruitful.
 

eoncommander

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May The Plan be fruitful.

Plans, plans never survive contact with the enemy.

One of you two will prove to be prophetic, I think.

But not for a while! The next two installments will actually jump backwards in time a bit. First, I have a short story, set in the early 240s and exploring the trading relationship between the TUG and the Commonwealth. Following that will be a new narrative chapter covering some political/diplomatic maneuvering in the mid-240s that I decided to break out into its own installment (of which, eagle-eyed readers may have caught a hint!).

Finally, if you haven't already, go vote in the Q2 ACAs! Even if you're not an active commenter, all of us writers appreciate the recognition and the community-building.

If you're interested in my humble recommendations, here are a few truly excellent examples of Stellaris AARs (in no particular order):

Faith in Chaos - A Stellaris Story by @Macavity116
We Stand United: A Stellaris AAR by @journalisticRoman
Becoming: A Stellaris AAR by @react0rman
The Patrian Republic - A Semi-Interactive AAR [Resurgence] by @magnum2016
First Steps Among the Stars by @Zeogludon
The Third Time Is The Charm - The Many Children of Earth by @Kylia Quilor