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    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Smokez83

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With the release of Ancient Relics, I decided to do my second AAR. I decided to go with a spiritualist empire this time to go down the psionic ascension path. So, without further ado, let's introduce The Human Stellar Union:

upload_2019-6-5_18-32-36.png

Background, hopefully not too difficult to read.

upload_2019-6-5_18-25-59.png

The traits I chose for our humans.

upload_2019-6-5_18-34-21.png

Our ethics, civics and authority.

Game Setup:
Galaxy size and shape - Large (800 Stars), Spiral, 4 arms.
6-12 AI Empires, no advanced starts, 1-2 Fallen Empires, 0-1 Marauder Empires.
Tech/Tradition Cost, Habitable Worlds and Crisis Strength - 1x.
Primitive Civilisations - 2x.
Mid-Game Start - 2300, End Game 2400, Victory year off.
Difficulty - Ensign, Scaling difficulty off.
AI Aggression normal, Empire placement Random, Advanced Neighbours off.
Hyperlane Density, Abandoned Gateways and Wormhole Pairs - 1x.
Guaranteed Habitable Planets - 2
Caravaneers On
Ironman Mode - Off (Learned from my last mistake...)
 

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Prime Citizen Sean Hunter pinched his nose with the thumb and forefinger, sighing deeply. The pile of reports on his desk seemed never ending. He went to take a sip of his coffee, quickly spitting it out as he discovered it had gone cold. Sighing again, he reached for the next report, research priorities. He looked over the options, made some scribblings on the plasti-form paper. 'Qian, I agree with your proposal and advice. Quantum Theory would aid us greatly in increasing our research efforts. Hugo, let's look at the Biodiversity Studies. I believe that would be most beneficial at this stage. Finally, Louis, extra minerals is always a bonus so let's work on our Zero-G Refineries. As usual, send us the updates as and when you get them.' The three scientists acknowledged his instructions before cutting off the vidtel.

upload_2019-6-5_18-55-59.png

Our first technology choices.

A light tap on the door brought the Prime Citizen out of another report. 'Come in' he said, putting aside the next report and lifting a large folder. 'Julia von Halkett, reporting as ordered, sir.' A young woman stood nervously at the door. Waving her in, the Prime Citizen began to look over the folder. 'Julia, welcome. You come highly recommended. Qian Wu especially speaks highly of your skills. You are aware they she personally recommended you for this mission?' He asked, looking up from the folder. Julia looked at him quizzically. 'Sir, I don't understand. All I was told was to report here at once. Nobody mentioned anything about a mission'. Sean chuckled to himself. Of course, his instructions had merely been to tell her to come to his office at once. Qian had clearly passed on the urgency without briefing the why. 'As you are aware, we have recently commissioned a new ship, ISS Steven Hawking, first of the Hawking-Class Science Vessel. We are looking for someone to captain the vessel and, as I mentioned, you come highly recommended. I see your background is in astrophysics. This will come in most handy. You get to be at the forefront of our exploration. Congratulations!' Julia paled slightly, but stood firm. Sean was glad to hear no quiver in her voice when she spoke. 'Thank you, Prime Citizen. I, and my new crew, will not let you down!' She shook his hand and left. After a moment of light reflection, Sean moved the folder to one side, ready to be filed properly later. Sighing once more, he picked up another sheet of plasti-paper and began to read again.

upload_2019-6-5_19-15-32.png

The Captain of our first Science Vessel.

upload_2019-6-5_19-22-28.png

Our place in the Galaxy.

'Standby to execute transition into Hyperlane.' Jack, the Steven Hawkin's pilot, called over the intercom. 'Transition in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 we are go!' The ship entered the hyperlane smoothly. 'Estimated ETA is 4 days. Might as well settle in for the ride.' Julia acknowledged the report, rising from her captain's chair, she spoke to the crew over the comm. 'Congratulations. We are now entering completely unexplored territory. We are the first humans to enter a hyperlane and will soon be the first people to explore a new star system. Trials went well and this ship and crew are up to the task set out before us. I am proud to serve with all of you.' Cutting off the comm, she turned to Jack 'I'm off to my cabin to write the shakedown report. Call me if needed. Good work on the transition.' Jack nodded, his concentration on the readouts on his screen. 'You got it, captain. Might be worth mentioning that, from this initial jump we are experiencing higher than expected background radiation. Not enough to be concerned, but something to report back all the same.' Julia walked out with a wave. So many new things learned during this first experience. Initially, the plan was to make the jump then return, however it was decided that, as the ship would be in unexplored space, it would be beneficial to explore and fully test out the ship, effectively starting their mission early. The jump was the final test for the entire Earth fleet and the next step would be full incorporation into the military. Julia looked over what she had written so far. Crew evaluations as well as systems tests filled various annexes of the main report. She picked up the stress ball on her desk, squeezing it as she walked. 'Initial tests of equipment is positive. Surveys of various satellites from the planets in the Sol System confirmed what we already knew and will allow us to now begin exploitation of resources within our home system. We then headed towards the Barnard's Star System. Intentions are to fully survey this system, after which we will send a detailed report with recommendations. Annex Kilo contains details about the first transition to a hyperlane. Most was what was expected, though readings indicated a higher than anticipated background radiation. This is still within safe limits, but further thought may need to be given to shielding.' She finished dictating and read over the report. All that remained was the experience of leaving the hyperlane then this report could be sent, testing the long distance communication systems. Satisfied, she flipped her down, revealing a bed, and lay down, the lights dimming automatically. A quick rest before she would have to go around the ship and check all the outstations. Mankind was finally stretching into the stars, pushing their frontiers. And Julia was at the forefront of it. Smiling to herself, she closed her eyes.
 

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Surely, this Stranger is the antichrist. :p
 

stnylan

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I find it interesting it goes for Military Commisariat when the "fanatic" part is Spiritual - but I guess maybe the Distinguished Admiralty tips the balance.
 

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Julia sipped on the tea as she set down her breakfast, some scrambled eggs, toast and bacon. 'How runs the ship?' she asked the Chief Engineer, Pietr Valinky. 'She's good. We managed to fix the fresh water, so should have full capability of that once again. Engine is running at 80% power and no issues so far.' Pietr replied, reading the latest news that had been broadcast back from Earth. It was approximately 2 days old, but the crew still enjoyed keeping up with home. Julia picked at her eggs, considering the day ahead. A more formal report from all outstations would take place at 1000 on the bridge. After that... looking at the navplan, she saw they would be finishing the scanning of Barnard's Star II shortly. 'Captain, the report on the planet is nearly ready. We found something interesting. Request your presence on the bridge' Jack's voice came over the intercom. Julia sighed. So much for breakfast, she thought to herself. Quickly putting the bacon and some egg between the toast and clearing the remains, she took her food on the go with her to the bridge.

upload_2019-6-5_19-59-24.png

A fitting test for our new explorers.

'It appears to be writing on a series of monolithic buildings. We have managed to translate some of it, we believe. It appears to be a history, or fictional tale, we are not completely certain as the tale is...' Julia paused, reading the report again. 'Frankly, it is amazing! Despite this, however, we have also managed to get some advances with engineering from the designs. If I had let him, the Chief Engineer would still be down there marveling at them.' Julia chuckled to herself, remembering the look on Pietr's face. 'Computer, remove that last remark. Read back. She squeezed her stress ball, walking around her desk as the computer repeated her report back to her. She would never get used to the fact that her reports would be picked apart by people at the highest echelons of Earth's government, from the Lord High Admiral, the Grand Cleric of Mysteries and the First Citizen down to her previous mentor, Qian Wu. Depending, her reports may even be declassified for release to the public. The stress ball had become vital in calming her thoughts prior to producing these reports. The computer had finished, Julia paused framing her thoughts. 'We include the details, along with picts of the site, with this report. Our intentions are to now move on. We will next be calling on the Sirius System. Further reports will be sent as required.'

The Lord High Admiral, Miriam Salazar, stood quietly in the corner as the First Citizen looked over the report. 'And this is confirmed, Admiral?' Sean asked, looking up at the Admiral. She stood straight backed, her uniform impeccable, buttons gleaming as the lights from the room hit them. 'Yes, First Citizen. The fleet is under-powered and we know little about our surrounding areas. At this stage we lack sufficient intel to be able to properly plan any defence of the Sol System. The recommendations in the report are the minimum we will be requiring. However...' She paused, strangely hesitant to continue. 'Go on, Miriam. We have known each other for long enough that you can be honest with me.' Sean replied. 'Miriam nodded towards a chair and took it as Sean waved her to it. He pointed to a glass and Miriam nodded again. 'It's a whisky from 2125, a very nice vintage.' He handed her a glass and, taking a sip, indicated she should continue. 'Sean, whilst it is my job to push for more ships, my off-record recommendation is that we need another science vessel. If we can establish what lies beyond our borders, we can prepare static defences that will support our fleets.' Sean leaned back on his desk, his back to the Admiral as he looked over the city of Constantinople, renamed when Earth united in 2052. 'I agree. In fact, I had a suspicion this is what you were after. Very well. Let us get the shipyards in order and get production started. Once it has finished, we will build a new class of corvettes. Get some designs to me as soon as you can.' He made a note on his plasti-paper to look into new captains. 'Now, Miriam, it has been a long time. How is your family?' He asked, as conversation moved away from matters of state.

upload_2019-6-5_20-38-24.png

The Dragonfly, my main corvette

upload_2019-6-5_20-38-50.png

The Chameleon, my missile corvette

'First Citizen, the latest reports indicate that the public approves of our current direction. The declassifying of several of the reports from the Steven Hawking have led to a rise on those wanting to either get in on the exploration or help in the development of the systems used. Our science division report no shortage of volunteers.' Sean paused the reports playback, noting the rest was statistics he could look over later. Satisfied at the way things were looking, he grabbed his jacket, deciding to get out of the office. It was nearly lunch time after all.

upload_2019-6-5_20-40-37.png

Going for discovery for our first Tradition.

The ship pulled out of the dock, the sun playing over the hull. Newly commissioned captain, Giorgio, stood on the bridge as his newly commissioned ship cleared the dock, the hull shuddering as the supports, cables and supplies were removed. 'Crew, this is the captain. We will be doing a short shakedown period before heading on our mission. We anticipate one more week in the Sol system then, as long as there are no major setbacks, we will do our first jump through the hyperlanes. This next week will be difficult, but I have faith in you all as a crew and in this fine new ship. Let us now get ready to go and push back the darkness of the void!' The ship turned away from the sun and picked up speed, heading towards Saturn and the Fleet Testing Area that had been established there.

upload_2019-6-5_20-51-39.png

Commissioning of the Leif Ericson and new Captain Giorgio Del Grosso

Giorgio read the report, his excitement building. Swallowing it down he looked up at his pilot, Lauri. 'The readings are correct?' He asked, already knowing the answer. 'Yes, we are seeing signs of civilisation on the planet!' Unlike Giorgio, Lauri did not even try to contain her excitement, it spilled off her in waves. 'From what we can gather, they were called the Yuht. We are awaiting confirmation but it looks like the remains are thousands of years old!' Giorgio read the report again, updates coming in from the sensors. 'Very well. I will prepare a report. We shall head down there and look at things closer. I want a full atmosphere and environmental report before we head off.' Lauri left to prepare, leaving Giorgio to keep reading through the scanner readings. Whilst the Steven Hawking may have found previous indications, this was the most complete findings to date! 'Computer, prepare report. Title - Precursor Civilisation - The Yuht.'

upload_2019-6-5_21-42-20.png

My Precursor Chain

'The Sirius Survey provided excellent opportunities for continued training. The addition of a habitable planet provided us with both an excellent opportunity to fully test our scanners and labs as well as an exciting find overall. Full details of Sirius III can be found in Annex Delta. One anomaly discovered in the system, a large vessel trapped in a gas giant, Sirius V. We were unable to recover the vessel, but the detailed analysis proved our systems. Detailed report is found in Annex Echo. The Steven Hawking will be heading off to the next system once our supplies have been received, which should be in approximately 3 more days.' Julia sighed. Whilst she was excited for her colleagues findings, the report of which came through a week ago, she had been hoping to find evidence of these precursors herself. She leaned forward, her elbows and hands forming a pyramid on which she rested her chin. The next system was an important one, their scanners indicating that this could form a choke point into Stellar Union space. She stood up, brushing her clothing down as she did. Picking up her stress ball, she continued her report, walking around her desk as she did so.

upload_2019-6-5_21-6-26.png

So far no excavations.

(Going to wrap this one up here. Just before ending this session, I chose the first tradition in the Discovery path, opting for To Boldly Go to reduce surveying time. A reasonable start, I think.)
 

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stnylan

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Very reasonable, and discovery certainly makes sense.
 

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Surely, this Stranger is the antichrist. :p
Well, that remains to be seen... It may well be a benevolent being! :p

I find it interesting it goes for Military Commisariat when the "fanatic" part is Spiritual - but I guess maybe the Distinguished Admiralty tips the balance.
Yeah, must admit I found that odd as well!
 

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You do the surveys different to me, I tend to always investigate anomalies. :)
 

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You do the surveys different to me, I tend to always investigate anomalies. :)
I have investigated them all, as they came up. I originally had something else written for that bit, with pictures of the discovery and the survey. But then I realised that, eventually, the posts will become too big. Additionally, I figured that those reading the reports would eventually get bored of reading, oh anomaly, so trying to create a sense that, as time goes by and research and exploration become more commonplace, what started as individual, exciting reports will become more commonplace, so first it was a report for everything, then a system report which eventually will become a sector report. If that makes sense?
 

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Also, Julia is a bit down that, despite being the first to push the boundaries, she has been outshone by her colleague with the precursors. So her report is reflecting her self-doubt that those back home are as interested in her work as they once were.
 

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'Overall, Gromen provided a couple of unusual opportunities. We discovered an asteroid that had been captured some unusual radiation before settling in the system. The data is included in Annex Charlie and should provide us with some interesting insights. Additionally, it would appear that this system was once used as a weapons test bed. We dismissed the possibility that the previously mentioned asteroid got it's unusual readings from this testing owing to a lack of similar readings. However, we were able to analyse some of the left over energy from the impacts. The detailed analysis of this is included in Annex Delta of this report. In conclusion, the system offers resources ripe for exploitation, as well as being well positioned to defend our territory, should we encounter any hostile beings.' Julia set down her stress ball and began to read back the report. Or indeed, meet any beings! She thought to herself. This mission had been going on for five years now and she was getting frustrated at the lack of any real discoveries. Granted, despite their initial success, her colleagues had been unable to discover anything groundbreaking either. 'I need a break.' She muttered aloud. Wiping her face with her hands, she looked about her cabin. Various samples decorated the room, rocks, photos and reports of particular interest. She moved with purpose towards one photo, showing her and the team on the surface of Barnard's Star II. She reached out, her hand pausing just before touching it. Lowering her hand, she nodded to herself. She needed to get off the ship more and accompany some of the ground teams. Lately she had been cooped up in her cabin catching up on reports and reading. Yes, the next viable planet they came across, she would visit.

upload_2019-6-6_19-50-1.png

A couple of anomalies in Gromen, but otherwise quite a dull system.

Sean was stood at the window, looking up into the night sky. He had not long received confirmation that the new corvettes had been completed, bringing the total number of ships up to 7. It hadn't stopped the Union Navy demanding more, but it had at least satisfied their immediate concerns. He kept meaning to get up to the ships, but had to cancel the past 3 arrangements owing to the ever increasing workload. As if on cue, his computer beeped from the corner. He turned and picked up his plasti-paper to read the report. He smiled to himself and reached for his vidtel. Keying in the number to his aide, he began scribbling some notes. 'Ah, Camilla, great news! Prepare a conference and statement. We have some great news! Our new outpost has been completed and we have officially expanded into a new star system! We will, of course, be needing volunteers to man the station and new mining facilities so also prepare some posters. I want a meeting with the Grand Admiral as well, we must firmly establish ourselves in this new system.' Camilla acknowledged and set about working. Sean smiled and poured himself a cup of tea. Looking back out of his window, into the cool darkness that was settling over the city, he once again found his gaze drawing upwards. Yes, he thought to himself, he would meet with Miriam on her flagship, the Cataphract and get himself off world. He felt stifled and stuck on this planet at times.

Giorgio looked over the report again, the readings not making any sense. He ran the numbers on a separate sheet of plasti-paper. Once he finished, he looked at both sheets. The numbers checked out. He almost jumped out of his chair as he scrambled out his cabin, heading to the bridge. Once there, he saw the same looks on the scientist manning the sensors. 'I've double checked, it checks out. There is no problems with the sensors. The energy readings we are getting off those particles are incredible!' Giorgio said, as he rushed towards the panels. 'Record all this data. We must get this information back to Earth. Get what samples you can, though be careful. We will have to develop some new procedures and equipment to harvest these in useful numbers.' Giorgio said most of this almost absent-minded, his attention taken by further analysis of the motes. 'And be careful with the samples, they seem unstable...' he trailed off, smiling to his team. Once again, they were at the forefront of discovery.

upload_2019-6-6_20-25-46.png

The first strategic resource

Julia adjusted the scanner, focusing the beam further. The reading jumped again... 'There! Liam, focus the external camera on co-ordinates 5602.37N, 03525.25E.' She looked up at the main display as the image came into focus. 'That, there, zoom in further... beneath the sands, can you see it?' Her excitement building as the image focused. The shape clearly a structure. 'Finally! Jack, find us a landing site, we're going in.' Julia practically beamed at her team, the excitement coming off her in waves, infecting the rest of the crew in the bridge. After so many great discoveries going to the Lief Ericsson, the Steven Hawking will once again be talked about back home. Julia moved off to prepare for the landing.

upload_2019-6-6_20-40-35.png

The first of many, hopefully! Conveniently Julia got the Archaeologist trait just before the discovery.

'So far we have managed to find two habitable planets, one in Sirius and one in Alpha Centauri. We have begun preparations for our first planetary colony outside of Sol. All we need is where we go first.' The Grand Cleric, Tiberius XIX, looked up as the First Citizen briefed the hierarchy of the Union. 'Of course, First Citizen, this is an important step. We will obviously be guided by the Divine Will.' he spoke, cutting Sean off. Sean looked over at him, irritation clear upon his features. 'Of course, Grand Cleric. As your church teaches us, all we do is guided by the Divine Will.' The Grand Cleric bowed his head in acknowledgement, a small smile playing across his lips. He enjoyed winding up the First Citizen. 'We know that many of our early studies showed the planets in Alpha Centauri to be most likely as habitable. Therefore, I propose we set that as the first target.' Sean continued, his annoyance at the earlier interruption clear. 'Alpha Centauri is closer to our home system. This will allow the fleet to respond quickly in the even of any emergency.' Miriam added, offering her support to the First Citizen. He passed her a quick smile and looked around the rest of the table. The Minister of Finances and Social Affairs, Gustavo Visiarés, looked down at his plasti-paper. 'Well, we understand the need to set up such adventurous pursuits, we must be aware of the financial constraints.' He frowned as he ran some numbers. 'The cost is' 'Acceptable, I'm sure.' The Grand Cleric cut him off. 'We must also be aware that we have yet to uncover anything regarding The Stranger. Settling on a new world will allow us to explore further'. Gustavo frowned at him but kept his silence. All knew the general populace eagerly awaited any news that could lead towards humanity's once guiding force. 'Then we are agreed. We will begin preparations at once. We have the volunteers already getting ready for transport.' Sean, began to pick up his papers when a small cough from the end of the table drew his attention. Qian Wu had stood up, off to back of the room, her features almost lost in the shadows pooling in the corner where she stood. 'Forgive me, all, however there is one thing the Science Division would like. With the discovery of these habitable worlds, we would like to conduct a full survey. Whilst there are several that may be outside of the habitability for humans, understanding a variety of planets will allow us to potentially bring these planets into our own range.' She looked nervously around the room, particularly at Gustavo, who she frequently clashed with when it came to funding. 'This has potential' Came his surprising response. 'Understanding these planets would allow us to potentially exploit more resources, or find new ones such as those... what were they called? Vital motes?' 'Volatile Motes, Gustavo. Yes, I think this initiative is commendable. If there are no objections?' Sean looked around the room. Most looked bored, though Miriam tipped her head towards the door, indicating he wanted a private word. 'Good. We will meet again next week, unless anything drastic is to occur.' Sean gathered his papers and headed to his office, Miriam following close behind.
upload_2019-6-6_21-44-55.png

Always a fun one to do.

'Sean, you know I'm right. If the election does not go your way, the next First Citizen could undo all you have tried to achieve.' Miriam argued. She was leaning back, her legs draped over the right arm of the chair. Her uniform was half unbuttoned and a glass of whisky in her left hand, which she gestured at Sean as she spoke. 'Yes, Miriam, I know this. But that will be the will of the people.' Sean reasoned back. He glanced at the nearly empty bottle sat on his desk. They had discussed the plans for the Union long into the night and it always came to this. 'I'm not saying you should go against their will. I am not a tyrant, despite what I'm sure some of my crew think!' They both smiled at the last comment, before Miriam continued. 'All I am saying is you need to safeguard what you have achieved. Push for the council to ratify the Expansion Bill before the election is concluded. If you win it, then you can move on to other matters. If you lose it, then your relief will need to follow through with the continued expansion of territory and colonisation of Sirius.' Sean knew the argument, but also the dangers. 'Miriam, you know my position. I am not the head of the council so much as the first among equals. We will require support, not the enforcement of my will. You know Gustavo will go against it and Tiberius is as likely to back me as he is to block it merely to annoy me. The rest fall into the respective factions.' Miriam nodded as he spoke. 'Yes, yes, we both know this. But you know the military will follow you...' He shot her a dark look 'Not in that way, bad wording on my part. The generals will follow my lead and you know you have my vote.' She chuckled, rising from her chair, placing her glass on the table. She moved with a controlled drunken sway, settling herself on the end of his desk. 'Think about raising this issue. As you say, Gustavo wants to avoid expansion, but I think Tiberius would agree. After all, it is the 'Divine Will'' Sean laughed at the impression. 'Very well, I will raise it at the next meeting. Now, if we stay in here any longer, gossip will be flying by tomorrow. Besides, you've drunk most of my best whisky!' He said in faux outrage. Miriam chuckled and leaned close to him. 'Let them gossip.' She said, her lips inches from his. She then suddenly stood up and turned away, exaggerating the sway of her hips as she headed to the door. 'But not today. Some of us have work tomorrow.' She turned at the door and winked before leaving. Damn woman, Sean thought to himself, chuckling. She was as likely to kiss him as hit him, but then she'd been like that since the day they'd met.

upload_2019-6-6_22-13-56.png

Opted to Map the Stars to increase my surveying and anomaly chances.

Sean dismounted to the cheering crowds outside Union Building. The Election won, he now had to meet with the Council to once again to ratify his position. It was a formality, but always done in front of the populace, recorded live the world over. He paused to shake hands and talk to the waiting people on the walk to where the Council were seated. They enjoyed the change, meeting outside in the sun, the Council Chambers located deep in Union Building. When he reached the table, they stood in acknowledgement to him. He stood in front of his chair and indicated to the others, so they all sat together. The ceremony was brief, with an exchange of vows and promises to uphold the Union Constitution, serve the people of Earth and never cease in searching for The Stranger. With the formalities out of the way, Sean rose for his first address. 'People of Earth, I thank you for your continued trust. We are on the cusp of greatness. The first colony ship is almost complete. The next step will be consolidation. To that end, I will be putting forward plans for the building of new mines and extractors within our new territory.' As his speech continued Sean sighed in relief inwardly. He had no choice on the new mines. It was the agreement made for Gustavo's support in the election and the expansion initiative. Better to be in the Finance Minister's pocket than the Churches...

upload_2019-6-6_22-29-8.png

A successful campaign

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The Human Stellar Union. We are slowly expanding.
 

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Slowly, but surely. And it appears you have cut off a nice little group of four systems for later exploitation.
 

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Yeah, we are slowly building up. Not encountered any other signs of life at all yet, but trying to get the chokepoints all seized for the inevitable!
 

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The ship shook violently as it entered the upper atmosphere. Several of the colonists gripped their armrests, some paling. Several prayers could be heard being muttered. 'We are coming in to the landing zone now. We shall be down in approximately 10 minutes. We request all personnel remain seated until the doors are opened.' The captain's voice boomed across the crew compartment. The ship approached the identified landing zone, the windows clearing the dark, stormy clouds to give the colonists their first glimpse of their future home. As the captain did a fly past of the landing zone, one of the colonists called out: 'By The Stranger, look at that!' Several, ignoring the crews orders, unclipped their belts and rushed to a window. A giant quadruped towered several bovine-like creatures, slowly moving towards the nearby forest before disappearing in the gigantic trees. 'If all can return to their seats, we can begin the landing. We will have plenty of time to observe and learn about the creatures on this planet.' A crew member called out. Talking excitedly among themselves, the colonists settled back down. In no time, the ship had landed, doors had opened and the captain, Paul Lomack, became the first colonist to step foot. He took a deep breath of this alien world, turned around to where the rest of the colonists were waiting. 'Welcome to Mesozia!'

upload_2019-6-10_17-25-1.png

Our first colony!

'We have the dating results. This site appears to have be a few centuries old! We are looking around 1800-1900 in Earth years.' Jack handed the report to Julia as he spoke. She took it and glanced at it, before putting it to one side. She picked up her tools and continued to dig as she spoke. 'It's hard to believe how little time appears to have passed. Whatever happened here was total. We will need to make sure we pay close attention to decon routines. The background radiation level is very high.' She paused, standing up and dusting herself off. Her excitement building. 'Technology wise, we are looking around 20th Century Earth. With the level of destruction and the background radiation we believe we are looking at nuclear warfare.' She glanced around, noting several other teams deep in discussion before looking up and the mulit-coloured sky. 'Thank you for the report, Jack.' she turned to face him, forcing herself to stop looking up. 'There is more to learn here. I think we need to run checks to see if that sky is natural or a result of the cataclysmic events. Imagine living under such a beautiful sky. If only the ground was lush and green, instead of barren and dry.' She smiled, her eyes returning to the sky. This is why I left Earth, she thought to herself. We know so much of our own history, now we can learn about others and what could have been. 'It is odd.' Jack replied, finishing passing the orders in to his comm system, 'So far, all we have found are destroyed, dead civilisations. I wonder if we will ever find a living civilisation?' Julia could only agree as they both returned to work.

upload_2019-6-10_17-33-56.png

Step one complete

Lauri moved the ship, noting the shadow against the planet. Once she had managed to match the velocity, stabilising the ship in orbit, she activated the scanner as well as the lights on the ships hull. The hull of a large ship became illuminated on the view screen. Data began to pour in from the scanner. 'What we got?' Giorgio asked, walking into the bridge. He paused as he saw the view screen. 'Incredible! Do we have an age yet?' He asked. 'Coming in now... It would appear to be the same age as the previous Yuht find... And the materials match as well! It is Yuht! We have finally found another artifact!' Giorgio walked towards the screen. 'Look at that thing! Let's get full scan details. Can we get on board?' He asked. 'I can't be certain of the safety if we were to try... I am working on integrity of the structure now, but given... Oh!' Giorgio looked from the screen to Lauri, not making any comment as he noted her hands quickly moving across screens and dials. The view on the screen shifted further up the hull, towards the bow. Large holes appeared in the hull. 'Readings indicate a combination of laser and missile weaponry, the ship was hit hard! Integrity lowers rapidly as scans move closer to the bow section.' Lauri continued to adjust the scanners as Giorgio looked on. Another Precursor find! 'I want a team prepared. I don't want to waste any time should we be able to get over there.'

upload_2019-6-10_18-15-14.png

The Yuht cruiser

The cavernous tube lay open, the contents no longer inside. A short distance away lay the remains of what was reasoned to be a control centre and, just beyond that, a large impact crater and wreckage from some sort of flying machine. Julia was sat on the edge of the impact crater looking at the strewn pieces a short distance below. A team was working on trying to piece the contraption together whilst others were looking over the primitive computer systems in the control centre. She took a sip of her coffee, her gaze constantly drifting to the sky. As she looked she noticed something odd. There! 'Jack, come here!' She called, jumping up and waving at him. He came jogging up the crater lip, dust completely covering him and flying off his hair as he moved. 'Hey, what's up, boss?' He asked, following her gaze to the sky. 'Watch... tell me what you see.' Bewildered, Jack turned to look up again to the sky. A short while passed and he began to wonder what he was looking for when he saw it. 'It repeats itself... there's a definite pattern there!' He grabbed his comm system as he spoke. 'We need to get a recording of the sky. And begin analysis of it.' Julia nodded as he spoke. This could be another breakthrough. She picked up her plasti-paper and walked off a short distance. She turned to look over the site and pressed record. 'Cast your minds back to the late 20th century. The threat of nuclear war hung over Earth. Attached are some images of what could have been. This planet clearly succumbed to the weapons they created, the threats and posturing of the different nation states culminating in absolute destruction. Whether one side believed they could overcome the other without repercussion or if they were prepared to face the inevitable we do not yet know.' She paused to gather her thoughts. 'What we do know, however, is we ourselves were not far off this fate. Even into the 21st century, our planet remained splintered in factions, each pursuing their own agendas, separated from each other. With the coming of The Stranger, we overcame our fears and combined our knowledge, we evolved and moved forward, recognised that we are one species, not a collection of tribes. But, despite our more advanced mindset, we must never forget how close we came to sharing this fate.' Julia stopped recording for now, putting her plasti-paper to one side. She would edit later.

upload_2019-6-10_18-46-42.png

Part two complete

'... And there are still new frontiers to push, and new discoveries to find! Our vessels have brought new wisdom and mysteries, aiding mankind in learning more about this universe in which we live. But, with each new mystery, with each step, more awaits us. And the workload of our vessels increases. So it is us, the crew of the Newton, who will go and explore the unknown regions. We will bring the light to the darkness!' Ibrahim al-Samarrai finished his speech and stood as his crew cheered. He waited until they stopped then nodded to his helmsman: 'Antonio, take us out. Let us go and seek our destiny.'

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With various research and exploration taking so long, I decided a third vessel was in order.

Qian Wu walked in the assembly, her plasti-paper filled with open tabs of notes from various research projects. She was muttering to herself as she breezed past Sean, who was waiting for her, an amused expression on his face. As she approached her usual space at the table, she looked up, her face turning scarlet as she realised everyone had been waiting to start the meeting. 'I... M... My apologies. I must have g... gotten distracted.' She stammered. Her gaze settled on the Prime Citizen and she soon lowered her eyes and took her seat. Sean sat, trying not to laugh. 'No worries, we are all here now. So, you wanted us to meet?' He said, leaning forward. 'Yes, Prime Citizen.' Qian replied. She paused, as she looked around the table once more. 'Our technology continues to advance at an incredible pace. I have a proposition that I would like to discuss. If we are to keep developing we need to focus our efforts sooner. What we would like to see is an increase in training and development of the sciences at university levels.' She paused, focusing on the Finance Minister and this time mostly speaking to him. 'Whilst we appreciate that this will involve an initial cost, development of advanced technologies will lead to better, more reliable equipment that will lead to a decrease in replacements and therefore reduce spending in other areas.' Gustavo didn't reply, but continued to stare at her, making her uncomfortable. Sean broke the silence that had followed. 'Well, I think we can all agree that it is a fine suggestion. After all, The Stranger himself promoted the sciences as one of our highest priorities and, if we are to find him, new discoveries will aid us in that.' He smiled at the Grand Cleric who was nodding as he spoke. 'Indeed, Prime Citizen, indeed. It is a commendable initiative.' He replied. His support was already brought with the new temple being built to The Stranger. Sean had been discussing this for several weeks with Qian Wu and had finally assured her that the council would support her proposal. Gustavo looked between the two, already knowing any argument he had against would be defeated. He sighed before speaking, 'Well, the new colony, Mesozia, is almost up and running. We have yet to build up research facilities there.' He paused, running some figures on his plasti-paper before continuing. 'Yes... I note that the facilities in the old Ivy League have long fallen behind with modern practices, as well as several key positions on the European continent. Very well. Finance has no objections.' He glared at Sean as he spoke. Sean just smiled back as Qian Wu rushed out to share the excited news with the rest of her team.

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First perk - Technological Ascendancy, to help get Psionic Theory

'Scanners coming on... What the hell!' Lauri looked in shock as a large creature filled the viewscreen. The creature noticed the ship and quickly turned towards them. Several projectiles came away from it, streaming towards the Lief Ericsson. 'Evasive action! Get us back in the lane now!' Giorgio called out. 'Record all the data you can before we jump.' The projectiles streamed past the ship as it turned around sharply, thrusters firing on full. As the ship entered the jump lane, the crew breathed a sigh of relief. Mankind's first encounter with a living being in this universe and it nearly ended in disaster!
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Some 'unknown' alien beings...

The construction ship Ganges drifted next to their current project. Kianti yawned, idly reading through the construction report. Middle watch always dragged. The mining station was nearing completion. A quick resupply and some drone repair would be required before the next project. She looked over drone performance, noting X-43 was lagging behind the others. She noted this down and stifled another yawn. Suddenly a klaxon rang out across the ship. 'What the hell!' She exclaimed loudly. 'What is it?' a voice came over the comm. One of the other three crewmembers, Zack, calling in from his break in the galley. 'I'm not... hang on.' She opened a ship wide communication and hit the general alarm button. After three blasts she spoke: 'Action Stations! Action Stations! Sensors report something coming out of the jump lane!' In a short while the rest of the crew had come into the control room. 'What is it?' the bleary eyed captain asked as he came up to Kiant's station. 'I'm not sure. It looks like a ship, but the design is alien.' Kianti looked over her shoulder. 'Vlad, this could be it... first contact!' Vlad rubbed his eyes, looking over the report. 'Contact the station, warn them to be on high alert. Continue the construction efforts, we are in range of the stations guns. And try to communicate with them.' He turned to go and paused. 'Oh, and shut that damned klaxon off!' he walked to the comms center and began to prepare his report. This was not remotely in his training!

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First Contact!

'We note that the creature is something else. It is beyond our current understanding, yet clearly alive. We surmise it may be trying to communicate, but what we don't know. What role did it play in the destruction of this world? Did it come afterwards, was it already here? These are some of the questions we may never had answered. It is time for us to move on, however. We record all this information for future generations. Perhaps one day we may be in a position to answer these questions. Further information from the history of the planet to the creature in question are in the accompanying annexes.' Julia read back her words, squeezing her stress ball. With the word spreading about a possible first contact, the crew were eager to continue their exploration, particularly as the aliens came from their sector. 'Computer, save and submit the report. Mark it as Secret - Project Romanus, priority Beta-3.' She grabbed her jacket and walked out of her cabin. Classifying her work always seemed pointless to her, especially as the council usually declassified it almost immediately, yet it was standard procedure. She walked into the corridor and headed to the bridge. The local station had resupplied them and it was now time to get back to exploration.

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An enjoyable first dig!

'We are limited in time! How this has escaped notice is already being investigated, but the blame must be put aside. We request the fleet immediately!' Miriam shut the video and Sean returned to the screen. 'As you can see, it is quite urgent. We can only hope our weaponry is sufficient!' Sean looked tired and worried. With the reports of aliens, both sentient and otherwise, the council had been meeting almost daily to discuss various COAs. 'We are on our way. The combat drills focused mostly on ships and these 'amoebas'. I am sure we can tackle this asteroid.' Miriam replied. She turned to leave. 'Wait. Miriam... Be careful. Things are.. moving quickly.' She smiled, turning back. 'You too, Sean. Oh, and go to bed! No need for both of us to lose out on sleep.' She shut of the vidtel as she walked out. 'Admiral to Bridge. Call the fleet. We move to the Alpha Centaurai system.'

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Well... This could be bad...

The Council sat, Qian Wu remaining standing. 'Thank you all for coming at such short notice. We... Well, that is to say our...' she stopped, looking around. Taking a deep breath she started again. 'As you recall back in the 20th, mankind sent out probes everywhere, with a lot of information on them, not least trajectory and, therefore, the location of Earth. We believe these probes are still out there.' The rest of the council sat, silent. 'We need to recover them?' Qian prompted. 'Yes, yes of course! But why are you bringing us this information now?' The Grand Cleric spoke up. 'We believe we have tracked them and know where they are.' She replied. 'I see. We must do everything we can to find and recover these probes. Miriam is out dealing with another matter. We need to send out what ships we can spare to find these probes and then recover them.' The Grad Cleric looked over to Sean, who nodded. 'Yes. This needs to be dealt with as a priority. Having discovered we are not alone the threat this poses is serious indeed. Send the co-ordinates of the probes to my office and I'll have the ships prepared.'

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Well, I'm sure it was a good idea at the time...

The ship slid into the dock of Ullus Station. A full honour guard was arrayed to meet the visitors. The Tal'Akkur stepped out from their ship, their representative, Zup'Forn, at the head of the delegation. The station Commander, Ishmael Valsignor, stood waiting for the group. It was a quick, simple ceremony with an exchange of territorial charts and a promise to respect each others territorial integrity. 'So, we are agreed. May this be the first of many great meetings between our people.' Ishmael concluded the official aspect of the meeting. 'Ambassador, we would like to welcome you to a meal. We have prepared what we believe is a traditional Tal'Akkur dish, a Zenfrie Ismal'ak?' He offered. 'Thank you, human, but we must decline. The pursuit of knowledge waits for nobody and our mission is to bring that knowledge back to the homeworld.' They turned to leave, Ishmael stood surprised. As the ship left, he shook his head. 'Aliens.' he muttered, then moved to tell the kitchen the meal was cancelled. They wouldn't be happy! The ingredients weren't exactly easy to procure...

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The Tal'Akkur Interstellar Empire

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The galaxy as we know it.
 

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And what are the Tal'Akkur like I wonder.
 

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Miriam stood on the bridge of her flagship, the Cataphract, watching the asteroid loom closer in the viewscreen. 'That's the target. Signal Earth and Mesozia. We should have plenty of time to engage.' She waited for the message to be sent and, when she got the acknowledgement, pressed the comm button next to her, opening a channel to the fleet. 'Ready to engage. Form up in line abreast. Upon contact, circle and destroy. It may not be the great enemy we trained to destroy, but this is a grave threat to the people of our first colony. We Protect Mankind!' She shouted the last, a saying that had become a war cry in their training. Across the fleet, the members of the Union Navy cheered their commander's words. Autoloaders moved missiles and solid shot into loading bays, gunners tracked and entered solutions, updating as required when new sensor data came in. The fleet inched closer, all on board were silent. As the Admiral had said, this was hardly what many were expecting of the first engagement of humankind in space, but that did not diminish the importance of their mission. Miriam watched the engagement range inch down. 'FCO, standby to fire on target 001.' She spoke, quietly. The FCO, Fire Control Officer, raised a thumb in acknowledgement, leaning forward to mutter a slight change in the initial solution. Miriam opened the fleet wide channel again. 'All positions. Fire.'

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Mankind's first space battle... Not exactly what all hoped...

Shot after shot, missile after missile, the fleet poured all they could into the asteroid. The dense rock at first managed to hold off blasts, but slowly at first, cracks began to appear in the surface. Miriam analysed the sensor data streaming in. She zoomed in the image to one particular crack that had appeared. 'There. Focus all firepower on that spot. Send the co-ordinates to the fleet.' Miriam watched as the fleet gave everything they had on the newly formed fault line. The crack began to expand, new cracks growing from it and slowly etching across the surface. Suddenly, the asteroid was no more, the vacuum of space sucking up all noise of the explosion, seen from the surface of Mesozia. Cheering erupted, both on the fleet and the planet below. Smiling, Miriam looked around before speaking. 'Signal the fleet and offer our congratulations. Send a mission complete report to both Earth and Mesozia. Inform Union Command that we will now engage ourselves in the search for the missing probes. I will be in my cabin.' She paused waiting till the control room was silent once more. 'Once that is complete, signal the fleet. Splice the Mainbrace!' The crew cheered at the sudden re-introduction of this old custom. A measure of rum for each crew member was a traditional reward for service or to mark a special occasion in the navies of old.

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Our first victory!

The fleet slipped out of the lane and sensors began to come back online. 'Admiral, we are being hailed!' Miriam looked at the sensor data coming in. 'Acknowledged. Patch it through to the bridge.' The sensors had locked on to the probe. Miriam frowned as she read the incoming data. The probe had been altered... Several pieces of equipment were unable to be identified by the sensors, marking them as alien in origin. 'Hail is patched to the bridge, Admiral. There is no video.' Miriam acknowledged and unconsciously straightened herself up, smoothing the front of her uniform. 'This is Admiral Mir-' She began before a computerised voice cut her off. 'Are you the maker?' The electronic voice was loud, the tone sounding mournful or fearful, yet clearly non-biological in origin. 'I... Yes, we made you. We-' Again, the computerised voice cut her off. 'Then... you shall die...' Came the chilling reply. The voice had changed to anger. 'Sensors indicate the probe is powering up!' Miriam acknowledged. 'Power to shields, evasive manoeuvres! Target that probe and destroy it!'

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Probe number 1...

Having destroyed the altered probe, the fleet turned towards the Gatria system, where evidence suggested that there is another probe. The fleet entered the system and began to gather data as the sensors came back on from the jump. 'When we entered the system, the first thing we noticed was an abnormal reading. Some form of... energy. We have identified the probe near the energy.' Miriam paused in her report, considering her next words. 'The fleet has moved from one encounter to the next. There is no indication that the probe is likely to move from this system in the short term. To that end, we intend to hold position here.' she paused again, hesitating. This was the crux of her report and she wanted to phrase her request correctly. 'We have encountered a series of increasing challenges, and there are, frankly, some that we are not equipped to take on. The fleet needs more firepower. Additionally, our weapons technology has not improved in nearly 20 years. I request the council look at sending us more ships and efforts be put towards increasing our weapons technology.' She sent the report to the comms room ready to be transmitted back to Earth. With it was a message to the First Citizen to ask for his backing in her request. She was more certain than ever that the fleet was woefully underpowered.

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So this next probe is guarded by a being that out powers my fleet...

Sean sighed as argument rang through the council chamber once again. Finally, having had enough, he jumped out of his seat, shouting 'Ladies, Gentlemen! You forget yourselves!!' The chamber was suddenly silent as all looked to the top of the table. 'I understand all want to pursue different courses. Tiberius, yes, anything that can bring us closer to finding The Stranger and peace to our people is good. Yes, Gustavo, trade is important as well, and all we decide here will obviously require funding-' Gustavo cut him off, pointing an accusatory finger at Sean 'Funding that could have been available if you had not ordered those new ships, completely bypassing this council!' Sean waved the accusation away. 'Yes, yes, though others saw the need of it, with the exception of you. But shouting at each other is getting us nowhere. We need to make a decision and so far the least objectional appears to be the Expansion and Colonisation Initiative put forward by the Development Minister.' Sean paused glaring around the table. 'Juan, explain to us how this would work. I appreciate there may be questions. Unless there are objections and instead we wish to shout at each other endlessly?' His gaze stopped at Gustavo who at least had the good grace to look ashamed. 'Good. Juan, please continue.'

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Decided on expansion next.

'That's all the new ships in position, Admiral.' She nodded in reply, her attention on the displays. 'Very good. We engage the entity at once. All ships, prepare to engage.' She reviewed the data once more. Even with the new ships, it was likely to be close... But that probe must be recovered. The ships slid through the darkness of space, weapons all locked on. Miriam said a quiet prayer to The Stranger as the fleet moved into range. Opening the fleet channel she uttered one word: 'Fire.'

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Sean sat behind the desk of First Citizen for the last time. Right now, Qian Wu was being sworn into the office. Sean, having served his two term legal limit, had proposed her for the leadership of the Union and, in no small part to his backing, she had won the position with an overwhelming majority. He had a final look around, once more enjoying the view from the window. He turned and picked up the box of his personal belongings from the desk. Without another glance he walked out of the office. He had already spoken to, and congratulated, the new First Citizen and now planned to take some time off before deciding what to do next. His comm unit beeped. The incoming message brought a smile to his face. It seemed 1st Fleet was coming back to Sol to repair and resupply. He looked forward to catching up with Miriam once again.

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Sean has vacated his position to Qian Wu.

Ibrahim walked into the science lab, noting the 3D image displayed on the central table. 'What do we have, then?' He asked. His brusque manner initially made him seem distant, but those that knew him well enough appreciated his focus and drive. Still, the scientists on board always felt as though he was permanently disappointed with their efforts. 'We believe it to be a Yuht colony vessel.' Sarah replied, tapping the mid-section of the image which zoomed to the highlighted area. 'As you can see here, we have discovered the remains of several Yuht, many in this section here. The bodies were in cryo-stasis, but the system appears to have failed hundreds of years ago. Still, the bodies have provided information on their physiology that before had been mere theory. For the ship construction, it confirms what was discovered by Giorgio's team when they uncovered that cruiser. It had a single pilot... here.' She manipulated the image to display a small cockpit. 'All the primary functions of the ship were routed to this...' She trailed off as she noticed the all-familiar look on Ibrahim's face. She was starting to wear on his patience. 'The main points are in this report. Additionally, we have retrieved the engine from the ship. Full details are also in-' She stopped suddenly as Ibrahim raised his hand. 'All in the report, yes, yes.' He picked up the plasti-paper report and began to scan through. 'Good work to you and your team.' He smiled as he looked at Sarah, who had failed to hide her shock. 'I know, you all view me as some sort of tyrant. The truth is, there is so much to do around here that I often feel the need to canter through things.' He sighed as he returned to the report. 'Pass on my congratulations to your team. This is an important find and you should all be rightly proud.' He left the lab, reading through the report.

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Another Yuht artifact under our belt.

'The Tal'Akkur have taken over the Lessim System. This gives them two jumps into Ullus, the gateway to our territory. Whilst we have an agreement to respect each others territory we cannot guarantee that this will last forever. We need to build up those defences now.' Miriam closed her report on the state of the Union military. She looked around at the rest of the Council. 'This system is vulnerable. We do not have a technological edge over the Tal'Akkur, we do not have numerical superiority. In short, should our fleet be caught at the wrong end of our territory, there would be little to stop them carving a path straight to Earth.' Tiberius cleared his throat before speaking. 'They show no desire to start a war with us. They pursue knowledge. What makes you think they will want to invade? Or is this merely another way of getting funding towards the military, another waste of our resources?' His tone mocking at the end. Miriam looked up to the ceiling, exasperated. 'Oh, you are so right! Instead of building up necessary defences let us, oh I don't know, fund a lavish festival to The Stranger! A much better use of our resources, clearly!' This brought some laughter, though also made the Grand Cleric quiver with visible anger 'Now you listen here! Sean is not here to protect you now, Admiral. If you think I am going to-' 'Going to what, Grand Cleric?' A quiet voice spoke from the top of the table. Qian Wu leant forward on the table, staring coldly at the Grand Cleric. 'The Admiral speaks the truth. Whilst your festival was certainly extravagant, it was costly. Resources that could have been directed elsewhere.' she raised her hand to cut off further argument. 'Personally, I agree. Whilst they are not a threat at this stage, we don't know what is around the corner. It is best to hedge our bets, so to speak.' Gustavo inclined his head, indicating he wished to speak. Qian Wu waved in his direction and sat back down. This matter was likely to go back and forth for a while yet.

Giorgio looked at the damage to the hull. The damage to the ship was impossible by any standards of weaponry currently available to mankind. 'What is the inside like?' He asked over the comm. The returning voice sounded distant and echoed, the effect of the suits required for survival in hazardous environments. 'There is evidence of crew. It appears the atmosphere vented within seconds of the hull melting. It would seem that they have no procedures for shutting bulkhead doors or they did not have time to initiate those, as so far all decks and compartments are open. We believe we are coming up to the main computer processing room. We will download what we can from their computers.' Lauri replied. Giorgio looked at the various camera feeds. The damage went further than the hull, with several sections of the deck melted as well. He watched, intrigued, as the team came across a computer. In short time they had the portable power unit wired in and had managed to get into the system. 'Streaming the data back now' Giorgio acknowledged as the data began to stream back to the ship. Fascinating! Thought Giorgio. 'Once the data stream is complete, hurry back to the ship. It looks like we have a new destination!' He noticed one word kept coming up in the files, Rubricator.

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The Rubricator - Another new event!
 

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And what are the Tal'Akkur like I wonder.
Yes... That is something that I forgot to add in... :D

upload_2019-6-11_21-43-41.png

Meet the Tal'Akkur!

Our differences may well lead to war, hence the fortifying of the Ullus system. Best to be prepared! I have yet to gather sufficient data on their ship loadouts, but intend to send in a science ship to uncover and investigate soon.

Additionally, we encountered another event, but that will be weaved into the tale at a later date.

If there are any other questions, suggestions or other comments, please feel free! :)
 

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Well at least they are not overtly hostile, despite probably future conflict.
 

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Well at least they are not overtly hostile, despite probably future conflict.
Yeah, that is always a bonus. The Union's stance is that, whilst we do not want war with the Tal'Akkur we are more than prepared to defend ourselves. Our focus remains, as it always has done, to find The Stranger and solve his divine mystery. Oh, and, you know, be the dominant power in the galaxy, achieve immortality etc... ;)
 

Smokez83

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Aug 26, 2017
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Life on Ullus Station was boring. There really was no other word for it. Yes, the Commodore in charge of the station ran frequent drills, to the point the crew could defend the place half asleep and with their eyes closed. Which was the point, reasoned Anika. Still, it did little to alleviate the boredom in between the drills. She yawned, scratching at her neck as she did so. The room was filled with her cigarette smoke, a half drunk cup of coffee on the desk. As the on-watch communications technician, her job was to monitor signals in and out of the system, which mostly consisted of the miners talking to the station about their loads, or news from Earth, usually running around 3 days behind when it actually happened. Zzzkha... She jumped as the comms system came to life, suddenly. 'Islni va'ak ocha?' She checked the transcripts, her hand stopping short of the general alarm. Part of her job involved language training and this was a language she didn't recognise... She activated the microphone. 'This is Ullus Station. Repeat your last transmission.' She waited... After a short break, a heavily accented voice replied. 'Hello?' Though the accent made it sound more like heelo. 'Ees thes de Hooman You-Neon?' She heard muttering in the background 'We are the Mireesh.' The accent became clearer. It was then she noticed the pause between each words... Some sort of translator software, perhaps? 'This is Ullus Station, of the Human Union. We do not know any Mireesh, however.' Anika responded. A short pause again then the voice came back, the accent nearly completely gone. 'We are the Mireesh. A civilisation living the other side of Tal'Akkur space from yourselves.' She broke the microphone connection and keyed in the Commodore's cabin on the comm unit. 'Sir, this is Petty Officer Anika Valesh, in comms. You will want to come here. We have made contact with another species!'

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The Mireesh. They could be useful friends.

As the ship left the jump gate, Kyle turned it towards the Tal'Akkur station. He double checked the cargo manifest, mostly consisting of wood and stone from Union planets. He was hoping for a decent profit off this run, enough to buy a second ship, or hire someone else to do the travelling whilst he negotiated supplies from his warehouse on Mesozia. Or relocate to Earth! He smiled to himself. It had been a while since he went there, seen his parents... He'll have to make sure he calls in on his way back. He could pick up something from the Tal'Akkur markets. The sensor alarm went off. Snapped out of his thoughts of Earth, he checked the scanner. 4 corvette sized ships were heading straight for him! He slowed to half impulse and reached for his comm, ready for the incoming call. They normally checked incoming ships at the station... The corvettes reached him and spread out. Sensors indicated weapons were locked on to him. 'Something is not right...' he muttered to himself. 'Human vessel. This is Ink'loran of the Tal'Akkur. Turn your ship around and leave our territory.' Kyle opened the mic. 'Greetings, Ink'loran. I am Kyl-' He began. 'I told you to leave. Do so immediately.' Ink'loran responded. Kyle's frown deepened. 'We have had trade between our people for a while now. I am happy to welcome you aboard to check my manifest?' He replied, inwardly swearing to himself. He needed the profits from this trip and to have it taken so suddenly seemed a cruel twist of fate to him. 'That has changed. As of 3 days ago we have shut off our borders. Your kind are no longer welcome here.' Kyle swore again, loudly this time. Flipping the mic back on, he paused before speaking. He was tempted to argue, but what good would it do him? 'Very well. I will return through the star lane now.' He turned his ship, noting how the corvettes kept pace with him. He slipped into the lane, heading back to Ullus. Perhaps he could still make some money on the local market? Either way, he knew word of this had to get back. The next ship may not be so lucky!

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So it begins... we have, of course, responded in kind!

'Approaching the lane now, captain' Antonio reported. He began to program in the route to line them up to the lane. 'Sir, sensors are reading... something?' Sarah spoke suddenly, frowning as she looked at the information. 'The lane! Sir, there's another vessel about to come out the lane. Our current information indicates that no species has connection to the other side.' Ibrahim nodded, reading the information. 'All stop. We'll hold here and see what it is.' He glanced at the readout. It appeared to be an object moving at some speed, approximately the same size as the Newton. So most likely a ship as Sarah had said. 'Put up shields and be prepared to make an emergency jump, just to be safe.' Ibrahim ordered. 'We shall hold here. We seem to be making frequent contact with new races lately.'

Julia looked out the window at the deep darkness of space, a warm glow coming off the local star. Off towards the stern of the science vessel sat the ISS Ganges, the construction starting to work on a new energy collection station whilst towards the bow was the newly commissioned station. Having been called off of their previous exploration tasking, it felt good to be back in Union space. Their previous experience made the crew of the Steven Hawking the ideal choice for the important excavation work in the Jezemei system. She read through the report on the Rubricator once more. It was clearly a powerful weapon! She thought to herself, looking at the picts of the melted hull. The computer of that ship had led them to here, the planet designated Jezemei V, a ruined city planet a... ah, yes, an ecumenopolis. Now the whole planet was a relic, waiting to be explored. They had done a series of surface scans on all bodies in this system whilst they waited for the station to be built. This allowed them to be resupplied more efficiently than if they had to send requests to a different system. Julia was keen to get down to the planet and begin work uncovering the mysteries this planet holds.

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The next stage in the Rubricator event line

'It would appear that the item we are searching for could still be here, somewhere. The extract suggested that, in the midst of a war, the previous inhabitants of this planet fought hard to protect the Rubricator. We do not know the purpose of the war, but it appears to be almost a civil war. It looks like the war was waged against this planet by members of the same species from different homeworlds.' Jack was clearly excited by the discovery. 'We have also found several units that could be used to house colonists should we decide to utilise this planet, though there is a lot of work to do until this planet would be ready.' he added. Julia looked up from her comm, noticing the sky. The sun was setting where she was and the sky lit up with reds, oranges and golds. 'Yes, one day it would be a great planet for mankind. Still, in the meantime we must continue our work here. There are other planets and this one is currently a dig site. We don't need colonists trampling over everything and breaking anything that could be important.' She tore her gaze away from the sky. 'Where did you say your team was? Sector 3?' She asked. 'Yes. Can we expect you soon? We have a few items that you would not doubt be very interested in'. Jack indicated behind him, though whatever it was did not appear on Julia's comm. 'Sounds good. I'll be there shortly, say, about half an hour.' Julia shut off her comm and, stooping to pick up her pack, set off walking towards Jack's team.

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We are moving through the chain quite nicely!

'Initial meeting protocol: Greetings being. We are the Tebrid Homolog.' The machine hovered just above the ground, long tentacles occasionally brushing the surface. Ibrahim moved to shake hands but paused slowly lowering his hand. The machine, noticing the movement, seemed to tilts its head to one side before mimicking the motion, one of its tentacles lifting part way. 'Apologies. We normally shake hands in our culture.' Ibrahim quickly explained, again going to shake hands and grasping the tentacle. 'Querying stance: To what purpose? It seems we have much to learn of each other.' Ibrahim coughed nervously. 'Well, it is a form of greeting. But never mind. We are intrigued about you and your kind. You are the first er... non-biological race we have encountered.' There was something about this being that made him nervous, the way it appeared to look everywhere at once. Who knew what this creature was seeing, or information it was trying to access. They had locked down all their secrets and added extra security, just in case. 'If you would like, we can settle in our briefing room, get to know each other and come to an understanding.' He motioned towards the adjoining room and led the way. The machine hovered behind him, following.

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So, I don't think they want to be friends? But maybe they will?

General Matshediso Onobanjo reviewed the report. The scientists, led by Hugo de Montaignac, had been studying the creatures on Mesozia. The study was borne out of local observations that showed these creatures displaying a high level of society and learning. With careful study, Hugo and his team were finally able to communicate with them. Now, a report had landed on the General's desk, the gist of which was a request from several of these creatures to join the Union Armed Forces. The Grand Admiral had left this decision entirely up to the General. The physiological aspect certainly added weight to the request. Several of the creatures had been put through a special training program, proving their capability of adapting to army equipment and operating procedures, as well as being able to respond well to orders. She scanned the end of the report before signing off on the project. These creatures would certainly prove to be a boon to the Union.

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An army of titanic creatures! What more could the Union want?

'Following a period of discussion, it would appear that the Tal'Akkur hae no intention of opening borders with us again. Instead, they appear to be actively working against us. At every turn they send insult to us or attempt to sabotage relations we have with other races. This cannot be left unanswered anymore!' Miriam was stood, her anger almost infectious to the other council members. 'Whilst I hesitate to agree with her, the Grand Admiral is correct. This will begin to hurt us financially should we not make steps to oppose this.' Gustavo cut in, much to everyone's surprise. 'These beings are without soul! They openly mock The Stranger, and our beliefs, as pure fantasy and delusion, thinking us primitive, unenlightened beings.' Tiberius cut in. 'Such an insult to us canno-' he cut off, coughing, seemingly choking on his own anger. Qian Wu moved around the table, offering him a drink and calming him. It was no longer a secret how ill the Grand Cleric was, and many had pressed him to nominate a successor. 'Well. This seems to be a first. It appears The Council is actually fully in agreement.' Qian Wu looked around the table as she returned to her seat. 'Very well. Whilst we do not want war, we will prepare ourselves. We will also give them a taste of their own medicine. We know the Mireesh are no fans of theirs. Perhaps we can forge closer bonds with them?' Seeing no objection she made a note to arrange a more formal meeting with the Mireesh Patriarch. 'We will also need to plan the defences. Further funding must be made to increase the strength of the fleets, as well as refitting the ships we currently have. Hopefully nobody has any plans for the rest of the day?' She saw resignation on everyone's face. It was likely to be a long day.


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A declaration of rivalry.

'Well then, let's see what you have here...' Julia muttered to herself, hooking the reactivated computer up to her translator. As the data streamed across the translated script came up on her plasti-paper. It was a manifest, a list of what the previous inhabitants held and where it was located. It seemed they looted thousands of items since they started this record. 'Come on... come on...' she muttered. Finally, the light on the translator flicked to green, indicating the whole list had been successfully translated. A few quick taps and... There! She flicked her communicator on: 'Jack, meet me here, in Sector 5. We are closer. I'm sending you a file.' Julia spoke quickly, lifting her backpack and gathering her items together. Another step closer to the Rubricator!

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Another step complete!

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The known galaxy.
 

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