OnTheCrusades

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Hi all! I have enjoyed Paradox games (primarily CK2) over the years and jumped in full steam ahead with Stellaris! I enjoy writing short stories etc and didn't even realize there was a whole AAR community here! This will be my first one so go gentle on me!

I plan to tell the events of this particular empire as they unfold from the perspective of those who witnessed these events. We will witness the subjugation of species from the throne of the Archprophet (or Archprophetess!) and the destruction of fleets from the cockpits of Turd'les who look as young as mere hatchlings. We will watch families break up during the colonial expansion period, and we will experience foot soldiers question their faith and beliefs as they are forced to purge the unneeded species. Will the Turd'les stray from the Way of Three or will they fall further into their faith? We will find out! I have some ideas of where I want to take this but who knows what will happen!

I wanted to blend some comedy and drama. I truly believe Paradox has given us yet another great platform to tell emergent storylines from and I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy writing it and playing Stellaris!

I also chose not to incorporate any kind of background information upfront. I believe these beings and their experiences are the heart of the story. I would much rather provide any background information through narrative or dialogue and pepper it throughout as needed. Not sure If that is the right way or not, but forgive me if you prefer to have the background info upfront!


_________________________________________________

Table of Contents

I. Snaptail and the Way of Three - 2200
II. Steps - 2206
III. Iron Dissent - 2208
IV. A Tale of Two Space Rocks - 2210
V. Fragmentation - 2210
VI. Tagglaro - 2211

VII. Neighborhood Pie - 2220



_________________________________________________



I. Snaptail and the Way of Three (2200)

Archprophet Snaptail bowed his head when she entered the sanctuary. Lavish curtains covered the industrial steel of the space station. A single window emitted blazing light and Snaptail leaned next to it as he had the last few days.

"Good morning, High Priestess."

Gethmar lumbered through the door with her head bowed. She waddled into place next to Snaptail. Her eyes focused on the blazing star outside the thick glass window.

"It's beautiful, isn't?" Snaptail asked. Since a hatchling, he stared up at the stars and wondered the question that every Turd'le asked before him. What if?

"Yes, Hydros is a blazing star of glory," the High Priestess replied. "Truly, the centerpiece of the Divine Shell."

Snaptail sighed. "You are chosen to lead after me. You must see further than what is in front you."

She gave him an inquisitive look. Her scaled neck retracted into her shell as her head tilted slightly. "But we made it. We have reached the Shell-"

"We have reached nothing," Snaptail snapped. "Our Survey ship has returned from its initial patrol. There is nothing for us here."

Gethmar lowered her eyes. "Then we are... doomed."

Snaptail balled his crusting fists up. Dried dead skin crumbled to the floor. Defeat. Turd'les were so quick to succumb to it and admit it. It wasn't too many generations before when the Divine Shell was thought to consist only of Hydros Prime. And before that, the Divine Shell was thought to consist only of the aquatic depths.

Each time the known Shell grew, his people took advantage of those resources. Flora. Fauna. Sentient beings. All expendable resources to unite everyone under the Divine Shell. Turd'les were destined to rule over all lesser beings. But the truth was, his people had grown complacent. Generations went by where menial labor was worked by slaves. By the Pie.

"We aren't doomed." Snaptail grinned. A rough leathery tongue snaked out of his mouth wetting his beak. "We are the merely the Divine in the Way of Three."

She blinked confusion. "Of course we are. You are the Archprophet, I the High Priestess. I... I do not understand how this saves us, your Eggcellency."

Snaptail ripped down the flag of the Divine Shell. He held it out infront of her.

1SoXkpA.jpg


"The Way of Three. The entire orb encompasses the Eternal Shell. The small circle in the center is the Divine. The Archprophet, chosen from a sacred egg. The rest of the shell cosists of the Community. All of us Turd'les. Then we have the Pie, separate from us but-"

"I know of the Way of Three," the High Priestess hissed. "I am-"

"Separate from us but necessary," Snaptail continued. "While they are not part of the Community, sentient beings other than Turd'les, they still have a place on the Eternal Shell. We rely on their labor to hold our society up. A necessary pillar, the Pie are."

"But we have no Pie. Our society is crumbling. If the Divine Shell is desolate then we are doomed."

"I already told you. We are the Divine." Snaptail paused and sighed. The confusion on her face was clear. How had her egg been chosen as Divine he wondered? "You must think past Hydros as being the centerpiece of the Divine Shell. It is merely a small armored plate that is part of the true Divine Shell. Hydros, we, are the Divine on a shell much grander than even I envisioned."

Snaptail tapped the window. The window shifted black and a small loading icon flashed in the bottom left corner. The screen filled up with hundreds of tiny white dots all arranged in an elliptical pattern.

"The Divine Shell," Snaptail whispered.

FZYQkfu.png


Gethmar's beak drooped open. Tears threatened to pour from her eyes. She dabbed them away with dried flaking paws, dead skin soaking up most of it.

"We truly are the Divine."

Snaptail nodded. "A mere spec on the Eternal Shell but the most important part. We all believed Hydros and nearby planets were all the encompassed the Shell. But now we realize we are just a small part. The Community must spread to encompass the Shell, as we did when we believed it to just be the oceans of Hydros Prime, as we did when we thought it was just our planet, as we planned to do when we thought it was just this one system. "

"And what of the Pie?"

"Survey ships have already identified hospital planets. We will find Pie. We will survive."

Snaptail tapped another button and the screen faded away into the transparent window again. Hydros' blazing fire lit up the room.

"So tell me again- what do you see?"

Gethmar focused on the window. Snaptail's reflection stared back at her.

"I see the Divine," she whispered.

OLiZLJk.png
 
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TheAnguishedOne

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Really intriguing start. Looking forward to more.
 

Saithis

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Really, really enjoyable introduction! I look forward to more Space Turtle adventures!
 

OnTheCrusades

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II. Steps - 2206

Grax touched foreheads with his father for the last time.

"I don't want to go," he said. "Not without the family."

His father stared back at him with tired eyes. Wrinkled skin drooped over the corners. A small smile tugged at the corners of his beak. "You must take this journey, son."

"Please, father."

"You must go, Grax. You can't throw away the last 6 years of your life."

"But father- I don't think I can do it. The family ne- "

"Enough, Grax," his father barked. The familiar drill instructor came out of him.

Grax nodded. As a twelve year old yearling in 2200, most of his days were spent closed off in his studies and training. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a military officer. The Archprophet issued a broadcast from his temple, the space station orbiting Hydros Prime, that the Divine Shell was a larger place than he even knew. It had also located a suitable planet for colonization very quickly. The Divine would accept applications from anyone between the ages of 10 and 25 for a colonization effort. It would require mandatory service- one of which could be served in the military. The new 1st Shell star fleet was being formed. Grax immediately applied on a whim.

Much to his surprise, his application was accepted. He also received a personal notification from Admiral Sagglor. He had been accepted into the 1st Shell fleet and his training would begin immediately. He spent the next 6 years in a training platoon eating, breathing, and sleeping 1st Shell.

At 18, he looked down at his father. The resemblance was strong. Blue skin, brown eyes, white shell. There was no denying whose son he was.

"This must be your father," a gruff voice called out.

"Yes, Sir. This is my father, Zarkos." Grax hooked an arm across his fathers shoulders, facing the Admiral. Square jawed and beady black eyes, Admiral Sagglor was a physical specimen. His skin and shell both were tinted black and grey. Dark much like the aura he seemed to eminent.

"Captain," Admiral Sagglor continued, "It is an honor. Your son here has told me much about you."

Grax cocked his head a bit. He had only met the Admiral a few times over the course of his training- nothing more than a morale boost for the trainees.

"He means a great deal to me Admiral," his father said.

"He means a great deal to the Divine."

Grax' father bowed his head.

"Let's go Lieutenant. Time to get to the hanger. Our new fighters are waiting for us- one with your name on it."

Grax stepped away from his father and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I will make you proud."

"You already have."

Grax smiled as he followed in the wake of the Admiral. They weaved through other families saying their goodbyes. The old saying goodbye to the young. The past saying goodbye to the future. Change was in the air.

A voice called over the intercom, "The DSS Tegglosch is now prepared for boarding. All colonial civilians please report to your assigned quarters. Military personnel please head to your units mustering location and report to your commanding officer."

The Admiral stopped at a boarding dock. "This is you, Lieutenant. Your squadron is forming up in the hanger. I'm heading to the bridge to brief the captain of the ship."

"Yes, Sir."

"Once we reach Guraschim, be ready. We will be departing the ship before we land. Once the Tegglosch lands, we will begin immediate patrols to secure the system."

"Yes, Sir."

The Admiral nodded with a grunt of approval. Grax held his breath and boarded the DSS Tegglosch. The first step to conquering the Shell.

msDFoTs.png
 
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Saithis

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Grax takes part in a truly important endeavour. The Divine Shell is big, and you'll need more than one scale to control it all.. ;)
 

OnTheCrusades

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III. Iron Dissent - 2208

Grax lumbered in behind his squadmates. Admiral Sagglor sent out an emergency notifcation that all 1st Shell pilots were to meet in the debriefing room immediately.

"What do you think it is? Found some Pie out there for us to get finally?" a familiar voice spoke next to Grax.

"Not sure, Horth." Grax shrugged. "Whatever it is though, it's gotta be big. You know the Admiral... he isn't easily excitable."

"Well, whatever if it is... the Divine watch over us. The Way of Three will guide us." Horth inclined his head.

Once all of the Turd'le pilots entered the briefing room, they all went to one knee. Admiral Sagglor quickly shuffled in from behind them and stood behind the podium.

"Before any rumors about finding some Pie get started," his eyes darted straight at Horth. Horth looked away and cursed himself. "No. We have no Pie yet."

The crowd groaned and grumbled. Grax included. Two years and still nothing since they arrived at the colony. No Pie. No one was happy without Pie. Tasks usually reserved for the Pie were being done by honest working members of the Community and it was demeaning.

"Quiet down, now. We do have something." Admiral Sagglor tapped on the podium and picture appeared behind him on the wall.

"The mining station oribiting Xel Madak has been destroyed."

fPZKAHq.png


Whispers circulated the room. Grax heard the word 'alien' circulate around him. How could that be? If they weren't Turd'les, they were Pie. Interesting that his squadmates were beginning to distinguish between the two.

"Let me reiterate," the Admiral bellowed out, "we have found no Pie. This is the work of worthless Crust.

Crust.
Grax shifted uncomfortably. It wasn't often, but it did happen. Members of the Community would crumble away from the Divine Shell and be outcasts. They were worse than Pie. They were Crust.

"They are lead by Lieutenant Tagglaro."

The squadron exploded into a raucous. Shouts of treachery and execution went up. Grax remembered him vaguely, as most did. He arrived with the 1st Shell as an electronics engineer responsible for maintenance on the fleet. He disappeared soon after. Grax remembered his last conversation with him.

"C'mon Grax," Lieutenant Tagglaro said. Claws bawled into a fist punched him gently on the shell. "How do you really feel?"

Was this a test?

"The Archprophet is the Divine. We are Community. Everyone else is Pie. The Way of the Three is all that there is." Grax added some authority to his voice with the last statement.

"Hypothetically of course," Tagglaro offered, his voice now going into a whisper, "What if it wasn't?"

Grax raised a leathery eyebrow at Tagglaro.

Tagglaro continued, "At one point, we all knew the ocean was all there was. Then it was the ocean and the land on Hydros Prime. They we all knew it was the Hydros system. And now, we all know it is this Galaxy. Each time we conquered what we believed to be the Divine Shell... we subjugated the Pie."

Grax nodded. Everything so was true and nothing he said was out of line.

"What makes this any different? We abuse the Pie. We squander them away until we have none. And we fret about the end, until.. we find a new frontier. More Pie. For us to what? Kill?"

Grax looked over both of his shoulders and grabbed Tagglaro roughly. He jutted his face into Tagglaro's, causing Tagglaro to retract into his shell.

"Listen to me, Tagglaro. You listen good. You are speaking of treachery. What you say can land you in a soup."

Tagglaro bored his head out of his shell. "Good thing we have no Pie to feed any Crust soup to. The Archprophet messed that up for us all."

Grax shoved Tagglaro to the ground.

"Do not speak of the Divine is such a way. Just by saying these things to me implicates me as well. What would you have us do anyway?"

Tagglaro stood up and wiped the front plates of his shell down.

"I would have you open your eyes, Grax. Mark my words- we will find life out here. We will call them Pie and they will serve us- through military force if needed. And they will die. Beings who have survived, mastered science enough to travel through space, beings who think and care as we do... they will die or serve us."

"They have all of that because that is how the Divine Shell works. The Turd'le are the chosen to rule it. We have proven that."

"We have proven that the Turd'le have no business ruling anything."

Grax turned and left Tagglaro. He checked every steel corridor for anyone listening. No one.

He left an anonymous tip in the Admiral's office to investigate Tagglaro. Two weeks later, Tagglaro disappeared without a word. Rumor was he was made into soup.

Pounding on the podium brought Grax back into the now. "Quiet!" the Admiral growled. "Order! Order!"

As he pounded on the podium, the noise died down. Horth cleared his throat and yelled out, "We thought Tagglaro was dead. Died a traitor's death."

The Admiral glared at Horth. A let a few moments go by. No more out bursts.

"We put Lieutenant Tagglaro in irons and on a transport ship back to Hydros for re-education. The ship never made it. We assumed it was destroyed enroute. This picture however, shows differently. The center ship is the transport we put him on. It looks like he has retro-fitted it for combat. He found some other dissenters. They call themselves the Iron Talons. We have been tasked by the Archprophet to destroy them. The Divine Shell cannot tolerate these terrorists."
 

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OnTheCrusades

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IV. A Tale of Two Space Rocks (2210)

Grax shifted uncomfortably in the cockpit of his fighter, the DSS Oggal. His scanner read empty. Another damn goose check Intel sent him on.

The campaign against the rogue Tagglaro was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be quick. Admiral Sagglor gave a riveting speech that night in the mess hall that sent all of their tails thumping on the floor in approval. They cheered.

Now they all sweated their shells off chasing around a phantom enemy. The Finner-class corvettes, such as the Oggal, had a malfunctioning environmental sensor. Turd'les were used to cool aquatic climates and no environmental sensors operating insufficiently, or just outright dying, meant they were in a perpetual state of sweat. Two years they spent fighting against a smaller, but effective guerrilla force.

Grax grunted and wiped his forehead with claw. He looked lovingly at the holo-photo of his shellmate and daughter on Guraschim. He met Juthra right after the colony ship landed and they had been inseparable ever since. Their daughter was now a 1st Generation Gurashim native. One of the first born on that planet.

"This is the Oggal- there is no sight of the Talons out here. Intel screwed us again."

"Affirmative, Oggal. Return to port."

The comm system started chirping out garbled static. There was a voice lost somewhere in the audio scramble.

"Need....Taggl... Help... Korneph.." then the static cut out. Horth.

Kornephoros. The Talon's had backtracked away from Guraschim. They were in the system right next to Hydros. Right next to home.

Grax switched his comms over to the command channel.

"Admiral Sagglor, come in."

"Sagglor, over."

"Admiral... I received a garbled transmission from the DSS Kudolg. Sounds like Horth has found Tagglaro. It sounded like Kornephoros."

Grax wiped at his brow again. He took short shallow breaths.

"Oggal, rendezvous at RP H-P."

"Copy that, RP H-P. Out."

Grax tapped on his navigation display and keyed in the coordinates for the spaceport off of Hydros Prime. They were going home and it was time to take the fight to the enemy.

The ship whirred and thumped around him. The stars outside the cockpit smeared across the glass. Faster than light, scientists called it. Funny, Grax thought, he didn't sense any motion at all. Warping felt more like the world was moving around you and you instantly ended up in some distant location out in the stars. His stomach quenched at the unsettling nature of it all.

By the time Grax arrived at the spaceport, the fleet was already in orbit. They were ready to move.

"1st Shell, cut over to combat channel Lima Oscar Lima. Callsigns are in effect," Admiral Sagglor's voice boomed over Grax' headset.

"Shell 1-4, reporting in," Grax announced into the headset.

"Shell 1-4, affirmative. Form up on Shell 1-1, just off my right wing," the Admiral replied.

Graxx applied gentle thrust to the ship and drifted gentle into formation off of the Admiral's ship.

"We have intel that Talons are raiding a station in Korenphoros."

"Damn intel," a voice quipped.

"This intel comes from one of our own," Grax spoke up. Silence after that- not even the Admiral responded. Grax continued. "I received a transmission from Shell 1-7. He had a confirmed sighting of Talons in the next system over."

"What's the status of Shell 1-7?" another voice came out quickly. It would be noticed now that Horth's ship would be missing.

"His transmission cut out," Grax offered gently. "So lets get over there and get our guy back!"

Cheers rang out from the radio.

"Roger that, 1-4. On my mark initiate warp to target system," the Admiral's said. "In 3... 2... 1... Mark."

Stars smeared. If warping was awkward, warping in formation was really awkward. It seemed the fleet stayed in place as once again the Divine Shell flashed past them.

A giant fiery explosion erupted infront of Grax. Hulls of ships crumpled around him. His scanner beeped incessantly. It took a moment to realize they had warped right next to the Talon fleet.

"1st Shell, engage all targets! Weapons free!"

Blazing red lasers streaked across Grax' cockpit. He flipped the MASTER ARM switch on his weapons system display into the ON position. A red crosshair flashed across the cockpit window and attached to a blank spot in space. He pulled the trigger.

The DSS Oggal shook with a violent force that rocked him. The turret positioned right above him let out a high pitch scream as a blinding red beam fired out at the target. Far off in the distance where his crosshair was located a tiny speck of red popped. A small flash of letters appeared on the weapons display. Target destroyed.

"Don't just sit there, Divine damnit! Engage!"

Grax gripped the throttle of his ship and pushed the handle forward into the MAX position. The ship rocketed from under him. He turned into the giant web of lasers beaming all around him. He acquired target after target, each one reading "Target Destroyed" one after the other.

The last two enemy vessels stopped firing.

A blue light flashed on his display. Incoming transmission on an unsecure channel.

"Shell 1-1, I'm getting a transmission on an unsecure channel."

"Everyone seize fire. Move to channel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 1-4. Tell your friend to meet us there."

Grax tapped on the blue light.

"Who is this?"

"Grax? Is that you?"

Grax grunted. "Tagglaro."

"Grax, it is you. Listen, you-"

"Move to channel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Shell 1-4, Out."

"Wow Grax, they really ha-"

Grax cut his system over to the secure channel.

"Shell 1-1, it is Tagglaro."

"Of course it is."

Of course it was. Grax rolled his eyes. Who else would it be? Idiot.

"Hello?" Tagglaro's voice came across.

"Tagglaro. Turn off your systems now."

"I'm not on any of those ships, Admiral."

Grax immediately tapped on his communication display. The source of the signal was coming from one of the last ships.

"I am sure you are scanning the source now," Tagglaro answered as if he was the all-seeing Divine himself. "Let me save you the trouble. I am using one of the ships as a relay."

Grax immediately started trying to route to the source broadcast location. He punched a manual communication through to Admiral Sagglor on his handheld device. "Keep him busy."

"Turn yourself in, Tagglaro," Admiral Sagglor said. "I will submit to the Archprophet to go easy on you."

Tagglaro laughed. His voice was calm and confident. "You and I both know the Divine will not go easy on me. It never goes easy on the Crust."

"
Then do the right thing. You are responsible for the deaths of those on Xel Madak."

"No, you are admiral. You failed to protect them with your fleet."

"You pulled the trigger," the Admiral growled.

"Oh Saggs," Tagglaro laughed, calling the Admiral by a pet name we gave him during training. He found out about it from one unlucky pilot and immediately grounded him. "You don't understand do you?"

The radio was silent. Grax could sense the Admiral was deciding how to handle the situation. He would normally just destroy the ships. Hopefully, he would ignore his wounded ego to find the location of Tagglaro.

"Understand what?" the Admiral grunted finally.

"The lie. The Way of the Three. We aren't the chosen. We aren't going to save this system and rule it. We are the harbingers of doom. We are the end of it." Tagglaro's voice broke off into a maniacal laugh. "We are the end."

"If you don't want to come in peacefully, then why are we talking?" Admiral Sagglor demanded. "I should just blow your ships away now."

Grax' display chirped again. A source was found. The Irthius system- right outside of Hydros.

"Congratulations, Grax! You found me!" Taggloro cheered across the radio. "It isn't hard to pick up the fleet's tracing capabilities. It is true, Admiral. My fleet has been destroyed. And now I welcome you to Irthius, where I have been operating this whole time. Right underneath the Archprophet's nose! Look in the asteroid belt. One favor, Admiral?"

Silence.

"Admiral, my fleet surrenders to you. They are your prisoners. Will you see to it they are given a proper hearing? I am sure their families would appreciate it."

"They will get a fair hearing."

"See you soon, Admiral."

The channel went dead. Grax swapped back to combat channel Lima Osar Lima.

"1st Shell, this is Shell 1-1. Open fire."

Grax watched as the fleet's turrets spun up and sent fiery beams of heat into the hulls of the surrendered ships.

rHc0Cng.png


The ships erupted into flames and were quickly snuffed out by the void of space. Dead hulls and debris drifted in the aftermath just outside of the station that the Talon's were raiding.

"Admiral, what about a hearing? You gave your word that-"

"I heard them. I was fair. That is enough, Shell 1-4. Back to base."

Grax gulped. They needed to press the Talons now. Tagglaro was a master of disappearing and fighting another day. They needed to destroy him now.

"We need to find his asteroid base over in Irthium," Grax offered. "We need to destroy him now."

"That is enough, Shell 1-4," the Admiral growled. "I am in command here and I make the decisions." His voice softened. "We have other problems."

"Sir?"

Grax looked at the communication display. Incoming message. Data transfer completed. A new message from Admiral Sagglor. He opened up the attached file on his display.

"1st Shell, our new target," the Admiral announced.

WReXrDz.png


"The asteroid is heading straight for Guraschim."

Grax glanced to the photo of his shellmate and daughter and closed his eyes.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Love the details you're providing for the society. I like the depth Grax is getting, showing his devotion while being worried about his family. I see the Turdles don't forgive traitors; can't say I'm surprised.
 

OnTheCrusades

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well thats not good

looking forward to next chapter

I agree. I was a little surprised to get the notification that an asteroid was heading right for my colony so soon!

Love the details you're providing for the society. I like the depth Grax is getting, showing his devotion while being worried about his family. I see the Turdles don't forgive traitors; can't say I'm surprised.

Wow, thanks a bunch! I really appreciate it!
 

OnTheCrusades

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V. Fragmentation - 2210

Juthra clutched a small shell to her chest. Looking down over her own leathery rough jowls, two eyes peered up at her from within the tiny shell. Explosions miles away rattled debris and dust from the ceiling. The smell of sulfur wafted in from outside the compound. A squall came out from the little shell and Juthra hummed to, gently stroking the soft ridges of the shell with a single claw.

The riots started not too long after the broadcast went out about A-201DK. The asteroid that was on a collision course straight for their new planet. Most banded together and offered what support they could to the Community, while others prayed for help from the Divine. And everyone was distraught from the lack of Pie. All natural reactions to a catastrophe.

What wasn't a natural reaction was the panic that ensued. Flyers were being disbursed all over the homes. Juthra immediately collected the ones she found around her quarters and burned them. Better to not give anyone any thoughts that she was involved. She did take a look at the material from time to time. Curiosity overwhelmed her. Much like when you see a grisly MagnoRail collision. You can't help but stare at the mangled train cars and white sheets covering the mangled shells.

The flyers all proclaimed that their destiny to rule the Divine Shell was a lie. The Archprophet Snaptail was a false prophet who may have ushered in a Space Age, but also gave false testimony about their destiny to rule. The Turd'les have forsaken the Divine Shell by constantly destroying its creations. The Asteroid was a sign: Stay on Hydros Prime and reap what you have sewn. The Turd'les did not belong in space.

Juthra smirked at this as she burned every flyer she could. The last weeks things had escalated. Instead of dropping flying on frontsteps, The True Shell Society was now dropping bombs on believers.

Juthra hushed the hatchling again as windows rattled. Oh how she missed Grax. She balanced her time at the Research Facility with time at home with the hatchling. She loved the dear thing very much, but hadn't yet decided on a name. Grax had a few ideas the last time they spoke over the RealComm display, but they both knew the dangers. No Turd'le ever named a hatchling before their 5th year. It was best not to get too attached before then.

The rumbling in the distance ceased. The silence overwhelmed her. Juthra peered out the window- a HovAssault floated past at high speed. Soldiers cheered. Juthra stepped outside and watched the vehicle speed away. She noticed her neighbors coming out of their quarters and pointing up to the sky with joy.

Grax.

95KAUSZ.png



Hundreds of bright streaks spread across the sky. A-201DK exploded in space. Most of the shrapnel disintegrated on entry into orbit. Juthra smiled and knew 1st Shell was successful.

Weeks later, she watched intently to the news broadcast. The hatchling tumbled on the floor, popping in and out of her shell, exploring the world. Juthra hardly noticed.

"The leader of the so-called True Shell Society is seen here kneeling before the Archprophet. He uttered a few words before the leader was hauled out and summarily executed for his betrayal of the Divine. Later, Archprophet Snaptail had this to say: 'These so called truth-sayers misunderstood the asteroid's divine purpose. It was no sign from the Divine Shell to keep us chained to one planet. It was a mere test- a test for us to prove we were worthy to reign over the dominion of the Divine Shell. I am happy to report that we have passed. All of us have passed and are on the way to our destiny.' The Archprophet spent a few minutes congratulating members of the 1st Fleet in person on Hydros Prime."

Juthra's eyes welled with pride. Standing next to the Admiral of 1st Shell, stood her shellmate. She watched the monitor as Grax went to a knee and pressed his beak to the jewel-encrusted hand of the Archprophet.

The Divine truly blesses us.
 
Last edited:

TheAnguishedOne

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The True Shell Society, claiming the Turdles are basically a cancer in the galaxy... going by what we've been told about their society, I kind of agree with them.
 

OnTheCrusades

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The True Shell Society, claiming the Turdles are basically a cancer in the galaxy... going by what we've been told about their society, I kind of agree with them.

I would agree with your thought!

One thing I love in stories is when the villain doesn't think they are the villain. They feel justified in their beliefs and actions. I feel it lends a certain amount of authenticity for their motivations. When bad guys are evil because well... they are evil, I am not so sure I find it as compelling.

In this case, it is clear the Divine Shell of Eternity led by the Archprophet are not the "good guys". However, they believe it is their divine right to reign supreme over the Divine Shell and are justified in their actions. I love exploring internal turmoil when a character who is clearly on the "bad side" begins to question that belief.

I believe I planted that seed within Grax and hope to explore it further. I also wanted to show his "shellmate" as a completely devout believer. I love the conflict that could bring in the future.
 

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Good work dealing with the rock. I like seeing how such a superstitious society reacts to something as simple as an asteroid (comet sighted, anyone?) with such polarizing intensity. It seems the Turdles are well on their way to becoming the next evil empire of the galaxy!
 

OnTheCrusades

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VI. Tagglaro - 2211

Grax pushed forward on the throttle and fell in to the rear of the triangle formation. He tapped on the HUD, cycling through the mission briefing pages. On the Irthius system cross section, Intel had highlighted a likely candidate that housed Tagglaro's outpost. The last half-cycle survey ships had tried to triangulate the source of chatter in the Irsius system and this was their best guess.

"Admiral Sagglor," Grax broke the silence on the combat comm channel, "Perhaps when we get in range of the outpost, I could be the one to reach out to Tagglaro? He tried talking to me last time we spoke. I think I can talk him into coming in peacefully."

"Shell 1-4, the only talking you will be doing with the Crust Tagglaro will be with your 3 laser turrets. Do I make myself clear?"

Grax shifted uncomfortably.

"Lieutenant? Am I clear?"

"Affirmative, Admiral."

Grax idly clawed at the flaking skin coming from his neck where flesh met shell. He yearned for the days where he soaked in the lagoons back on Hydros Prime and when things were simpler. Now a hatchling to think about, a shellmate, a zealous Admiral... the pressure was beginning to rattle the lid on his pot.

Static interrupted his nostalgic memories. A voice came across the radio, "Admiral? Grax? Is anyone there?"

It wasn't Tagglaro. The pitch was a bit higher. This voice was afraid.

"This is Admiral Sagglor. Identify yourself- you are on a military channel."

"Admiral. It's me. Horth."

Horth. Grax inhaled. Horth's last transmission is what tipped them off to the location of the Iron Talons' location nearly a year ago.

The radio was silent. No reply from anyone.

"Horth. It's Grax. Where in the Divine are you?"

"Grax. Please. Come get me. I am being held capt-"

"Horth is my guest..." a new voice trailed off with a laugh.

Grax' stomach tighted and his tail instinctly retracted slightly into his shell.

"Admiral, we need to get Horth back," Grax demanded.

"What do you want for, Horth?" Admiral Sagglor finally broke out of his silence.

"My safe passage of course," Tagglaro replied.

"Done. We will approach and you and Horth will meet us in the hanger. You will get in your ship and go... we will take Horth with us."

"How can I trust you?"

"You have no choice."

"Unlike you, I always have a choice. I could just push this blade swiftly into the soft spot under Horth's arm here and watch him bleed out."

"You could. But you won't. You want to live."

There was no reply. Grax saw the asteroid come in range on his HUD and he followed the fleet in formation heading towards it.

"Tagglaro," the Admiral said, "Lower your defenses. We are going to make the exchange."

Grax brought up the range of the defensive lasers on his overlay and clenched his jaw as they approached it. 500m. 400m. 300m.

"Tagglaro, are you defenses down?"

200m

100m

"They are down, Admiral. "

"Perfect. 1st Shell, Open Fire."

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Lasers erupted infront of Grax. Series of explosions peppered the asteroid. Grax' jaw hung open. His finger never pressed he fire button. The radio filled with a maniacal laugh.

"Grax, I know you are listening," Tagglaro called out on the communicator. "This is what you fight for? What is Divine abo-"

Silence. A large ball of fire plumed from the asteroid. Tagglaro was gone. Horth. Gone.

"Good job boys, form up on me," the Admiral announced.

Grax followed in formation. Cheers went up across the radio and Grax remained silent.


 

OnTheCrusades

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VII. Neighborhood Pie - 2220

The Archprophet Snaptail opened his eyes grudingly. He felt cool and secure bundled deep inside his shell. He slowly pushed his head out and smiled at the sleeping High Priestess Gethmar. While she wasn't his shellmate and never would be, she would be the closest thing. He had thoughts of adjusting the ancient mandate that claimed only the Divine and their chosen successor could enjoy one another's flesh for pleasure. Female? Male? It made no difference. Only the Divine had the right to enjoy another Divine. The Archprophet Polza, Snaptail's own predecessor, was a wonderful lover and it was true he sometimes missed the old man's company. He was sure Gethmar would miss his too... unless her chosen successor was Divine in their own right. Snaptail shrugged- it was their way. Gethmar and Polza would be the only two he shared the privacy of the High Temple with.

After cleaning himself up and soaking in a wonderful lagoon-style pool, he draped the Archprophet's regalia about himself and escorted Gethmar to his first meeting of the day. The council awaited.

Snaptail waved to the first one. "Begin"

"Yes, Divine. Great news. We have found a third Pie."

"The Divine Shell blesses us!" Snaptail declared. He cuffed Gethmar on the back of her shell which she returned with a warm smile.

"But..." Snaptail's face went solemn. "Is it truly Pie, or is it potential?"

The Councillor shifted in his seat. "Well, erhm, your Divinity, it is potential Pie."

Snaptail slammed both fists on the wooden table and dragged claws across them. Deep gouges in the wood would tell that story for time to come.

"First, Tallenoc. A promising planet but the beings there are only in a gunpowder age. Out of our reach. Then Loreth. Again, out of our reach. What this time?" Snaptail growled.

The councilor's voice quivered as he shrank into his shell slowly, "Well Archprophet... this is the planet Larb-li-Darm." The councilor nodded to a servant who tapped on the wall. The screen immediately went to a picture of the planet.

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"Tell me about the... Larb-li..Dar..mians," Snaptail stumbled over his words.

"They are in what we would refer to as a Bronze Age. Metal workers. Very primitive. They call themselves the Ethir."

Snaptail sighed.

The councilor continued, "We could always throw an observation station overhead. They would never notice."

Snaptail shook his head. "Observe them? For what? Staring at the Pie will not make it cook any faster. By the time they are of any use to us, we will be long gone."

The room was quiet.

High Priestess Gethmar squinted at the picture and pointed to the screen. "There... next to Larb-li-Darm... what planet is that?"

The councilor clawed through a stack of papers. "Hmm.. High Priestess... that is the planet Schlargoss."

"Is it habitable?" she asked.

Snaptail grinned.

The councilor nodded after briefly scanning the notes.

"Yes, yes it is. It is listed under a Class A Habitability for Turd'les. The council was going to present it, among others, for the Archprophet to decide the next coloniza-"

"That one," Snaptail yelled. "That one right there."

The councilor nodded. "Yes, yes of course, Divine. We will make the necessary preparations."

Snaptail turned to Gethmar and whispered with a vicious grin. "You are starting to see beyond the obvious."

She leaned into him with a playful reply, "If the Pie won't cook in time... we will just have to turn up the heat."

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Snaptail laughed quietly. She truly was coming into her own.

The door to the meeting room whirred open and a Turd'le pouring sweat stood there panting.

"This is a private meeting! Guards, take that man and cast him out of an airlock!" Snaptail growled at the unbelievable audacity.

The Turd'le threw himself at Snaptail's feet. "Divine... Archprophet... you have a message. It is urgent."

"From who? Who sends a message that you barge into a meeting of the Elders?"

The Turd'le looked up at him, eyes gleaming with anticipation. It was clear this was probably the most memorable moment of his life and was preparing for this question.

"Our neighbors. Another space-faring species. They wish to talk to you. They are waiting on Comm Channel 117"

Snaptail lurched to his feet and looked to his councilors, "Leave us."

The councilors filed out of the room one after the other. As the last one was leaving, Snaptail called out, "Councillor Hordak." The councilor froze and turned nervously around.

"Please, take this one here and throw him out of an airlock. We don't tolerate poor manners."

The messenger went pale. Councillor Hordak grabbed the Turd'le by an arm and wrestled him out of the room. The messenger didn't make a sound.

Snaptail grinned at Gethmar. "Ready to meet the neighbors?"

Gethmar nodded with a small smile. Snaptail hit a button on the wall and brought up the communication screen.

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