Nikolai

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Good to see you back!
 

Cromwell

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What a great AAR. The "out of game" fictional portions are great treats, really well written (especially the one with the trader trying meet his quota).
I'm looking forward to seeing what changes a new leader will bring to events and most of all seeing those slaving mushrooms put down for good! :p
 

RossN

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Glad to see this great AAR still has some story left! :)
 
Chapter Sixteen - A New Era

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A Colonial Party

Valdrig den Subir entered office in July of 265 with an agenda. For her entire career, she had fought for equal rights for colonial-born vailons. Once in office, her cause became the administration’s. She, and the constellation of interests backing her, concentrated their efforts on diverting power and resources from the metropole to the colonies. Their first priority was ensuring that the fast-growing colonies remained attractive destinations for immigrants from neighboring powers. Even during the varelviv war, the Governance had maintained its status as a haven for economic migrants, especially from the members of the Glorious Axis. The wartime economic boom, combined with a strong social safety net, encouraged many working-class mith-fell to stream into the TUG. After taking office, Subir enacted several new ordinances to attract further migrants to the colonies. Her administration streamlined the process of applying for citizenship, lowering the waiting period from six years to two, and initiated a program to provide bonuses to individuals who migrated to the fast-growing farming regions of Ferdera and the vast geothermal plants on Firintarogga. Ferdera, way out near the galactic rim, was already demonstrating its potential as a major center for agricultural products. A mere two decades after its founding, it had already doubled the total food production coming from the colonial worlds. Though most of Tebazed’s food was still sourced from the fertile plains of the homeworld, growth in the industry had slowed in the last decades as the available arable land had become increasingly marginal. As the population of the capital continued its massive expansion, food imports were swiftly becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Experts in the Labor Directory predicted that Tebazed would import a majority of its food from offworld by the end of the century, with most of those imports expected to originate on Ferdera.

The Director-General was not solely focused on the existing colonies. Vabrig den Telnik had upstaged Subir by announcing three new colonies in the months prior to the selection, but it was left to the new administration to actually implement this program. Stage One was establishing a settlement on the mysterious phased planet orbiting the star Turim. Officially designated Turim III, it had very quickly acquired the informal designation “The Veil.” After the crew of the ISS Dargion successfully stabilized the planet in this dimension in 220, the Science Directory organized several exploratory missions to the surface, and the Vakor administration announced plans to colonize the paradisiacal planet. But before that project could be implemented, the First Varelviv War broke out, necessitating the withdrawal of the science teams from the planet. Vailons would not return to the surface of Turim III for forty years; in the peace treaty that concluded the war, Turim was one of several systems the Governance surrendered to the VIS. In the intervening decades, the new owners avoided the planet; varelvivi were not generally superstitious, but some researchers on Viverva were concerned that “The Veil” could revert back to its phased state at any point. This prospect made Overlord Spagruum very uncomfortable, leading them to ban planetside operations. Though this order was occasionally ignored by independent slavers and pirate outfits looking to establish bases in wild space, it did leave the surface largely unspoiled when control of the system was transferred back to the TUG in 264. “The Veil” became the crown jewel of the new wave of colonization, with the first major settlement founded in May of 267 and the colony proving to be an attractive destination for immigrants.

By the end of the decade, the Governance had established two additional colonies along the rimward hyperlane route. The Ussaldon system and the Pollban Kir system were each home to large habitable moons, covered in thick tropical canopies, orbiting their third planets. Vailons had never had an affinity for jungles, but they could learn to adapt to such climates. More problematic was the two worlds’ proximity to clan territory. The Qvefoz primarily busied themselves with their own internecine conflicts over the honor and status of their chieftains, but their occasional raids into the Governance continued to be a nuisance to the residents of nearby Firintarogga. Nevertheless, these satellites were the only remaining uncolonized habitable biospheres within the TUG’s borders, and the colonial party was willing to risk conflict with the marauding clans in order to set up more colonies that would be additional bases of support in the long run. After years of preparation, the first colony ship touched down on Ussaldon IIIa in December 267, officially founding Kampira, while the Nagrama colony on Pollban Kir IIIb was established in January 269. With the last two candidates for habitation now home to vailon settlements, the TUG could close the book on seventy years of peaceful exploration, expansion, and colonization.

Reorganization

During her tenure, Subir expanded the use of administration-wide directives in order to set and achieve policy goals. While previous administrations had used these directives at times, their targets had always been limited in scope. The Eldethan-born Director-General and her supporters in the Assembly recognized that this tool, deployed on a wide scale, had the potential to remake the Governance into a polity more balanced between the metropole and the colonies. On numerous occasions, Subir made use of this power to achieve her goals of resource redistribution. This effort began in 267 with a program to boost energy production at power plants across the TUG. New storage technologies and an aggressive implementation campaign allowed excess energy to be captured and transported to regions with less developed economies on outlying worlds. She continued her program in 273, directing the administration to launch an initiative to establish institutions of higher learning on each colony. Previously, colonial students who wished to pursue post-cohort studies – typically those going into education or the sciences – would have had to matriculate at one of the major universities on Tebazed. Once embedded in the metropolitan social networks, the students would rarely return to their homeworlds, depriving those worlds of some of their most talented individuals. New universities, however, if they were embedded in the fabric of the colonial societies, could exert a centrifugal force, pulling talent and resources outwards from the center. Finally, in 278 the administration began a campaign to deploy additional healthcare resources to the fastest-growing regions of the colonies. Previous studies by the Health Directory had shown that healthcare capacity in many colonial settlements had not kept up with the rate of population and economic growth, and that these under-resourced care systems had led to worse outcomes for cohorts from those regions. Under the new edict, the Health Directory was required to funnel supplementary resources to colonial governments and assist them in establishing new medical facilities, while the Labor Directory simultaneous directed additional personnel to staff these facilities and expand access to the care systems beyond the major urban centers.

By creating a more equitable polity, Subir’s liberal use of executive orders made feasible a plan to ensure that the new balance of power would remain in place permanently. The structure of the Directorate had hardly changed since the 190s, even as the vailon state grew from a planet-bound society into a multi-species interstellar polity. The Labor Directory still exercised direct control over all posting decisions, including those on the colonies; in the 261 settlement, local control had only been extended to political institutions. Additionally, though each colonial administration could set policy for their respective worlds, they had very little say in the development of policy for the wider Governance. Subir and her allies believed that only a reorganized Directorate that incorporated the colonies as constituent parts would allow the colonies to be considered members of the state equal in status to the homeworld. This would create an incentive structure that forced future administrations, no matter their origin or base of power, to invest in the colonies in an equitable manner.

Any project to rebuild this apparatus would take decades to come to fruition. So from the outset Subir prioritized making her vision for a new administrative structure clear to the public, hoping to build momentum for the project so that its progress would not stall. In a speech to the Assembly in August 268, she outlined her plans to revamp the Directorate: instead of a unitary bureaucracy governing the entire state, the TUG would be divided into several “sectors,” centered around specific colonies and governing nearby planets and star systems. Each sector would have its own Directorate and constituent Assembly; they would be led by a single executive who would be chosen via local selection processes. The selection bodies would be modeled on the College, though approximately 50% of the magisters would be chosen in regional elections.

The new Labor Directory faced an immediate challenge when an unexpected influx of refugees, fleeing a saathid offensive in the northeast quadrant, arrived on Varba in late 269. Over the course of a few months, nearly two million tezhnids – ardently traditionalist and religious arthropoids hailing from the continental world of Tezhnar – found their way to the Lyctabon system. The flood of exiles arrived without warning; the colonial administration had no opportunity to prepare to receive and integrate them. Local officials set up mass camps to house the refugees, but they had to scramble just to ensure that food supplies were sufficient to feed everyone. By January, the situation had stabilized, and the authorities were beginning to process refugees out of the camps and into housing complexes across the world. Yet while there was slack in the housing supply, the local government was slow to integrate the tezhnids into the labor system. Many were able to find unofficial employment in the vicinity of their new homes; despite the centralized planning of the Governance, local economies were still creative forces and always had room to grow. However, a large contingent of former priests and administrators were unwilling to enter the labor force as menial workers, and they were vocal about their inability to apply for postings. Amplified by certain antagonistic elements in the public sphere, this localized bureaucratic predicament turned into a major embarrassment for Subir, who had championed the cause of refugee resettlement and emphasized the TUG’s position as a haven for those fleeing war and strife.

RefugeesTezhnid.jpg

A sudden influx of refugees from the Tezhnid Holy Foundation in 269 sparked minor incidents of civil unrest.

For the remainder of Subir’s term, she conducted her administration with a focus on standing up the semi-autonomous sectoral governments. The project, she knew, would last well beyond her time in office, but that was all the more reason to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Due to the scope of her vision, Subir’s team planned out a series of intermediate steps which would make progress both manageable and measurable. Their first major milestone was met in late 272 with the formal reorganization of the Labor Directorate so that each TUG colony would be managed in separate sections. At this stage, sectoral directors were to be appointed at the sub-cabinet level, each overseeing several of the sections – though they were not fully independent, as they still reported directly to the Director of Labor, Galdrig den Piriam. Under the new system, her responsibilities morphed: instead of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the entire posting system, after 272 she managed the directors of the three new sectors: 1) the Home sector, which incorporated Tebazed and the two colonies in the home star cluster, Eldetha and Varba; 2) the Rim sector, incorporating the previous generation of colonies, Ferdera and Firintarogga, as well as two of the recently founded colonies, Kampira and Nagrama; and 3) the Corewards sector, which had no inhabited worlds other than The Veil within its limits but did include the entire border cluster as well as the strategic bastion at Con Viab.

Subir developed these plans with the explicit backing of her political coalition. But such coalitions require compromises to sustain themselves. The Xeno Liberty Initiative, the largest faction in the Assembly, were fervent supporters of Subir’s ambitions in remaking the Directorate to be more inclusive. However, many members were concerned by the failures to adequately make arrangements for the tezhnid refugees in 270. Using their leverage, they extracted promises from the Director-General to be inclusive not only towards those vailons living on the colonies, but also towards the flourishing xeno communities now present on most of the inhabited worlds of the Governance. Specifically, as a condition of their support they required Subir to appoint non-vailons as the first sectoral directors. Moreover, the interim directors were to be appointed to terms of no less than ten years, with formal selections put off for at least that length of time. Pulses of xenophobic sentiment had appeared several times in recent decades, most prominently during the Selection of 241, but also notably in the backlash to Subir’s elevation to Director-General. The XLI wanted ironclad guarantees that xenos in the Governance would have rights equal to those of vailons, and the faction leadership believed that giving xenos the opportunity to take on important roles in the administration would be the most effective argument in their favor. Subir, albeit reluctantly, agreed to the terms; the support of the XLI was much more important to her than having unconstrained choices in her appointments.

In the end, Subir altered the new organizational chart to allow the Director of Labor, Galdirm den Piriam, to directly oversee the Core Sector, making an end-run around her agreement with the XLI. However, her choices to lead the other two sectors were a pair of mith-fell immigrants with close ties to the colonial movement. To govern the Rim sector from Firintarogga, the Director-General selected the 41-year-old Wrbli, who in proper mith-fell fashion took the official name Beak of Indigo. Wrbli immigrated to Varba with his parents in 239, before they joined the founding generation of Firintarogga two years later. He came of age alongside the colony, growing into a major political figure on the watery world and one of the leaders of the colonial party by the late 260s. While never forming a close bond, the pair had worked together in the past, particularly during the negotiations in 260 and 261 when Wrbli represented the interests of his adopted homeworld. Subir hoped she could build a strong working partnership with her nominal ally. And to administer The Veil and the surrounding systems, Subir tapped Mtche’ar, a long-time friend who took the name Claws of Cyan. Mtche’ar started his career in politics as an anti-Commissariat activist on Kan Jukla in the 230s before being expelled in a purge in 242. Making his new home among the ex-pat dissidents in Sedrin, his experiences as a radical in the Commonwealth made him a useful source of advice for the burgeoning colonial rights movement. Though he never forgot his roots as a dissident, for the following two decades he became something of a professional agitator, assisting a variety of groups in their efforts to organize protests and other anti-government activities. By the mid-250s he had become a formal advisor to the Eldethan Union, in which role he formed a close bond with Subir. After Subir announced the career activist as her choice to lead The Veil sector, several critics denounced the selection and accused the Director-General of playing favorites in choosing a plainly unqualified individual for the post. However, Subir, with the backing of the XLI, was able to bring her old ally into the fold without any organized opposition.

BeakOfIndigo.jpg
ClawsOfCyan.jpg

Directors Beak of Indigo and Claws of Cyan were appointed to lead their respective sectors on an interim basis in 272.

Within months, the Directorate had a new opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness. Since its founding, Firintarogga had experienced frequent destructive storms and sudden heat waves. The climatic instability, scientists soon discovered, was caused by a massive complex submerged beneath the seas near the north pole. After an extensive effort, only partially successful, to reconstruct the databanks at the facility, researchers determined that some former denizens of this region of the galaxy had intended to completely revamp the biosphere of the planet. To what end, it was unclear; what was clear was that the facility, which was designed to subtly alter deep ocean currents, had malfunctioned. Sputtering equipment spewed excessive heat into the water, causing unpredictable and chaotic results in the climate across the globe. Though the planet remained habitable amidst the climatic instability, the extreme weather events caused significant destruction in the colonized regions. In January 273, a cyclonic system flattened an entire town and killed over 3,000 mith-fell residents. The disaster led to calls for the administration to either attempt to fix the malfunctioning facility or shut it down completely.

Regardless of the choice, the effort would be extremely dangerous, given the environment in which the work would need to be completed. Though some researchers believed that the terraforming process could be restarted, Subir feared that an error would cause catastrophic consequences for the extant colony. Instead, she ordered the facility to be dismantled with all due haste. The Science Directory and the new Labor Directory launched an ambitious joint endeavor to deactivate the apparatus, building a pressure-sealed habitat on the seabed adjacent to the facility to house the thousands of individuals working on the project. For six months the project members toiled away in the hazardous conditions on the ocean floor as they slowly shut down power systems and disassembled machinery. Despite their careful activities, several accidents occurred, including the collapse of a pressure bulkhead, which resulted in the deaths of an entire work crew and an unplanned release of radioactive isotopes into the sea. Nevertheless, by June the project was nearing completion, having achieved a 90% reduction in heat venting from the facility. But in order to complete the work, the lead engineers estimated that another six months would be needed to dig into the bowels of the structure, and that the additional work would incur a much higher risk of failure. Rather than take on that risk, Subir decided that they had accomplished enough and announced the official conclusion of the project. Though Firintarogga would continue to experience intermittent extreme weather events, their frequency and severity were dramatically reduced. The project could only be considered a massive success, and a vindication for the administration’s restructuring of the Directorate.

Core Concerns

While Subir prioritized colonial policy above all others, matters on Tebazed occasionally intruded on her attention. Early in her term, she had one particular set of horns she liked to borrow for these particular problems. While her relationship with her predecessor, Vabrig den Telnik, had been calculated and pragmatic at best, and particularly frosty at times, she had always considered him to be a capable administrator. After the selection of 265, Telnik joined the College; yet Subir still found a need for his expertise in bureaucratic management, specifically in providing oversight for the Science Directory. Through the next several years, she continued to solicit his input on major decisions; in particular, he was instrumental in focusing research efforts on robotics, as well as providing valuable advice during the transition to sectoral governance. Gradually, however, he continued to step back from his public role. Finally, as 270 approached its end, Telnik announced his retirement. At 82, the old bureaucratic warrior no longer had the stomach for the daily grind. He confided to Subir that he wanted to spend his twilight years away from the politics and the intensity of the capital. While he retained his seat in the College, he was granted emeritus status, allowing him to remove himself from the everyday work of the body and retire to a life of peaceful solitude.

Due in no small part to Telnik’s behind-the-scenes advocacy and encouragement, it was during Subir’s term that robotics first saw widespread adoption throughout the TUG economy. The former Director-General was instrumental in the completion and rollout of the first fully autonomous robots, delivered to ore mines on Hasar in May of 266. Over the next decade and a half, robotics spread slowly but steadily to most industrial sectors, but through the early ‘80s individual units were rare outside of factory shops and ore extraction operations. This changed with the development of the first mass-produced line of mammalian tetrapodal units on Tebazed in 281. Robots mimicking the form of vailons began to appear in every city of the metropole, working in retail stores and cafeterias; they largely supplanted manual labor in garbage disposal across the planet. Within a few years, robots became part of the fabric of most communities on the capital, and citizens grew accustomed to these uncanny newcomers. Subir had always been concerned about the potential for vailon-like robotics to unnerve individuals to the point of creating a backlash, and she was relieved as the public seemed to accept the new designs so readily. The metropolitan deployment was so successful that by the middle of the decade plans were in motion to expand production to several colonial worlds in addition to the major assembly plants under construction on Lopinira.

It was, perhaps, only the insistence of her predecessor that called Subir’s attention toward matters scientific. Despite her background in the scientific establishment, the Director-General had always been more interested in political and social issues, and that continued during her term in office. After Telnik’s retirement, the Science Directory was largely left to manage its own affairs. Staying out of the spotlight was in fact a positive for Jargim den Vathrag, who stayed on as Director of Science even though she was considered a Telnik loyalist. She was perfectly happy to continue in her role after the new administration took power and granted her license to run the directory as an essentially autonomous fief. In exchange, she only had to sacrifice public awareness of their exploits. In 269, for instance, the Archaeology section completed its long-term expedition to study the First League artifacts on the dusty surface of Ushminaria II. The “facility,” discovered by independent prospectors fifteen years earlier, had turned out to be a ship graveyard, remnants from a battle that had occurred two million years earlier between the forces of the First League and nomadic raiders from the outer rim. Researchers theorized that this battle, whether or not it was a victory for the First League, was a symptom of an empire in decline. The site was close to a facility known to have been a First League naval base, discovered in 213 on Ushminaria VIIIa. This was taken as an indication that the League was on the retreat from the greatest extent of its control. But, without the megaphone of the public relations apparatus of the Director-General’s office, Vathrag’s announcement of this remarkable discovery about precursors to the vailons failed to capture the public’s attention.

This period of independence for the Science Directory also led to new findings about the basic nature of the universe. In the span of just six months, in late 270 and early 271, deep-space exploration missions made exciting breakthroughs on several phenomena. Research expeditions led by Vabrig den Boknar and Goridrig den Subir encountered clusters of lifeforms unlike any others known to the Governance. Boknar had first discovered the entities known as void clouds in 259, but they had stubbornly resisted attempts to analyze at the time. Her second encounter, in April 271, proved to be enormously fruitful, as her team knew what to look for this time. For three hours, her ship took scans across the electromagnetic spectrum before they were forced to flee the system. They were able to gather enough data to confirm several hypotheses about the lifeforms, including the remarkable idea that these ‘clouds’ were communicating with each other across vast distances by utilizing quantum entanglement. Meanwhile, Goridrig den Subir became the first vailon to encounter beings of living crystal. Similar to the void clouds, the massive prismatic structures appeared to be alive despite the best available physics and biology suggesting that such a thing was impossible. Moreover, as soon as the TUG ship entered the system, the entities altered their course to intercept the research vessel, and began to emit a complex pattern of energy signatures which Subir took to be an attempt at communication. Unable to reciprocate in any similar fashion, Subir felt it prudent to retreat until some means of responding to the crystalline entities could be devised. Finally, Boknar’s team made an important discovery about the clusters of ancient mining drones that had been spotted in several systems across the quadrant. These deep-space operations initially seemed to be completely independent of each other, but with the latest signals technology Boknar successfully isolated low-frequency pings from the background radiation. Who these pings were intended for, and whether there was anybody still listening, was unknown (and quite doubtful, according to Boknar), but it was awe-inspiring to realize that these drones could still be operating millions of years after their makers had turned to dust.

CrystallineEntitiesStudied.jpg
VoidCloudsStudied.jpg
AncientDronesStudied.jpg

Vailon explorers made new discoveries about ancient mysteries.

Yet, for the first decade of her term, Director-General Subir remained focused on her and her supporters’ aim of reorienting the Governance away from the metropole and towards the colonies, finding success on most fronts. Left with secure and peaceful borders by her predecessor, she hoped to continue this project into her second decade in office and beyond. But beginning in 274, war once again darkened the horizon, and Subir was forced to shift her attention to matters which she would have preferred to be able to ignore…


Footnotes
[1] From approximately 21 billion in 200 to more than 50 billion in 270.
[2] The Science Directory was certain this was not actually possible. According to the Intelligence Directory, the varelvivi scientific establishment, hampered by its authoritarian masters, was decades away from the breakthroughs in quantum physics needed to fully understand the phenomenon.
[3] Hot, wet, and sticky – not a good combination with fur.
[4] Most notably in the whole-of-government effort to support the initial exploration mission of the Science Directory in the first decade of Raldirm den Vakor’s term as Director-General.
[5] The remainder would be appointed; 25% by the sectoral Director and 25% by the Director-General. The sector Colleges would operate short-handed until the first selection was completed.
[6] The failure of the mith-fell government to warn Subir greatly troubled her, but she chose not to make a diplomatic incident out of it.
[7] Piriam had developed a close relationship with Subir over their decade serving together in Telnik’s cabinet. When Subir was elevated to the top job, Piriam had stayed in her role.
[8] Persistent rumors that he had also been an informal advisor on some of the Union’s shadier activities dogged him for the rest of his career. Having his close friend as Director-General tended to shield him from any significant blowback, however.
[9] According to this group’s (admittedly speculative) calculations, the civilization that built the facility designed the intervention to transform the planet into a so-called paradise world – quite similar to the The Veil, in fact. Some even suspected that the civilization in question had also caused Turim III to blink between dimensions in a separate failed experiment.
[10] While the exact mechanism for this communications pathway remained unknown, its mere existence suggested the massive gains that would be possible with further research in quantum computing.
 

Cromwell

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A good start to Subir's term, so far. She did well to get all available planets colonised (although I suppose given her politics that was certain to be a priority).

It's always nice to find a gaia planet like the Veil isn't it? I was a little disappointed to see nobody took the high risk, high reward opportunity to keep the machine going on Finintarogga to complete its work but you can't have everything.

I'll be excited when you reveal who you are tangling with in this new war, a final reckoning with those vile space fungoids or brand new threat?
 

Surt

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It's always nice to find a gaia planet like the Veil isn't it? I was a little disappointed to see nobody took the high risk, high reward opportunity to keep the machine going on Finintarogga to complete its work but you can't have everything.

Yeah I remember that, just be sure to have a couple of Marine armies in orbit when you do ...
 
Last edited:

generalis Julius Caesar

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Great new chapter. I loved the piece on the void clouds!
 

slothinator

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Very nice development for Subir's term. Decentralization seems like a good idea when the galaxy is so vast. Maybe this might also help in dealing with the border raids.
All in all, the vailons are proceeding well.
 
Chapter Seventeen - Growing Pains

eoncommander

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Return of the Ancients

In the diplomatic realm, Valdrig den Subir, through absolutely no effort of her own, was gifted a major victory within weeks of taking office. Since their visit in 244, the Bothrian Progenitors had continued to transmit semiannual reports on the conditions of the vailon colony on Cradle. The first several were met with excitement and fanfare, but after a few years the public lost interest in news of their absent brethren. While still in office, Telnik had continued to keep tabs on the exiled [1] citizens, reading each report in full and occasionally replying with questions on particular details. [2] Subir, however, was not burdened by any guilt over the matter, having still been with her cohort at the time. When the first report arrived on her desk in September 265, she felt no compunction about moving the report from her desk onto that of a mid-level staffer in her office. She was very surprised, then, when that staffer returned the report to her attention within a few hours. Buried in Annex A, Subsection I was a note that a new delegation was en route to TUG space.

Subir immediately threw the administration into crash preparations for the bothrians’ arrival, expecting that their requirements would be much the same as for their previous visit. When the delegation arrived at Governance space, however, it was clear that things were different this time. The diplomatic yacht had traveled alone, sans military escort; [3] moreover, once the delegates landed on Tebazed, they immediately indicated to their hosts that they could forego the formal welcoming ceremony, and, indeed, all of the official events planned for their stay. [4] Instead, the Director-General hosted the delegation for an informal dinner at her residence in Sedrin. The following morning, the bothrians met with Subir and her team at her office, with the meeting lasting for the better part of the day. For the first several hours, the discussion meandered, with the bothrians seemingly bringing up whatever happened to cross their minds. Of course, Subir felt obliged to indulge them, given the distance they had traveled and, more important, the relative power of the two civilizations. Her patience was rewarded in the afternoon, when the bothrians finally revealed the purpose of their visit: in the cargo hold of their ship was a large cache of minerals and credits, a gift for the vailons. The head of the delegation expressed general praise for the vailon civilization in the first blush of its spacefaring age, specifically singling out the administration’s commitment to assembling a coalition to address the interstellar refugee crisis. Subir, ever prudent, did not point out that it was in fact her predecessor who had spearheaded that effort, that her own plans were quite different in their nature. She accepted the gift on behalf of the Governance, along with the favor that the bothrians showed in bestowing it upon them. At the press conference to announce the gift the next day, Subir took great pains to emphasize the generosity of these benefactors, lavishing praise on them as the torchbearers of civilization for millenia. When the delegation departed that afternoon, however, she breathed a sigh of relief that they had not made any further demands on the vailons. She firmly believed, though, that they would be back one day, to make another ‘request’ of what they surely considered to be a client state.

BothrianGift.jpg

“As a token of our esteem,” he said.

The early part of Subir’s term also saw the return of another ancient civilization to the capital. After a twenty-year absence, in 270 the Director-General formally invited the Prossnakans of the Curator Order to return to Sedrin and provide renewed access to their seemingly limitless databanks. Subir ordered the Prossnakans to be paid out of the funds granted so generously by the bothrians a few years earlier, a fact which gave her smug satisfaction. The data that her scientists gathered over the next few years pushed the Science Directory to technological frontiers leaps and bounds beyond what their neighbors and rivals could reach. The Governance had never been the largest or richest state in the region, but its focus on rapid technological development had allowed it to punch above its weight diplomatically and, most importantly, in two wars with the varelvivi. Subir hoped to cement that edge into the next century. The Prossnakans became mainstays in Sedrin during Subir’s tenure, with several even taking on informal advisory roles to the Director-General. In 280, when their initial contract expired, Subir negotiated a new deal which included automatic renewals every ten years, keeping the Curator Order in the capital indefinitely.

Across the Void

While the bothrians honored the work that the Governance had undertaken to combat the refugee crisis in the past, in the present the situation was only growing worse. In the northeast quadrant, the saathids continued their campaigns of conquest and destruction through the 260s and 270s. In the early ‘60s, the arthropoids committed their most heinous act to date, invading the pre-FTL norillga civilization on the second planet orbiting the star Uiafladus and wiping out 90% of the three billion individuals living in late-industrial societies across the surface. Many of the norillga survivors, shell-shocked by their sudden thrust into the wider galaxy on top of the xenocide of their species, found their way to TUG space. As their former home was itself a jungle world, the norillga were offered large portions of the new colony of Kampira, on the jungle moon of Ussaldon III, for their own settlements. Over the subsequent years, as teams of psychologists from the helped the norillga cope with the trauma, the mollusk-like individuals would play a key role in taming the wild forests of the colony for widespread habitation.

The saathid rampage through the northeast quadrant found other targets as well. Some of these targets were able to meet the attacks with a stout defense: despite taking serious military losses, the Glorious Axis successfully repelled the universal enemy, and the Tezhnid Holy Foundation, while sacrificing several colonies to the invaders, was able to establish a defensive line protecting their core worlds in 272. Less lucky, or less capable, were the defenders of the Obevni Hegemony, who were comprehensively defeated by a saathid onslaught in 267. As the arthropoid navies advanced, the obevni fled their homes and spread throughout the galaxy, with every major empire absorbing at least a few million of the refugees. The TUG, in five waves through the ‘70s and ‘80s, took in six billion obevni. By far the largest recipient of these refugees, however, was the neighboring empire of the Tezhnids. Even if they had wanted to stop the inflow, the sheer number of exiles would have overwhelmed any civilian barrier. In order to stabilize the situation, the Holy Foundation took over administration of the rump state of the Hegemony and accepted the remaining colonies of the Hegemony into their defensive sphere.

RefugeesObevni.jpg

The obevni were among the many victims of the genocidal campaigns of the saathids.

Meanwhile, refugees from the Glorious Zaydran Hegemony streamed to the new colony of Nagrama. The zaydran state bordered the territory of the Avarrian Star Hunters, and the constant raids by the rapacious raptors turned the promise of the age of space exploration into an era of horror and death. These attacks culminated in the sack of Star’s Nest, the zaydran homeworld, in 261. Though the tide of destruction eventually receded when the avarrians turned their attention to wealthier targets, the Hegemony entered a downward spiral after it proved unable to protect its citizens. Corruption was endemic, and while the emperor made grand promises of recovery and the coming age of glorious revenge, billions of zaydrans took the opportunity to flee. Those who managed to make their way through avarrian lines found themselves in an unfriendly corner of the galaxy, as the other states [5] in the region did not want to offer an attractive home for individuals fleeing the failing states in their midst, lest they encourage even more migration. Some found their way to the north and the Galactic Commonwealth, where the fast-growing economy was seemingly always in need of new laborers to sustain its expansion. A large proportion fled south to Governance space, where the Director-General offered them the opportunity to settle on the new and developing colony of Nagrama.

In the southwest quadrant, a second hive-mind was emerging as a major power in the galaxy. The Jess’Inax Hive was as resolutely strange as Mandasura Prime, but far more expansionist in its behavior. The Jess’Inax emerged from their namesake homeworld at roughly the same time as the vailons developed FTL travel. [6] They demonstrated a singular focus on resource accumulation, bringing them into immediate conflict with their neighbors in the southwest quadrant. Their first target was the pelx-cradonians of Cradon. The Jess’Inax fleet, in their remorseless advance, overwhelmed the cradonian navy in 260 and captured Cradon. Faced with the loss of their home, the cradonian government fled to a remote system along the outer edge of the galaxy, reconstituting itself as a military commission led by the chief admiral of the navy. The citizens left behind faced the terrifying unknown of life under a hive mind, which turned out to be… being completely ignored. The drones used violence to clear out pelx-cradonians from areas they subsequently utilized, but as long as the natives stayed out of their way the drones engaged in no aggressive activities. Some individuals saw an opportunity to coexist, however uneasily, with the hive, but most recognized that the insatiable appetite of the Jess’Inax would eventually force them to leave or die. The pelx-cradonian exile occurred in waves, with separate groups arriving in the TUG in 274, 283, and 285.

In the northwest, one alliance deepened while another collapsed. Under the constant assault of simultaneous invasions by the khell’zen and the belmacosans, the Favorable Entente, the federation comprising of the democratic states of the Hythean Alliance and the Sathori Union, began to steadily retreat in the 260s. The two aggressive powers, meanwhile, reaped the fruits of their cooperation, slowly taking system after system from the determined, but outmatched, defenders. The democratic alliance managed to secure a truce in 267, giving themselves a respite from the onslaught. This only delayed the inevitable, however; the khell’zen and the belmacosans took the opportunity to establish bilateral institutions to cement their alliance, which they dubbed the Bright Entente. When war resumed in 271, the newly formed federation demonstrated its efficacy by dismantling the remaining defenses around the hythean core worlds in a lightning assault. Though the sathori defenders were able to hold out, the price of peace was high: the Hythean Alliance was formally partitioned between the two aggressors, while the Sathori Union was forced to surrender all of its border defenses. By the late 270s, the Bright Entente had emerged as one of the foremost powers in the galaxy. Their aggressive actions against their more peaceful neighbors only underlined the need for collective security toward which Subir’s diplomatic policy was oriented.

Diplomatic Entanglements

The newly formed alliance with the Cyggan Empire proved troublesome from the start. When the treaty was signed in January of 265, the cyggan ambassador provided assurances to the outgoing administration that the emperor would not make any consequential decisions without consulting with Telnik’s successor. However, the weakness of the varelvivi in the immediate aftermath of their war with the Governance proved to be too tempting of an opportunity for the aggressively expansionist Slugradeb. When the imperial ambassador came to the Director-General with the news that the cyggan fleet had crossed the border into VIS space, Telnik was so furious that he briefly considered expelling the envoy from the capital in retribution. In the end, however, the vailon knew how valuable the defensive pact with the cyggans was, and he agreed to tolerate the emperor’s indiscretions against the mutual enemy between the two countries. When Subir formally stepped into power in mid-year, she followed her predecessor’s policy in the matter, expressing her frustration with the unilateral cyggan aggression but ultimately declining to take any further action. The short war ended in 268, with VIS forces putting up minimal resistance after the beating they took during the Second Varelviv War. When the cyggan fleet blockaded the varelviv colony of Qeni-Ghirgaam in the Sauu system in 267, the Sovereign Navy was able to muster only a token force to counterattack the invaders. The battle, and the subsequent invasion of the planet, were closely watched by vailon military observers, keen to gather information about the nature of land-bound warfare in the era of interstellar space travel. The varelviv bought peace quickly after the colony was captured, surrendering several systems and a major defensive installation to the cyggans.

SiegeOfQeniGhirgaam.jpg

The brutality of the cyggan invasion of Qeni-Ghirgaam was a preview of things to come. Its rapidity was not.

Subir began her term of office with a confident and outward-looking diplomatic stance. Though their position was weak in some respects, as demonstrated by their inability to restrain their allies, the Governance had established its capabilities in the grueling but ultimately victorious war with the varelvivi; now, with a new Director-General, it would begin to throw its weight around in general astropolitics, building on the legacy of her popular predecessor. She was nobody’s idea of an idealist; she understood the hard-edged reality of diplomatic maneuvering. A coalition can only function if its members’ goals are aligned. With this in mind, Subir focused on enlisting partners for specific objectives. She articulated three major objectives, around which she organized her diplomatic efforts. These were each emerging as significant threats to stability in their respective regions: in the southeast quadrant were the Avarrian Star Hunters; in the southwest, the Jess’Inax Hive, and in the northeast, the Saathid Annihilators.

In the case of the avarrians, the Director-General successfully leveraged the vailons’ existing good relations with the other major powers of the southeast quadrant. Even as mere associates of the Glorious Axis, the TUG remained on very good terms with the mith-fell and the hissma, who together represented the strongest military force in the quadrant. Vailon appeals to the self-interest of the obevni, the zaydrans, and the rethellians, all of whom shared a border with the predatory raptors, were well heeded. Even Mandasura Prime contributed to the effort, though it stopped short of fully participating in the coalition. [7] The avarrian raiders that attacked colonies with regularity also menaced merchant vessels along shipping lanes throughout the region, the vast majority of which carried trade to, from, or within the Glorious Axis. The federation thus wound up providing the bulk of the interdiction forces. Scout ships patrolled the trade routes, while small and highly mobile strike forces waited at strategic anchorages to quickly counterattack any avarrian raids. And though the Glorious Axis was unwilling to contemplate a direct invasion of avarrian territory, [8] they did support the creation of a fund to support the zaydran effort to reconquer their homeworld, now little more than a charred husk after the sack but still an important symbol for their long struggle. For the zaydrans, this was an existential war seemingly without end; but, with the continued support of Subir’s coalition, they pressed in on the avarrians, finally delivering a crushing blow in 285 in the Battle of Xulbac’s Maw, which saw the destruction of most of the avarrian Star Fleet. Within a year, the avarrian government had effectively collapsed, and resistance had ceased in all but a few strongholds. By 288, even these holdouts had recognized the hopelessness of their positions and surrendered, and the scourge that was the Avarrian Star Hunters was no more.

To the galactic south, the Jess’Inax Hive proved a trickier foe to contain. Subir found it much more difficult to assemble a so-called coalition of the willing to check its advance in the region. The Hive was not overtly hostile to xeno life, as the cradonians discovered, lessening the threat as perceived by its neighbors and mitigating against the Director-General’s attempts to forge a coalition. Likely more important, however, was the dearth of long-term relationships for the TUG in the southwest quadrant. As hostile polities [9] had made the hyperlanes to the quadrant largely inaccessible to vailon explorers until mid-century at the earliest, and even now blocked travel by most civilian vessels, it had been impossible for earlier administrations to build connections as they had done in their home quadrant. As an additional impediment, the Hive began its expansion from the galactic rim, far away from most of the other spacefaring powers in the region. As a result, many of those neighbors underestimated the threat emanating from that corner of the galaxy right up until the moment their border stations were swarmed with drones.

Up to the 270s, the only major power to fall to a Jess’Inax invasion had been the pelx-cradonians, whose refugee crisis had its own major impact on the Governance, as we have seen. But the pelx-cradonian state was eventually able to stabilize itself in the as-yet unclaimed region of space in the very southern tip of the galaxy. The new military council leading the government recognized the necessity of seeking allies; faced with the loss of 90% of their previous territory, the cradonians knew they did not have the wherewithal to stand up to a renewed assault by the Jess’Inax on their own. For Subir, it was an opportunity to make inroads in the quadrant, and she directed her envoys to the cradonian administration to offer a broad array of support in exchange for an alliance. What the cradonians wanted, however, the Governance could not plausibly offer: direct military support in their ongoing conflict with the Hive. With the direct route blocked by the Qvefoz, it would take the Unified Navy five years to transit from the naval base at Con Viab to cradonian space, and that only by traveling through varelviv space. Such an action would leave the TUG dangerously exposed to attack by its own enemies. Talks of a vailon-cradonian alliance floundered on this basic geographic fact, and though Subir’s envoys would eventually lock down a number of smaller agreements on mutual assistance and trading rights, her dream of a long-term presence via a proxy in the region was dashed.

EthicsShiftCradonians.jpg

The Subir administration had hopes that the new cradonian government would be willing partners in the southwest quadrant. These hopes were dashed, quickly, once the cradonians learned the terms of such a partnership.

Meanwhile, another polity in the region was undergoing upheavals of its own. Though they did not themselves share a border with the Jess’Inax, the worker collectives of the Dabbax Solidarity looked on nervously as their neighbors were overwhelmed by the frightening power of the hive. More militant voices on Dabba Naxan began to make themselves heard, especially after the cradonian retreat finally left the dabbax with a border of their own with the Jess’Inax. In 273 this more militant faction seized power and started a major military buildup to protect the revolution. [10] Subir, at first, welcomed this development, and sent overtures to the new government to explore the possibility of cooperation. But these overtures were rebuffed; the new ruling cadre informed the vailon envoys that, notwithstanding the changing circumstances in the quadrant, the collectives would never ally themselves with corrupt counter-revolutionary states whose own revolution was inevitably coming soon. The Diplomatic Corps found this explanation dubious, pointing to the cadre’s productive dealings with the Glorious Axis. [11] The dabbax, it seemed, were willing to work with arch-capitalists, but only when they believed they could extract resources from them. The vision of cooperation in mutual interest that Subir espoused was fundamentally opposed to the zero-sum view of diplomacy that the communists held. This was disappointing for Subir, but she was able to take solace in the fact that at least one other power was taking the threat of the Jess’Inax seriously.

Subir found somewhat more success in her effort to contain the fanatically xenophobic saathids. A quirk of the hyperlane substructure left the arthropoids, who controlled the space wrapping around the eastern edge of the galactic core, with only one route to the main body of the southeast quadrant, which was heavily defended by the navies of the Glorious Axis. The hissma and the mith-fell remained alert to the threat, having only recently concluded a brutal war with their genocidal neighbors. With an uneasy truce holding along the border to the south, during the 260s and the 270s the saathids concentrated their energies in the northeast quadrant. After watching the beetle-like scourge rip through the inhabited colonies of the obevni, the ragerians of Aeria Husila feared they would be next. Very little love was lost between the current military junta on Aeria and their neighbors in the region; with good reason, none of the other powers wished to treat with a cabal of military officers who were the product of the fourth coup in fifty years; who was to say there wouldn’t be someone else in power in a few years? So even as the mirovandian and the tezhnid navies proved able to halt the saathid offensive in its tracks, both governments declined to guarantee aid to the ragerians when the saathids inevitably turned their guns on them. Despite her personal distaste for the current rulers on Aeria, not to mention state policy opposed to undemocratic seizures of power, Subir saw this as an opportunity to extend influence in the quadrant and hopefully check the saathid advance. Negotiating with the ragerians, the Director-General offered the assistance of the Unified Navy in the event of a saathid attack, promising to assemble a coalition of southeastern quadrant powers and create a southern front to split the saathid navy. In return, the ragerians agreed to several very favorable trade terms and accepted vailon military equipment to arm their own forces; they also agreed to host an important diplomatic outpost in their space, allowing Governance envoys easy access to the other major powers in the northeast quadrant.

It was an overlooked part of the galaxy, however, that demanded Subir’s attention for the second half of her term. For in late 273, even as the Director-General was locking down agreements with the ragerians and the zaydrans, the Seban Commonwealth declared war on the Cyggan empire, triggering automatic treaty obligations for mutual defense on the part of the TUG. The Governance was once again at war, this time to defend an unreliable ally against overt hostility from its historic rival.

DOWSebansCyggans.jpg

The Seban Commonwealth renewed their conflict with the Cyggan Empire in 273, much to the alarm of the Subir administration.



Footnotes

[1] Though Telnik’s administration never established the exact status of the vailons taken by the bothrians, legal precedence had come to treat them as de facto expatriates.
[2] To these questions, Telnik only sometimes received a response. The responses, moreover, were only occasionally responsive to the specific query. For instance, in 251 the Director-General transmitted a series of questions about vailon sexual relations with other species on Cradle (an important area of research for biologists and sociologists as the TUG became a multi-species polity). The subsequent report did not include any relevant data on sexual habits, cross-species DNA transfer, or procreation, but did contain various works of art by the vailon exiles under the section heading, “Studies in Multi-Special Relations.”
[3] Some of Subir’s aides interpreted this as a sign of respect and trust. Others guessed it was merely a sign of respect, believing that the yacht, however ‘diplomatic’ it was, was probably also armed to the teeth.
[4] Much to the disappointment of the thousands of individuals who gathered at the landing field to greet them, and the many others who planned to attend the subsequent events to catch a glimpse of the guests.
[5] Including those comprising the Glorious Axis.
[6] Indeed, as did most of the known interstellar-capable species of the galaxy, a puzzle that continues to confound the best scientists in the Governance.
[7] Subir would have welcomed their support, but the mith-fell rejected the idea out of hand. Its contribution was thus limited to patrolling sectors directly bordering its territory, and small but crucial donations of resources.
[8] Most of their naval forces were tied down in ongoing operations to monitor the saathid border, as well as a flare-up of hostilities with Mandasura Prime.
[9] The varelvivi and the qvefoz straddled the only two access points to the west.
[10] As it turned out, their conception of “protection” was offensive in nature. The new government attacked the overextended Hive in the late 270s, seizing the former cradonian core worlds in the name of the revolution.
[11] The dabbax were eventually granted associate status with the federation in 275.
 
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[10] As it turned out, their conception of “protection” was offensive in nature. The new government attacked the overextended Hive in the late 270s, seizing the former cradonian core worlds in the name of the revolution.
The best defence is an offence, that must be a superior argument when winning!
 

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Always engaging to find the ancient ones! And I do sometimes get perturbed when the AI declares war on one of my allies when I'm not really looking or in the mood for war. Oh well.

This bodes well for the future though! A rivalry renewed and an ally's usefulness now to be fully revealed. Can't wait to see what happens next.
 

generalis Julius Caesar

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Nice job!
 
Interlude - Reception

eoncommander

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Quemar Hall
Sedrin
Tebazed, Tebazed Unified Governance
February 2, 273


A murmur of excitement bubbled up in the room behind Jargim. It provided a welcome distraction from the interminable Confederacy ambassador, droning on about his youthful indiscretions on the pithok homeworld of Thokkia. Glancing around, she quickly discovered its genesis: the delegation from the Galactic Commonwealth, currently descending the grand staircase into the main reception hall, dressed in all the fineries of their respective stations. Jargim, too, was dressed for the occasion; but in contrast to mirovandian customs, vailon philosophy dictated only the addition of a status-sash over regular, everyday wear. In their own way, the hosts of this interstellar, multispecies gathering stood out, plain, flat outfits against the backdrop of beautiful silks, extravagant appendages, gleaming jewels. But the mirovandians displayed such grandeur and magnificence as to overshadow all of the other guests. Three attachés led the way in front of the ambassador. Each were dressed in a robe hand-woven of the finest synth-fabrics, with colors defining their ranks. On the left, the yellow of the brightest juja flower catching the sunlight at midday, signifying the attainment of an advanced education in the physical sciences. On the right, an icy blue that the vailons knew only from the northern reaches of Hemberar but a common sight on the tundras of Mirovandia Prime, representing accomplishment in the military arts. And in the center, gray like the stormy seas of the great ocean, but closer in its likeness for the way it seemed to roil with the shadows of waves, a hue only awarded to the highest achievers in technological entrepreneurship. The ambassador himself wore robes shimmering with greens and golds and reds, assigned to the station of plenipotentiary representative of the Galactic Commonwealth in the wider galaxy. It was a stunning assemblage.

Her colleagues in the Diplomacy Directory had probably grown accustomed to these ostentatious displays, but they would always feel a little strange to Jargim. Vailon cultures tended to eschew elaborate rituals around contact with outsiders; and yet, it was abundantly clear that this was a common feature for sentient life. She was sure that the diplomatic corps underwent extensive training to prepare themselves for such rites, but Jargim felt uncomfortable simply wearing her status-sash on the few formal occasions in which she was forced to participate as Science Director. She considered herself lucky that her work kept her away from these types of receptions most of the time.

She used to be able to avoid these receptions completely, under the previous Director-General. She had come up under Telnik as a staff aide; they remained close until his death. The new boss – still “new” to Jargim despite being halfway through her term – believed in the power of ceremony, and she required all of her top administrators to participate in them. When Subir, during the transition, had asked Jargim to stay on as head of the Science Directory, it had been the one condition she imposed on Jargim in exchange for complete autonomy in her day-to-day responsibilities.

“Jargim den Vathrag!”

Jargim whirled upon hearing her name. “Gesso!” Maybe, on occasion, these events did have their perks. “I didn’t know you’d be here; I would’ve looked for you!”

Gesso had’Muld smiled and tipped his horns in acknowledgement. Unlike the vailon mannerism, which would have dictated tilting one’s horns towards the other party, for ragerians the accepted motion was a swift dip to the right. It still jarred Jargim a little bit, seeing the vailon sign for revulsion from an individual so like the natives of Tebazed that the differences between the two – ragerians were on average slightly taller, their horns thinner and more elongated, their individual furs much finer – were virtually indistinguishable to the naked eye. Diplomats from every species across the galaxy trained for years to avoid any physical mannerisms in their body language, to avoid giving accidental insult to a xeno whose own languages and customs varied wildly. But neither Jargim nor Gesso were diplomats, in the formal sense.

“It was a last-minute change to our delegation. I’m on rotation at the Kan Jukla embassy; someone got sick and I got tapped to take his slot.”

Jargim turned back to the group and said, “Excuse me, but I’ve just bumped into an old friend, I’m going to step away for a bit.” Turning back to Gesso, they began to walk.

“How long have you been stationed on Kan Jukla?”

“Six months,” Gesso admitted.

“Six months! Why didn’t you contact me? I have plenty of occasion to find myself in the Commonwealth for a visit.”

“I didn’t want to bother you. Listen – is there somewhere we can talk?”

Jargim looked around. “Rooms upstairs are probably empty, we can borrow one.”

“Somewhere away from prying eyes.”

Jargim considered her old friend. “I know a place, a couple of blocks away. Barkeeper is a friend; he keeps a bottle of Lauganah stashed away for me.”

Gesso nodded at the suggestion. Jargim steered them over to the master of ceremonies, whom she informed that they were stepping out for a while. The master gave her assent, only reminding her that she needed to be back in time for the formal opening of the summit.

Twenty minutes later the pair were sitting in a secluded banquette in the back corner of the bar, a tall, thin bottle of bright blue liquor from the highlands of Hasar between them. It had been their drink of choice, back when Gesso had been the chief scientific liaison at the Aerian embassy in Sedrin; it was still Jargim’s drink of choice.

“We can talk here,” the vailon said quietly to her companion.

“Can we? Your foreign ministry is only four blocks away. There’s a Labor Directorate office just across the street.”

“One of the reasons I like the place: nobody comes here. Not from the administration, and not from the press either.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Look around you.” The table, veneered wood, had a large crack through the center. A haze from an unidentified source dimmed the ceiling. Of the lights hanging over the bar, two were out and the shade of a third was sliced in half. A vaguely unpleasant smell hung in the air. “This place is a dump. I come here because nobody else I know does.”

“Why?”

Jargim sighed. “Sometimes I need to get away from people.”

“So you come to a bar and drink alone.”

“I bring work."

“Oh, sure.” Gesso let out a low chuckle. “That’s so much better.”

“What else should I be doing with my time?”

It was Gesso‘s turn to sigh in exasperation. “I didn’t come here to argue with you.”

“Okay.” Jargim was upset. She hadn’t asked to have a private conversation, dredge up old emotions. She didn’t want to do that work right now. “Then just tell me why we’re here.”

Gesso nodded, took a long drink from his glass. “I was a last-minute addition to the delegation, but not because someone got sick.”

“I figured that out,” Jargim observed.

Her friend ignored her. “We actually bumped our Intelligence Minister from the summit, incidentally, if you want to know how important my mission is. He’s cooling his horns in a resort on Hissom.”

“And doing so in the height of luxury, I presume.”

“Presumably, yes.” Here Gesso paused. Jargim considered encouraging him to speak but decided to remain silent. She suspected that she would not like what he had to say. He would have to work up the courage on his own.

“I’ll get right to it, then,” Gesso continued. “My government has been lying about the Belvares Maelstrom.”

Jargim perked up.

“The data we have given you has been falsified,” the ragerian admitted. “The truth is… far stranger that we have let on.”

“We knew that much ourselves. Why have you been lying?”

“It’s hard for us to trust anyone. Everyone else we have met has been hostile to our regime.” Gesso finished his glass, poured himself another. “Or it’s fear of the unknown. Desires to monopolize the information for our own benefit. A deep-seated suspicion of outsiders. Who knows why, really?”

“Be serious.”

“Fine.” A pause, as he took another gulp of the Lauganah. “We didn’t know – still don’t know – what to make of it. The implications are crazy, and scary. How can a black hole call out scientists by name? How can that message have existed from before the birth of our species? It shouldn’t be possible, but there it is.”

Jargim nodded. This story conformed with the Science Directorate’s modeling, far more so than the original data sent from Aeria. Three times, vailon science ships had ventured to the position of the Horizon Signal, searching for the source of the messages from The Worm. And three times, the ships had disappeared, after transmitting wondrous and inexplicable sensor readings back to Tebazed.

“My researchers are also frightened by the implications, not to mention the loss of life. But also, curious to a degree I have never seen. Even when I assign other projects, they all find themselves drawn back to the Belvares data. They can’t even really explain why.” Jargim paused before continuing. “But, why keep that from us? We are your only friends in this galaxy.”

“It’s hard to explain.”

Jargim had a flash of insight. “You thought it was personal. You thought you were chosen for a reason.” Gesso didn’t respond, so Jargim continued. “You were afraid that, if we were experiencing the same phenomena that you were, that it meant that you weren’t special. That the Worm’s love wasn’t for you alone.”

“For us it’s not a worm,” Gesso admitted. “For us, it’s the Spider.” But he didn’t deny Jargim’s theory.

The pair fell into silence. Jargim settled back into the booth, holding her glass. She wondered how many ragerians had ventured towards the signal beckoning them towards the black hole, how many individuals had disappeared in their thirty-year search for the origin point, as had happened to several dozens of her own colleagues in their initial contact with the Signal. She wondered, too, how many of her friends would still be alive, if the ragerians had shared their experiences sooner. Which brought her back to the present circumstances.

She asked, “Why are you telling me this now?”

“It was decided that keeping all this a secret was untenable.” Jargim looked at him quizzically. Gesso, so prompted, continued, “We analyzed our own behavior, and concluded that, were our positions reversed, we would have invaded you within six months of learning you might be keeping information of this nature from us. The Spider would have compelled us to. We marveled at your restraint so far, but we couldn’t count on it continuing.”

“But why me? Why like this?

The ragerian spoke hesitantly. “There are some things for which an ambassador goes to speak to the foreign minister and conveys an official message. And there are some things which… can’t be done that way.”

Jargim let out a snort. That didn’t make any sense. “What does that even mean?”

“There are lots of people on Aeria who are upset with the archon’s policies. He’s becoming paranoid, sees conspiracies around every corner.”

“Small wonder, with your propensity for violent coups.”

Gesso let the comment pass. “The project is still a state secret, and he’s afraid that a rival might use that as an excuse to seize power.”

“So he approached me to help him with his political problem?”

I told him you could be trusted.”

“Ah.” Jargim now understood a little better. “You don’t trust our diplomatic corps.”

“How could he?” Gesso was referring to the archon. “The tezhnid turned their nostrils up; the zaydrans betrayed our trust; the mirovandians have only ever attempt to take advantage of our misfortune.” A litany of neighboring powers unfriendly to the ragerians, but not without their reasons, Jargim thought; who would want to support such an unstable regime? Only the vailons.

We have signed several treaties with your archon, even as others shied away.” Jargim paused to sip on her drink. “Surely that counts for something.”

Gesso shook his head. “You know as well as I that those agreements were forced on your professional diplomats by your political leadership. They would happily undermine the relationship if given the chance.”

Jargim didn’t respond. Her friend was correct, of course, but it would do no good to admit it out loud.

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Take this.” Gesso produced a data disk from a pocket and slid it across the table. “Bring it to your boss.”

Jargim picked up the device, turned it over in her hand. “That’s not much of a plan.”

“Why?

“Subir and I… don’t have the best relationship, you could say.”

“You’re in her cabinet. She’s kept you on all these years.”

“We have an arrangement.” The vailon swirled her drink. “But I’m not her favorite councillor.”

Gesso waved a hand. “It doesn’t matter. You just have to meet with her.”

“And tell her what? This isn’t a show of good faith; you people don’t do that kind of thing.”

Her friend frowned, uncertain of her meaning. “Ragerians?”

“Politicians.”

“Ah.” Gesso seemed hurt by the insinuation. He downed the last sip of the Lauganah in his glass and poured himself another. “Fine. I accept the charge,” he said, as he took another swig. But he didn’t respond to Jargim’s question.

“Come on. The archon must want something from Subir.”

The ragerian sighed. “Okay.” He leaned forward and tapped the data disk. “This is just a preview. An actual show of good faith.”

“Of course. It’s too much data to be put on a single disk. I knew that much.”

Gesso continued. “In exchange for unfettered access to our data, both historical and live sensor streams, on the Belvares Maelstrom, the archon wants Subir to commit to a formal alliance.”

Jargim sat back. “That’s a big ask.”

“We’re giving up a lot.”

“According to you.” Jargim knew her boss well enough to know what her response would be.

“And according to you,” Gesso retorted. He also knew the score. “You’ll have to make her understand.”

Jargim was not enjoying this. “I don’t think you get it. She doesn’t listen to me. We have an arrangement: I support her in public, and I don’t rock the boat. In return, I don’t have to be involved in politics, in any of it. I try very hard to keep it that way.”

“Look, vousaich,” he replied, using the ragerian word for an intimate. “I wouldn’t be asking you if I didn’t think the deal was worth it for both of us.” Jargim was skeptical, but she let Gesso continue. “We’ve got four decades worth of data from our expeditions. That must be tempting.”

Tempting for Jargim, perhaps, but for the administration? “Thankfully, I’m not the one who has to make decisions like that,” she said, unsure if she was responding to Gesso or her own thoughts. She downed the last of her Lauganah and placed her glass gently on the table. “But I’ll take it to Subir, and, for whatever it’s worth, I’ll recommend she make the deal.”

“Good.”

“But know that her actual decision will be based on political considerations, not on my word.”

“I understand.”

“Alright.” Neither said anything for a moment. Jargim wondered if Gesso was feeling any regrets for using their relationship for crass political ends. She wondered if Gesso thought they had a relationship at all anymore.

She said, after a while, “I think it’s time for me to be getting back.”

Gesso nodded and gulped down the rest of his own drink. “Sure. You have to appear on a stage, or something.”

“Yeah.”

Jargim stood, and Gesso followed suit. “There’s one more thing you should know,” he said.

“What’s that?”

“The Spider’s latest message was for me.”

Jargim was stunned. “What did it say?”

Gesso adjusted his jacket. “It said, ‘Embrace the center of the web, and its limits,’ followed by a date and time.”

“When?”

“Six months from now. And before you ask, I am planning on going.”

Jargim didn’t respond right away. She was at a loss for words. Finally, she found her voice. “I’m so sorry.”

“Why? It’s an honor.”

“You’re not scared?”

“No.” Gesso reached out to touch Jargim’s left horn, a gesture of reassurance. “I feel this compulsion, as if I have no choice in the matter. I am… content with that.”

He turned to go. “You coming?” he asked over his shoulder. Jargim stood, rooted to the spot, for a moment, before she remembered to follow him back to the reception.
 

eoncommander

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And we're back! I want first to thank everyone for their patience; writing for me has always been, and likely always will be, very slow. Second, as you'll see, we have arrived at another interlude (I've decided to refer to my interstitial short stories as interludes, and have updated the threadmarks to reflect that). This one takes place almost at the precise moment we left off in the main narrative, but is merely tangential to it - and, I'll emphasize, not necessarily a preview of things to come ;).

The next chapter will kick off an era of conflict, with the Governance at war for 37 of the next 41 years. It's a time of change for the vailons, as they grow into something more than a minor regional power and, at the same time, experience a major internal demographic shift. I'll still be covering the same amount of ground per chapter (roughly five years per installment, as I look back), so we will be in this era for quite a while.
 

slothinator

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Great to hear that you're back!
I always love these little interludes, they really make your world come alive. It's fun to see how different the cultures are despite their phenotypical similarities.
I also really love your twist on the spider. It's going to be a wild ride!
 

Nikolai

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And we're back! I want first to thank everyone for their patience; writing for me has always been, and likely always will be, very slow. Second, as you'll see, we have arrived at another interlude (I've decided to refer to my interstitial short stories as interludes, and have updated the threadmarks to reflect that). This one takes place almost at the precise moment we left off in the main narrative, but is merely tangential to it - and, I'll emphasize, not necessarily a preview of things to come ;).

The next chapter will kick off an era of conflict, with the Governance at war for 37 of the next 41 years. It's a time of change for the vailons, as they grow into something more than a minor regional power and, at the same time, experience a major internal demographic shift. I'll still be covering the same amount of ground per chapter (roughly five years per installment, as I look back), so we will be in this era for quite a while.
Good to see you back! :)
 
Chapter Eighteen - The Varelviv Question

eoncommander

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The War

The Seban Commonwealth invaded the Cyggan Empire in December 273. Honoring the defensive pact with the cyggans presented the Director-General with a problem. The main hyperlane route from vailon to cyggan space ran straight through the heart of varelviv territory. While the Treaty of 264 allowed for limited amounts of civilian travel through their systems, a war fleet was clearly outside the scope of the agreement. Subir’s attempts to negotiate with the new varelviv overlord, Hoggagha II, [1] were immediately met with a hostile retort, complete with the promise of vengeance on any persons who violated their territorial sovereignty. For the first twelve months of the war, then, the Governance could only step up its shipments of military aid to the cyggans while the Diplomatic Corps continued to negotiate with the intransigent varelvivi. In the meantime, the Unified Navy took advantage of this period to retrofit its ships with the latest reactors and weapons systems, and its officer corps absorbed the inaugural class of graduates from the first-of-its-kind space combat academy located at Con Viab. The fleet also had a new admiral, Jargim den Vatoris, who took command following the untimely demise of Modrig den Harak in 273. [2] With loans and shipments of resources continuing to flow, the cyggan Imperial Navy was able to stand its ground against the first wave of seban attacks on its defensive line along the northwest border of the empire.

Throughout 274 and into the following year, Subir continued to negotiate with the varelvivi. But Hoggagha appeared to take a special joy in stringing along the vailon envoys sent to Viverva, hinting at compromises in one session only to kick them out of the imperial palace the next. The Director-General, though frustrated by the lack of progress, was unwilling to alter course; and as calls for Subir to change her policy intensified in the Assembly and even in her inner circle of advisors, she only dug her heels in further. But by mid-year 275, it was clear even to Subir that further negotiations would only be a waste of time, especially after the overlord, seemingly daring the administration to act, suddenly announced the closure of the VIS border to all Governance traffic in July. With this last blow to the possibility of a peaceful settlement, Subir finally admitted the necessity of the use of force to find a solution. In August, with the fleet upgrades completed, Task Force Mirasma set out from its base at Con Viab towards the VIS bastion in the Bihjall system.

Subir maintained communications with the Supreme Palace on Viverva right up to, and indeed beyond, the moment TF Mirasma launched its assault on Starbase Bihjall. Even as laser blasts began to wear away at the station’s armor, she still held out hope of finding a diplomatic solution. But Hoggagha relished renewed war and a chance to take revenge on behalf of their parent Spagruum and their people, and they had mobilized the Sovereign Navy earlier in the year. TF Mirasma overwhelmed the defenses at Bihjall and occupied the starbase by the end of 276; within a month of the new year varelviv bombs were falling on the Governance defenses at Prothon, along the border with the core VIS systems.

TF Mirasma replenished its stores at the occupied station and set sail to counterattack the enemy. The vailon defenders at Prothon held out for several months, but with food supplies low they finally surrendered in early July. The varelvivi barely had time to occupy the captured station, let alone conduct major repairs on their damaged fleet, before TF Mirasma arrived in-system on the 14th. Though the VIS force attempted to flee, TF Mirasma gave chase, eventually running them down near the edge of the system. The resulting battle was a bloodbath. 41 vailon ships, including eight destroyers, faced off against 54 varelvivi ships, fourteen destroyers and 40 corvettes, but the TUG had a decisive edge in firepower, shielding, and, thanks to the new naval academy, training. The task force destroyed four varelviv destroyers and 24 corvettes, in exchange for only four corvettes of its own. The defeat crippled the VIS war machine, whose shipbuilding industry could not make good the losses, and was a clear signal that the varelvivi would not be able to put up any serious resistance to an invasion this time.

BattleofProthon.jpg

The Battle of Prothon was chaotic, but the superior technology and discipline of the Governance forces proved decisive.

SeafallenCruiser.jpg

The newest addition to the Governance fleet would always stand out from vailon designs.
The early part of the war also featured the shakedown cruise of the recently discovered Seafallen Cruiser, which promised to be a powerful addition to the Unified Navy. A hydrothermal exploratory team stumbled upon the crash site of the ancient ship on the ocean floor near the north pole of Kampira in March 274. Though its size presented a challenge, a joint project between the Science Directorate and the Labor Directorate successfully raised the alien vessel from the depths and towed it to the fleet shipyards at Con Viab, where naval engineers attempted to discern whether the ship could be retrofitted for combat. While some parts of the ship would remain resolutely alien, the teams of researchers were able to identify most of the key systems and adapt them to vailon use, and the cruiser was inducted into the Unified Navy in 278. The ship was pressed into service quickly, conducting independent operations against isolated outposts in the border cluster over the course of the next two years. During these missions, its crew got a taste for the firepower of their new ship, which greatly outstripped anything currently in the fleet. Its worth and capabilities now proven, the Seafallen Cruiser joined the main body of the fleet in time for its final push on the varelviv capital.

TF Mirasma’s invasion of the varelviv core had begun in 277. Over two years, the fleet proceeded to capture the uninhabited and lightly defended systems around the edge of the core cluster of the VIS. Three separate counterattacks at Ebrxinda resulted in significant damage for the cobbled-together varelviv fleets but only minor delays for the task force. By the end of 278, the vailon position was secure, and the task force had only to wait for the Seafallen Cruiser to join up in mid-279 for the final invasion of the VIS core worlds. But even with overwhelming superiority, Admiral Vatoris moved cautiously. In phase one of Operation Mandible, the task force attacked the starbase at Vijimar, drawing varelviv resources away from Viverva to reinforce Qeni-Habraal in that system. Two counterattacks were beaten off, in September and October, and by the end of the month the vailons were in control of the system. The second phase saw the task force bypass the colony at Qeni-Habraal in favor of a direct assault on the varelviv capital in the Ava-Fobb system. By February 280, Governance forces had occupied the Sovereign Fleet headquarters orbiting the star and blockaded the system, with the main body of the task force settling in for a protracted siege of Viverva.

For the next 34 months, the fleet invested the varelviv capital, targeting military facilities and carefully avoiding civilian casualties with its bombardment. With the navy thus occupied, the administration had few forces available when they were suddenly faced with a new conflict and the defense of another ally. In December 280, the saathids suddenly and without warning invaded Aerian space, threatening the fragile ragerian state with annihilation. The other civilized states in the neighborhood issued formal denunciations of the invasion but otherwise made no moves to defend the ragerians, preferring not to put their own citizens at risk. Instead, it was left to the Governance alone to come to their aid. Unfortunately for the archon and his people, all the administration could offer in the short term was financial assistance; military aid could take a year to reach the northeast quadrant, and a diversionary invasion of the southern reaches of saathid space was even further off, with the Unified Navy in the midst of its campaign against the varelvivi. Subir’s communications to the archon reaffirmed their alliance, but she could offer little more than reassurances until the conclusion of the conflict on the Governance’s own border.

As the calendar flipped to 283, the end appeared near. After the protracted siege and orbital bombardment campaign, the Unified Ground Forces [see appendix] finally put boots on the ground in late November. Twenty-one armies landed on Viverva and quickly overwhelmed what remained of the varelviv defenders. Within weeks, vailon units were in control of most of their strategic objectives, and six divisions were rapidly closing in on the imperial palace complex on the outskirts of the capital city. After decades of propaganda about the vailon barbarians, mass exoduses of varelvivi from cities to the countryside occurred in nearly every region, creating chaos for the invaders, who were under strict instructions to avoid civilian casualties, and preventing a smooth and organized takeover of the planet. The chaos also had the side effect of allowing the escape of Overlord Hoggagha and their entourage, who were able to flee not just from the rapidly advancing UGF but from the system entirely, evading the blockade and linking up with the remnants of the Sovereign Navy in the Sauu system. Though Viverva was declared secure in February, Hoggagha’s escape ensured the war would drag on.

The respite for the varelviv leadership turned out to be temporary. In July, TF Mirasma tracked down the overlord’s flotilla and nearly wiped it out, with only a few ships, along with Hoggagha themself, escaping to the neighboring Cador system. In October, the end finally came; on the third attempt, Admiral Vatoris was successful in capturing the fleeing autocrat and putting an end to varelviv resistance. Hoggagha, bowing to the inevitable, acquiesced to an armistice and, on December 15, formally abdicated the throne of the VIS. It would be left to the occupying forces to steer the varelvivi people into a new age of liberty.

PeaceVIS3rd.jpg

Overlord Hoggagha II abdicated their throne on December 15, 283, bringing to a close an era of hostility between the varelvivi and the vailons.

The Peace

The abdication of Hoggagha II was just one part of Subir’s emerging plans for a postwar settlement with the empire. As soon as Viverva was declared free of enemy forces in February 283, Governance administrators descended on the planet to rebuild varelviv society from the ground up. All vestiges of the slaving economy were swept away; former slaves could choose between returning to their original communities or becoming fully fledged citizens in the new polity set to be born from the ashes of the VIS. While some, mostly those captured in the last several years and thus with recent memories of their homeworlds, chose the former option, the vast majority opted to participate in their remaking of their current circumstances. Until the overlord could be made to abdicate, however, the governing of the former VIS was carried out on an interim basis, with a vailon occupying authority working in concert with local officials. The extant central bureaucracy was completely dismantled, and the slaving guild was abolished; anyone associated with the former government would be permanently excluded from administration posts.

Once the overlord signed the armistice and formally abdicated in November, the occupying authority was able to begin the process of reestablishing local sovereignty. To start, elections would be held for a Constituent Assembly, whose primary task would be the writing of a new constitution. With vailon envoys spread throughout the several varelviv colonies as monitors, elections were held throughout the month, and the first representational varelviv government in centuries was sworn in on December 11. The Constituent Assembly’s first act was to give its new state a new name: the Irenic Varelviv Mandate. For the following weeks, with guidance from political and constitutional experts from the Governance, the Constituent Assembly created a set of legal frameworks for the new polity, emphasizing democratic accountability and the securing of the rights of the citizenry.

It was during the debate over the citizenship clause, one of the last articles to be written, that cracks began to show in the façade. An early draft of the clause mirrored the language found in the Governance’s own constituent documents, granting unrestricted citizen rights to any individual born within the borders of the state, and a pathway to full rights to any immigrant who so desired. When the section was read before the full assembly, however, many of the varelvivi present were outraged. The proposed clause, while perhaps befitting a society of vailons curious about the universe and welcoming to all, ran counter to all of varelviv culture and history. This faction, presented with the argument that their history need not dictate their future, [3] began to attack the continued presence of the occupation authorities at the deliberations, asking why Governance officials should dictate the shape of the new government the varelvivi were trying to build for themselves. With the deliberations growing more heated and many representatives threatening to walk out, the vailon minders backed down. A clause with more limited terms for citizenship was introduced and passed by an overwhelming margin, and the nascent varelviv state took a decisive turn away from the model of its patron.

The debate over the citizenship clause was a harbinger of things to come. Once the new varelviv government was sworn in, Subir began negotiations over the future relationship between the two neighboring, and now ostensibly friendly, states. The first coordinator, a former scientist by the name of Daggatuum, was eager to sign every commercial and research pact that the vailon ambassador put in front of them – the varelviv economy needed whatever help it could get to rebuild after the occupation – but they refused to sign any documents committing the Mandate to a formal alliance with the Governance. Daggatuum, and their government in the new assembly, wanted to avoid interstellar entanglements in order to pursue their own ambitions in making and remaking varelviv society. The ambassador was forced to settle for mere articles of friendship and cooperation in lieu of a military alliance.

Subir had successfully ended the threat that the varelvivi posed to the Governance, but it proved to be something of a bittersweet victory. After the initial battles proved the superiority of the Governance forces, she could have negotiated a truce with the former overlord, allowing TF Mirasma to provide support to the beleaguered cyggans to the west. Instead, mission creep took over, and the Third Varelviv War morphed into a war to overthrow the VIS government. But this single-minded focus on the near threat exposed the Governance’s allies to extreme dangers of their own.


Footnotes
[1] Spagruum I had died in 267, passing the throne to their offspring.
[2] The exact circumstances of his demise remained a closely guarded secret. In the absence of a confirmed story, rumors abounded throughout Governance space, including the possibility that Harak was alive and well and in hiding somewhere in an out-of-way system.
[3] For what else was the point of the entire endeavor?
 
Appendix - The Unified Ground Force

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Interstellar conflicts in the third century were dominated by space combat, but ground-based warfare still had an important role to play in seizing and occupying planetary colonies. The Governance’s own Unified Ground Forces traces its history to the early days of the First Varelviv War. A season of panic and chaos followed Spagruum’s declaration of war in 224; it was widely believed that varelviv bombs would be falling on the capital within a month. Though this proved not to be the case, the Vakor administration recognized their unpreparedness for an invasion and took emergency measures to fortify the vailon colonies. Calls went out on each of Tebazed, Eldetha, and Varba, for volunteers to join local militia organizations, which would be the last line of defense against the slavers. To the relief of all, the militias never had to prove their worth, as six months of a phony war allowed the Unified Navy to organize its own forward defenses and prevent the varelvivi from breaking through once they finally began their assault. With the entirety of the conflict taking place in the border cluster between the inhabited sectors of the two polities, the militias languished, underfunded and undermanned for their primary objective, for the duration of the war.

In light of the success of the Unified Navy in preventing a varelviv invasion of the core worlds, after the war the Admiralty Board retained the principle authority to provide for the defense of the Governance. Only a few military strategists believed that a professional ground force would be a relevant part of future wars, and these advisors were relegated to the outskirts of the planning community. However, during their long exile, these individuals put together a coherent plan for a future Unified Defense Force, built around a small nucleus of professional soldiers, who would be supplemented by reservists and volunteers during wartime. Understanding that planetary defenses would inevitably be overwhelmed by an enemy who controlled the near-space environment, they developed a doctrine that focused on defense-in-depth around key strategic points, with the intent to delay an invasion until the Unified Navy could come to their rescue. With the Admiralty in charge of the military establishment, however, the so-called ground-pounders were ignored, even frowned upon for wasting their energies on a dead-end area of military strategy.

It took renewed war with the varelvivi to focus the minds of the Admiralty on the actual practical problems of planetary warfare. This was a boon for the interwar army advocates, many of whom were promoted as plans for a formal ground force were put into motion. The naval officers, however, wanted to move beyond the limited conception of a ground defense force tasked with protecting key installations in the exigent circumstances of an enemy invasion. Their own war plans foresaw the possibility of an invasion of the varelviv home cluster, and simulations suggested that protracted bombardment would not be able to dislodge determined defenders or force a surrender on its own. A ground invasion would be necessary to create the conditions for a Governance victory. This generated some friction with the old army advocates, whose vision for a defensive force excluded the possibility of offensive actions. In many ways, these original architects of the UGF were the inheritors of the utopian traditions of vailon culture, believers in the utility of argumentation over and above the violent application of arms. Unfortunately for them, their ideas were subsumed by the modernist military leadership of mid-century administrations, who sought a more aggressive role for the TUG in galactic affairs and wanted to build the apparatus of power projection. That their plans for the Second Varelviv War were wildly optimistic did not prevent their vision for a professional ground force from becoming reality.

The official founding of the UGF occurred on May 12, 253, in the early days of the SVW, as a specialized branch of the Unified Navy. In the first year, three divisions of troops were recruited on Eldetha, with plans in motion to train a further twelve divisions by 257, the earliest date an invasion of a varelviv colony could be considered. As the war took shape in the second half of the decade, however, it became clear that no such invasion of the VIS core would be possible, and recruitment was slowed. These units were kept separate from the existing colonial militias, whom the Admiralty still relied on for planetary defense. It wasn’t until the late 260s and the end of the war that the militia units were formally incorporated into the slowly growing UGF, though they would remain a separate branch with completely separate command structures. The heart of the UGF remained the professional corps of soldiers, which in the 270s grew to encompass ten divisions and over 150,000 personnel in total.

Without first-hand knowledge of ground combat, the UGF’s ability to prepare for actual battles was limited, so the Admiralty initiated a program to send observers to battlefields across the quadrant. Individuals embedded with cyggan and mith-fell forces as they participated in invasions on several planets. During the Cyggan-Varelviv War of 265-268, a team of 120 individuals, a mix of army and navy officers as well as civilians from the Military Applications section of the Science Directory, traveled through VIS space to observe the siege of Qeni-Ghirgaam in the Sauu system. A six-month bombardment preceded the invasion, clearing the way for 98 divisions of the imperial army to land in October 267. The Governance observers embedded with the cyggan forces witnessed the destruction that orbital munitions could wreak on the surface; imperial ships, while generally targeting military installations and hardened facilities, blasted away without much regard for the accuracy of their fire, resulting in the deaths of millions and reducing many cities and towns to rubble. The observers also witnessed how entrenched defenders were easily flanked and destroyed by attackers who could be transported across and around battlefields at will, a lesson the UGF would take to heart as it developed its own doctrine for planetary invasions.

Still, on the eve of the Third Varelviv War the Admiralty’s ground doctrine was still in its infancy. It was during this third conflict with the slaving empire that the UGF would come into its own as a fighting force. In the first days of the invasion, as the Unified Navy advanced into varelviv space, it quickly became clear that this time the varelvivi would not be able to resist the Governance fleet. The UGF threw itself into preparations for an invasion of Viverva, updating preliminary plans prepared two decades earlier during the SVW and launching a recruiting drive to expand the force from a mere ten divisions – far too few to maintain an occupation of a planet of some 40 billion inhabitants – to 105, organized into 21 ‘dragoons’ of five divisions each. The recruitment drive featured two parallel tracks. First, the Labor Directory was instructed to encourage more young individuals recently out of cohort to apply for postings with the UGF. Second, the UGF itself established a recruitment office and set up branches in every major city in the Governance. With both of these channels active from the beginning of the war, by 282 the UGF was able to count nearly 1.7 million personnel in its ranks.

The 21 dragoons that invaded Viverva in 282 were commanded by a young mith-fell general who took the official name Plume of Teal. Cwaar was born to immigrant parents on Varba in 241, and was thus a natural-born citizen of the TUG, among the first generation of xenos to claim that birthright. After a few years as an industrial worker on her homeworld, she signed up for the nascent professional army in 264, mere weeks before the end of the SVW. Having missed out on that particular conflict, she dedicated herself to advancing through the ranks in time for the next war, which she was certain through her feathers would come sooner rather than later. With the UGF starved for high quality individuals – the most talented military minds tended to choose to serve in the much more prestigious Unified Navy – Cwaar stood out for her competence and charisma. Her assignments included a position on the general staff, helping to shape the emerging doctrine on ground combat, and she was one of the few officers in the UGF to have actual combat experience, earned during a tour of duty with the anti-slavery patrol in the border cluster. A general by the age of 35, and in command of an entire corps at 38, she was an obvious choice to lead the Governance armies in the field during the invasion.

The armies led by Plume of Teal followed a doctrine that had been thoroughly developed during the years of peacetime but never tested until the Battle of Viverva. UGF divisions consisted of a mix of light and heavy infantry; heavy infantry units were typically outfitted with a variety of powered exoskeleton systems, granting them greater firepower than their light infantry counterparts but generally limiting their mobility in combat. For fire support the army remained reliant on naval forces, whom the standard doctrine assumed would achieve atmospheric superiority and destroy heavy emplacements prior to the deployment of ground forces. During combat operations on Viverva, the shortcomings of this system became evident, as conflicts between the branches often led to excessive friendly casualties and allowed varelviv units to regroup after being defeated. Following the three-month invasion, the UGF leadership took stock of these shortcomings and began to advocate for the development of their own fire support capabilities, whether via indirect artillery or with an atmospheric combat force independent of the Unified Navy. These calls were heeded by the Subir administration, and the general staff hoped to have these units available before beginning any operations against the saathids.
 

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So, obviously things took quite a detour from where we left off. The varelvivi blocking passage to cyggan space gave me little choice in terms of gameplay, but there was definitely an element of mission creep at play. Since the army had very little role to play until now, I decided to do a brief appendix to explain its development to the present.

I'm glad to see you're back and even more glad to hear the war drums will be beating for some considerable time. It's always fun to lock horns with your rivals.
Great to hear that you're back!
I always love these little interludes, they really make your world come alive. It's fun to see how different the cultures are despite their phenotypical similarities.
I also really love your twist on the spider. It's going to be a wild ride!
Good to see you back! :)

Thank you all! I've picked up some speed with my writing, so hopefully updates will come a little faster in the future. And I have plenty more interludes planned as well, so I'm glad they are being enjoyed.

Next time we will turn our attention to a war of a very different kind, as the Governance makes an attempt to slow down the saathid wave. There's also an upcoming selection to deal with, and a significant change to the civic authority of the administration.