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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Introduction
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    We say that we did what we had to. We justified our deeds with the idea of "necessitas non habit legem" - "necessity holds no law". But does it? Could even necessity itself have a higher law? And who decides what is necessary? What costs can be justified? And, when everything comes down to everything, who will watch the watchers? We fight, and, all the while, the Ancients - they who reign above - watch and plot. It has begun... and, soon, it will be finished.



    So, I've been holding off on doing a Stellaris AAR since Tides of Eternity failed. However, I've recently gotten an idea that I just had to write, so here's a Stellaris AAR! I'm in the mood for some dark stuff... so this won't be a happy AAR...
     
    Part 1 - Hiraeth Introduction
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    Hiraeth - Homesickness, esp. for a home that you can never return to or that never was.
     
    A Refugee Fleet
  • HistoryDude

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    The space between stars was dark. A fleet was fleeing destruction - no, ruins. Annihilation. These were refugees, and they needed somewhere to live. Their home was destroyed, and they had only barely survived.

    These survivors were led by a man named Jack. Jack was a clean-shaven man with cream-colored skin and brown hair. He was relatively tall, as well. Once, Jack had been a noble in the great New Roman Empire. That was before that empire’s capital was burned. Before Nova Roma was utterly annihilated.

    Admittedly, yes, Jack wanted revenge. Not yet, though. The survivors had to find a new planet to settle on, first. Once they had somewhere to live, then they could focus on revenge. They could focus on destroying the Feudal Empire of New Greece.

    No, that wouldn’t be revenge… that would be justice. Justice for everyone killed in the sack of Nova Roma. Justice for everyone killed or enslaved during New Greece’s attacks on New Roman planets. And the gods forsook them as they had Nova Roma, then they would forsake the gods.

    The great New Roman Empire had fallen, yes, but her people lived on. And, as long as the memory of Nova Roma was kept alive, the once glorious empire would live on… in the minds of mankind. Soon, the Empire would be reborn.

    And Jack looked outside of his ship - which was the fleet’s flagship, the Aurora - he frowned. As he saw the dark abyss between stars, he wondered. How had it come to this?

    Once, the New Roman Empire ruled whole star systems. Once, no one had dared to challenge them. Over time, however, it had grown complacent. Its nobles had begun to exploit their positions. Nobody wished to command new conquests. “It was into this decadent environment that I was born,” Jack thought. He’d never approved of the decadence - the laziness - of his fellow nobles, but there was nothing he could have done about it. But what could he have done about it? The nobles were so decadent that they’d almost completely forgotten about a time when the Empire actually did anything.

    Jack knew that the nobles wouldn’t listen, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t get through to some people. He’d decided to join the New Roman fleet. This allowed him to actually do something - and it allowed him to warn others about their coming destruction. Jack was charismatic, and he quickly rose up the ranks of the fleet. Using his position - and also his heritage - he commissioned a few large ships. After all, the Empire was on the verge of destruction. If he ever outright tried to tell people that, he’d be ridiculed, but he didn’t need to tell people - he needed to prepare for it.

    He was 20 when New Greece attacked. Almost the entirety of the fleet was recalled to Nova Roma. Most of the nobles were there, and they primarily cared about their own safety above all else. However, Jack managed to ensure that he was put in command of the few ships that weren’t recalled.

    Nova Roma wasn’t the entirety of the New Roman Empire, no matter what the nobles thought. For that matter, there were a few worlds in the Far Rim that hadn’t fallen, and that was where Jack was leading the survivors of the war now.

    Jack figured that the decadence was probably what pissed off the gods. He knew, for a fact, that the gods were pissed off - they’d made that quite clear when they had aided the invading Feudal Empire. He hoped they weren’t pissed off at him, but you never knew with them. The gods were often cruel.

    Anyways, New Greece was a state that ruled over most of the Middle Rim. Nova Roma was on the border between the Middle Rim and the Near Rim, and it, therefore, made a good target. The New Roman Empire was primarily located in the Near Rim - or, at least, it had been. Jack needed to stop thinking of the Empire as an extent state. He was homesick, of course, but he could never return to Nova Roma - it had been utterly annihilated.

    The attack had been unexpected by most of the nobles, but Jack had seen it coming for years. Nova Roma had held out for 10 years, but, in the end. It had fallen. Jack hadn’t witnessed its fall. He had absolutely no desire to know what had happened in Nova Roma’s burning ruins.

    Jack decided to look out the window. Now wasn’t the time to reminisce about the past. He didn’t see anything - hyperspace was a dark place. No one knew how it existed - only that it did. Jack figured that the Ancients were responsible. The gods were powerful, but they weren’t powerful enough to ignore the Laws of the Universe. On the other hand, legend said that the Ancients had created the universe.

    Jack checked their course. Good. They were still en route to New Carthage - one of the ex-New Roman planets in the Far Rim. Hopefully, nothing similar to what legend said had happened in the original Rome and Carthage happened here. In all honesty, Jack should have known better than to tempt fate.
     
    Planning for the future, Part 1
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    New Carthage was located in a star system with a yellow sun, as Lost Terra’s had been, back in the days when mankind still inhabited Lost Terra. The planet itself was the fourth planet from its star. Jack figured that it was probably a good idea to contact the planetary authorities before landing. Things could go very wrong if he didn’t do that.

    Getting the radio signal from the planet… well, a radio signal, at least… wasn’t that difficult. Jack decided that he would simply leave a short message, which should get the fleet in contact with the planetary authorities relatively quickly.

    “This is the NRS Aurora, speaking for the Nova Roman refugee fleet,” Jack began. “We’d like to get in contact with the government of this planet.”

    Jack figured that that message was short, but it got the message across. If the signal that the fleet had picked up belonged to the government, then that was fine. However, it instructed anybody receiving the signal that wasn’t part of the government on what to do. And so they waited for a response.

    Aurora, this is the New Carthaginian Provisional Government,” a message from the planet said. “What do you want to talk about?”

    “We’d like to request political asylum,” Jack said. “Nova Roma was destroyed a few weeks ago. By the Feudal Empire. The New Roman Empire’s dead.”

    There was a long pause before New Carthage responded. “We’re sorry to hear that. Asylum granted. Please land at the interstellar spaceport.”

    Jack blinked. That went… better than expected. He was expecting some sort of resistance from the New Carthaginian government. Of course, most of New Carthage’s inhabitants were descended from settlers from Nova Roma, so it was probable that they viewed this as returning the favor. If so, that was very good news.

    He knew where the interstellar spaceport was, of course. He’d known that the refugees from the fall of Nova Roma would need places to stay on their way to finding a new home. After all, New Romans were an independent people - they would never tolerate being subservient to a state not ruled by their people for any significant length of time.

    Jack commed his second-in-command, Marcus, and he relayed the instructions on where to land to him. Then, the fleet landed in the interplanetary spaceport, which covered most of a continent, so it could easily fit the refugee fleet.

    Jack exited the Aurora, quickly, although he did leave a few people in the ship. He didn’t actually intend to stay at New Carthage permanently, but he figured that some of the refugees might. He desperately wanted revenge against the Feudal Empire, but he figured that not all of the New Roman refugees did, so he was going to give them a few choices on where to settle, one of which was New Carthage.

    Jack sighed. He had requested asylum, so he needed to do further negotiating with the New Carthaginian Provisional Government. That hadn't actually been said yet, but it was implied in the conversation over the radio in space.

    Jack decided to call the Provisional Government over radio (he’d had some of the more technically oriented people trace the signal) to make arrangements for that meeting. He scheduled it to occur in a few days, at the New Carthaginian capital of New Tyre. He decided it was also probably a good idea to invite his second. That way, he wasn’t single handedly deciding the entire destiny of a people - he had no wish to have that much responsibility.
     
    Planning for the future, Part 2
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    Sorry for the long wait. I should be updating this more often, though, so that's a plus!




    Jack sighed. He’d leave New Carthage soon enough. He looked around. Everything looked so calm. However, Jack knew that the calm often came before the storm. He wanted revenge, yes, but his revenge was not the only storm that, deep down, he felt was coming. Unbidden, an ancient saying appeared in his head. The End will start at dawn. Why was he thinking about that? But he knew that answer… something was coming. The problem was that Jack wasn’t sure what.

    Jack decided not to think about that right now. He needed to be completely focused on negotiations with the New Carthaginian government. Thankfully, Marcus had agreed to come with, so he wasn’t deciding everything alone.

    New Tyre was a large city. Jack saw numerous buildings, including a few that touched the sky. He and Marcus headed toward the city’s center. That was where the governmental buildings were.

    The two men entered the Nova Roman Embassy when the sun was at its high point in the sky (local noon). Thankfully, a few New Carthaginian diplomats were already there, so they could start the negotiations immediately.

    “So,” Jack began, “let’s get these negotiations started.”

    “First of all, we need to know whether all of the fleet is requesting asylum,” one of the New Carthaginian diplomats said.

    “Not permanently,” Jack answered. “Some of the refugees want to stay on New Carthage, but the entire fleet does need to resupply here.”

    “I see,” the other New Carthaginian diplomat commented. “Will you be staying here? Or will your… companion?”

    “I won’t,” Jack replied. “I’m not sure about whether or not my companion will. Marcus?”

    “I’ll be staying here,” Marcus said. “I like this planet. And, yes, I have been here before.”
    “Okay, then,” Jack commented. “I suppose that means that I should let you negotiate the permanent asylum situation, then?”

    “That’d be preferable, yes,” the first New Carthaginian diplomat interjected. “However, we’d prefer if you were also present for this, as you could then tell some of your refugees our terms. Informing your people will go quicker if they’re being told by two people.”

    Jack blinked. That was a logical point. However, there were some things that he wasn’t being told. However, he kept these thoughts to himself and agreed with a simple “okay”.

    “Can we take a lunch break?” the first New Carthaginian diplomat asked. “Presumably, your time in space meant that you didn’t have much actual food, and we’re hungry.”

    “Sure,” Jack agreed. After all, he was hungry, and the time not spent negotiating allowed him time to think over his situation right now.

    Jack decided that he’d only interject his opinions if he had to. Marcus was more than capable of negotiating himself - and he was actually staying on New Carthage. Jack wondered where the New Carthaginian Provisional Government had space that refugees could live in. He wasn’t very familiar with this planet, so listening into the conversation would give him information. And information was always useful.

    As Jack ate, he wondered how it had come to this, but he knew. Nova Roma had always been doomed. He had managed to do something about it, of course, but he still felt that he hadn’t done enough. He sighed. What was done was done. He couldn’t change the past - not even the Ancients could change the past, and they were almost omnipotent. He’d have to make sure that Nova Roma’s legacy survived.

    He finished eating and re-entered the negotiating room. Now was the time to get information. He really hoped that the refugee fleet didn’t do anything to provoke the locals. Of course, he knew that that was extraordinarily unlikely, but one could never be too careful. He needed to account for all possibilities.

    “So,” Marcus began. “First of all, where are the members of the fleet that are staying on this planet, well, staying?”

    The two New Carthaginian shared a conspiratorial glance. Yep, they definitely knew something that Jack - and, likely, Marcus didn’t.

    “We have a continent that is almost untouched by human presence,” the second New Carthaginian diplomat said. “The few buildings that were there directly belonged to the Nova Roman government, which is now destroyed - if what you say is accurate.”

    “It is,” Marcus assured. “Nova Roma burned, and its empire died with it. But they didn’t get all of the Nova Romans - we still live. Hopefully, the gods have not - and will not - forsaken us as they did our decadent kin.”

    “By the way, what are your names?” Jack asked while facepalming. He really should’ve asked that earlier. He should have asked that question when the meeting started but whatever. He also knew for a fact that he hadn’t introduced himself or Marcus. He’d been so busy with dealing with the refugee fleet that he had completely forgotten about introductions.

    There was silence for a long while. “Oh,” the first New Carthaginian diplomat realized. “Nobody has introduced themselves here yet. Sorry. My name is Hannibal.”

    “And I’m Hasdrubal,” the other New Carthaginian diplomat said. “What are your names?”

    “My name is Jack,” Jack said. “My… companion over here is Marcus.”

    “Oh,” Hannibal said. “Well, let’s get on with negotiations, shall we?”

    “Yes,” Marcus responded. “Where is this continent you speak of? I’ve been to this planet before, but I’m not really familiar with it. Is it near the interstellar spaceport?”

    “Only somewhat,” Hasdrubal commented. “The interstellar spaceport is on an extremely large island that is right next to the continent that we are offering you.”

    “I see,” Marcus mused. “That sounds good, but what is this continent called? Given that I am staying here - even if Jack over here isn’t - I would like to know what the name of my new home is.”

    “That’s perfectly reasonable,” Hannibal replied. “The continent is called New Sidon. It is a rather large continent, but we have enough land from the rest of the planet to live on, so we let the Nova Romans build their settlements there.”

    “Of course,” Hasdrubal interjected. “They didn’t need much land, as you were pretty hands-off rulers, then.”

    “That makes sense,” Marcus responded. “I don’t see any problems with this deal. Jack, do you?”

    “No,” Jack replied.

    “Great,” Hannibal said. “In that case, we can go get some dinner. We were negotiating here for a while, even if it didn’t seem like it.”
     
    Planning for the future, Part 3
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    Jack quickly had dinner before he left for New Sidon. He would need to know how his refueling place was like somewhat - but he also had to make sure that anybody who stayed was in good hands. Marcus would be a good leader, yes, but nobody handed over a continent without a reason. There had to be a catch. The question was how deadly was the catch?

    Unfortunately, it was getting dark. That meant that he was going to need to sleep sometime soon - and he was too tired to check out the land granted to the refugees. Well, it looked like he was going to sleep on the Aurora for now. Then, when morning came, he’d check out New Sidon.

    He awoke at dawn. Quickly, he ordered his flagship - and the rest of the fleet - to land on New Sidon. If there were abandoned Nova Roman bases there, there had to be somewhere his ships could land.

    His assumption was proven right. The Nova Roman city where the small spaceport was… wasn’t small, to say the least. Unfortunately, it appeared that this had been the capital of the Nova Roman administration on the planet. That meant that it was almost totally destroyed during the war against New Greece. The only structure actually fully existent was the spaceport, presumably because the attacking force needed an escape route from the planet. Surrounding the spaceport was nothing except utter ruins. Jack figured that even those might soon vanish.

    That might have been part of the catch, but Jack feared that it wasn’t the entire catch. He decided to have a ship from the fleet scout the entire continent from above. He didn’t trust the New Carthaginians much - they were being far too generous.

    While the ship was scouting, Jack decided that now was as good a time as any to begin the construction of the city for the actual refugees - the ones that were going to be staying on New Carthage. Admittedly, Jack was doing that so quickly because said city could also serve as a place to begin refueling - he wanted to find a safe home for the majority of the Nova Roman refugees.

    Of course, that raised the question of who was going to lead the refugees that were going to stay behind. Jack mulled over this question for a short while before he got started on actually constructing the new city. However,his choice was never seriously in doubt. He knew that Marcus was staying behind on New Carthage, and he also knew that almost the entire fleet would follow the orders of his current second-in-command - Marcus was the natural choice to lead the people of New Sidon.

    Jack decided to instruct some of the refugees to begin building the city. He figured that, if there was a catch on the ground of the ex-Nova Roman outpost, then it would be noticed during construction. However, he doubted that there would be. After all, the Nova Romans had had an outpost here for decades - perhaps even centuries. He highly doubted that it had been rebuilt multiple times without anyone being informed.

    Thankfully, the construction went on without a problem. A small settlement quickly rose up. It wasn’t very large yet and wouldn’t be a good place to permanently settle in. Despite that, it was a good temporary settlement - although Jack would still have to wait a while for the area to be useful as a place to refuel.

    Jack was fine with that. He could wait - he wanted revenge on New Greece, yes, but patience was a virtue. And refueling now could result in the fleet being stranded in space - that would be an unmitigated disaster. He knew that everything took time. That wasn’t a fact that he particularly liked - but it was one that he could accept.

    Soon enough, the Nova Romans would have a home again, and that was all that mattered.
     
    Planning for the future, Part 4
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    Marcus considered his options. He’d already decided that he was staying in New Carthage. Unfortunately, that raised a very pertinent question: what would Marcus - and, for that matter, everybody else who decided to stay on this planet - do? Nova Romans weren’t a submissive people, by any means.

    Marcus sighed. Even if he was fine with living under the rule of a people that wasn’t Nova Roman - and he wasn’t - the vast majority of the Nova Roman refugees would want independence at the least. Far more likely, they’d want a place from which to rebuild the Empire - preferably without as much decadence.

    Marcus had only one question about that - how? How would the Nova Roman refugees be able to escape from the control - indirect control, of course, but still control - of the New Carthaginian government. They’d basically already agreed that they would recognize New Carthaginian authority during the meeting with the New Carthaginian diplomats. Wait. Hmm, that could work. He’d want a second opinion on it, of course, as he didn’t fully trust his own judgement - it hadn’t failed him yet, but sound judgement abandoned all men eventually.

    Marcus was unhappy with the situation that fate had put on him. Fate was fickle - everything she gave, she took away eventually. Marcus knew that Jack had accepted his fate, but Marcus didn’t particularly want to follow his own fate. Marcus didn’t wish to lead at all - he was only Jack’s second-in-command because he had seen the truth of what Jack had said - and Jack had spoken the truth.

    Unfortunately, the fact that Jack wasn’t staying on New Carthage meant that the Nova Roman refugees that did stay here would likely look to Marcus to lead them. Marcus sighed. What fate - what the Ancients - had decided was final. He couldn’t fight fate - he shouldn’t even try. And yet, as Marcus thought about the responsibility that he would soon have, he shuddered. He didn’t like his fate, although he had an idea as to what it was.

    Many men would have been happy at knowing what their fate might be. Marcus wasn’t, by any means. Knowing his fate did not mean that he could change it, after all. Marcus knew that better than most beings did- Jack wasn’t able to prevent the fall of the Nova Roman Empire despite knowing that it would happen.

    Marcus was going to gain control of the Nova Roman refugees on New Carthage no matter what happened. Well, it looked like he was going to need to find out what New Carthaginian politics were like. The problem with that was that Marcus had absolutely no relevant prior knowledge of New Carthage. He had been there before, of course. That had been a casual vacation, though, so he still knew next to nothing about the actual ways of New Carthage. The question was” how was he going to learn about the New Carthaginians? Yes, he was on their planet, but the area wasn’t even really under New Carthaginian rule.

    Marcus sighed. He still didn’t get why the New Carthaginians had given up so much land so easily, but he wasn’t going to complain. Still, he knew that Jack was suspicious of their kindness. Truth be told, so was he, but he wasn’t about to make that fact known. He would need to get involved in New Carthaginian politics soon, as many of his fellow refugees that had decided to stay would. Nova Romans were a proud people, although they were far from vain.

    Of course, if the New Carthaginians disliked how they were going about things, then that would become very problematic. He knew that the Nova Romans would fight if they had to, but they much preferred intrigue. Perhaps that was part of the reason that the once mighty Nova Roman Empire had fallen - it had already begun in decline before the Great Nova Roman War, and Marcus knew that - and he knew that Jack knew it, as well.

    Marcus sighed. He might as well get figure out where he was living, since he was staying. Where could he find information about the New Carthaginian government?

    First, though, he needed to talk to Jack. Hopefully, Jack had some advice for him.

    Jack frowned. His scouting plane hadn’t finished its mission yet, but he couldn’t afford to wait until it did. He needed to ensure that New Sidon was a safe place to settle in, but, once that was done - and once he had refueled the fleet, of course - he would leave. New Carthage already had a relatively stable government. It wouldn’t be a suitable place to settle for most of the Nova Roman fleet.

    Jack was brought out of his thoughts when Marcus entered the room. He was staying at a relatively large villa. This villa wasn’t overly ostentatious, but it was clearly larger than the other small villas that were popping up around town. That marked Jack’s status as the leader of the refugee fleet. Obviously, Jack wasn’t going to be staying on New Carthage, but he figured having a visible symbol of his leadership wasn’t that bad. Truth be told, the actual refugees had pretty much insisted that it exist, despite his protests. He figured that whoever took over the Nova Roman area of New Carthage - probably Marcus - would inherit the villa. Speaking of which…

    “What do we do now?” Marcus asked. “I mean the fleet will have to eventually leave this planet, and then the settlers here will be left on their own, but what do we do before that moment?”

    Jack blinked. That was… actually a good question. What was their next step?

    He had to think that for a few minutes, but he did come up with a plan. The small fort would continue to be built into a great city, but its sole purpose would no longer just be refueling the fleet’s ships. Building a city as a refueling center would be extremely wasteful.

    No, the people who wanted to stay in New Sidon would build the refueling center. Once it was built, it would be used to refuel, and then those who wanted to stay would live there. It would become the capital of the Nova Roman refugees in New Carthage. He quickly told Jack all of this.

    “Good point,” Marcus replied. “But what do we do before then?”
     
    Planning for the future, Part 5
  • HistoryDude

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    “We wait,” Jack said. “For what else can we do? And, far more importantly, what else do we want to do?”

    “What do you mean?” Marcus asked, confused. “We need a home, and, ultimately, we need revenge.”

    Jack smiled. “You already have a home,” he began. “And I need to have fuel to continue my search for one. We will get revenge, though. That, I can promise you.”

    “Which one of us?” Marcus asked. He must have seen the confused expression on Jack’s face, because he elaborated. “Which one of us will get the revenge that we seek?”

    Jack frowned. That still didn’t make that much sense. Why couldn’t they both get revenge? Although, truth be told, if it came to choosing between his own want for revenge and his current lieutenant's, he would choose his own in a second. The New Greeks had almost everything from him. They needed to pay for that…

    “Why can’t we both get revenge?” he wondered. “New Greece is a large empire. We can both make them bleed.”

    “True enough,” Marcus admitted. “But if, for some reason, only one of us can get revenge…”

    Jack understood his meaning clearly. He didn’t foresee any situation in which they couldn’t both get revenge, but he knew that some of the New Greeks were cunning. He knew that all too well. He quickly began to remember the fall of Nova Roma itself, but he quickly snapped out of that. He couldn’t afford to be distracted right now.

    “Well,” Jack said. “If that were to occur, then we would be parted. Permanently. Indeed, it is likely that war may come between us.”

    Marcus looked like a deer caught in headlights at his words. He frowned. Did his current lieutenant really think that he was being subtle with his ambitions? It was quite obvious what his ultimate goal was… to Jack, anyway. “Then again,” Jack reflected. “I am quite experienced in intrigue…”

    However, Jack knew that speaking his thoughts to Marcus would be unwise. Still, he could teach Marcus about the importance of discretion. He would be helping a fellow Nova Roman, and, in a time where there were very few Nova Romans left, that would be a good thing. In addition, it would technically leave Marcus in his debt, and, if Marcus succeeded at his plans, then that would be a very good place to be indeed.

    “You aren’t being subtle in your goal, my lieutenant,” Jack said. “If everybody knows of your ultimate goal, then many people will be able to figure out how you plan to reach that goal. With that knowledge, it would be easy for them to thwart your plans. You will fail if you don’t learn some subtlety.”

    “I was being subtle,” Marcus snapped back. “Nobody else knows what I’m planning to do.”

    “Nobody else knows what you’re planning to do yet,” Jack replied. “However, it isn’t hard to figure out. Our people are known as a defiant people by the wider galaxy - or at least the human portion of it - and they have plenty of evidence to back up that claim. The government of New Carthage probably already suspects that we are planning on undermining them.”

    Marcus frowned. “That makes sense,” he said. “But how am I supposed to be subtle about this? Should I even be subtle about it to my future subjects - that is, the Nova Romans who are staying here when you leave?”

    “Hmm,” Jack pondered. “Come up with explanations about why you need the information. They don’t even need to be true, just believable - to the people of New Carthage at least. Our fellow Nova Romans might want power for themselves, so they might aid you - or oppose you.”
     
    Preparing for the future, Part 6
  • HistoryDude

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    “Why would they oppose me?” Marcus asked. “I can offer them power, if that is what they want. If they are stepping out of line, I can always punish them.”

    “How?” Jack countered. “How will you punish them? You could exile them from New Sidon, true, but you don’t control the entire planet. They can always go to the other continents here on New Carthage. Simply offering them power won’t work either. What kind of power? And, even if you can answer that question, there isn’t enough power that every Nova Roman refugee that decides to stay here can get some.”

    “Why not?” Marcus wondered. At Jack’s confused look, he elaborated, “why aren’t there enough positions of power that every Nova Roman who stays here can’t get one? This planet isn’t composed of just New Sidon and New Tyre, after all.”

    Marcus raised an eyebrow. “While everything you say is true,” he began. “There are millions of Nova Roman refugees - even if we’re just counting the ones who are staying here. It doesn’t matter how large New Carthage is - there will not be enough positions of power that every one of them can get one. Even if there was, some positions are more prestigious than others. Even if we didn’t care about prestige, some positions hold more power than others. What would you do to those who try to usurp your throne?”

    Marcus frowned. Jack could see that he was thinking about the answer to that question. Personally, Jack would make an example of them, but he understood that that strategy had problems. It wouldn’t work all of the time.

    Marcus apparently thought similarly. “The first few will be made examples to anyone who tries to do it in the future,” he began. “If that doesn’t work, I will destroy those who refuse to surrender militarily. However, this won’t be good for the internal politics of the realm, so I will attempt to bribe them first.”

    Jack rolled his eyes. “And if you can’t defeat them militarily, and they won’t accept bribes? How will you get out of that situation?”

    “I wouldn’t be stuck in that situation in the first place,” Marcus said, rolling his eyes. “Some people will accept bribes - greed is one of the oldest sins. There won’t be a revolt large enough to actually threaten my power.”

    “Pride is another one of the oldest sins,” Jack responded. “You need to plan for everything. Because nothing is ever impossible. The gods are fickle. They give, and they take alike.”

    Marcus raised his eyebrows. “You still believe in the gods?” he wondered. “Even after… after our empire’s destruction? After everything that’s happened?”

    Jack sighed. “Yes,” he admitted. “I do. I don’t believe that they’re benevolent, but I never believed that. What kind of gods allowed the kind of atrocities that have occurred across societies, civilizations, and planets? Certainly not benevolent ones.”

    “Then, why do you worship them - or why did you worship them?” Marcus wondered. “Also, I still don’t think that a rebellion will ever be able to seriously threaten my rule.”

    “You still need a plan if one ever does,” Jack said. “And our legends speak of gods that are easily offended. I’d rather not take chances with them. Also, don’t plan for Nova Roma before the colonization of New Byzantium.”

    “Isn’t that idiom a little outdated now?” Marcus asked. “Nova Roma has burned. It was destroyed. Despite that, you do have a point. I shall take my leave now and begin my plan. I have no intention of staying reliant on a state that isn’t Nova Roman.”

    Jack watched him go. As he did so, he thought of what Marcus had said to him - and he considered his question. Unfortunately, that led to him remembering the sack of Nova Roma - he had been there, although he hadn’t wanted to.
     
    Remembering why Nova Roma fell
  • HistoryDude

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    Jack had known that Nova Roma was going to be sacked. It was obvious. The former Nova Roman Empire had a cesspit of decadence. Very few cared for the good of the state of Nova Roma - everyone simply prioritized their interests. That didn’t make for a good government.

    Most people in Nova Roma didn’t even notice this, and that was the worst thing of all. Many didn’t want to be saved. That was problematic. Still, a few people - on Nova Roma, and his current lieutenant had been among them - had recognized their forthcoming doom.

    Despite all of that, the real reason that he had been present in Nova Roma was not to rescue the few Nova Romans that realized that they were doomed. Well, that wasn’t the main reason, but it had somewhat influenced his decision.

    No, the true reason why he had been present on a doomed planet as it burned was because he didn’t have a true choice. Oh, there was a choice, but circumstances had ensured that the alternative - simply avoiding Nova Roma - was unthinkable.

    There were many innocents on Nova Roma - people uninvolved in the games of power played by the rulers of the planet. Jack had already rescued most of them, though, although a few had stubbornly insisted on attempting to save the planet. Jack had known that they would fail, but he’d also known that attempting to convince them was folly - and a waste of time. And time was one of the only things that he had never had enough of.

    Unfortunately, half of the fleet hadn’t managed to escape the orbit of Nova Roma when the planet finally fell, so he had been required to stay on the planet in a desperate effort to save them. He had succeeded in that at least - for the most part, anyway. He had managed to buy enough time for almost everybody to escape the planet’s orbit. He had been in his original flagship, which had been his flagship for years by that point, the Avitus.

    That ship had been destroyed by the New Greeks. Jack remembered why they had ostensibly declared war on Nova Roma, but he suspected that they had many other reasons to dislike Nova Romans.

    The New Greeks had declared war on Nova Roma because of a trade dispute. That was why Nova Roma had burned… according to the Feudal Empire of New Greece. Jack had never believed that they were telling the truth. This proved it. A state didn’t simply destroy the capital of another state over a trade dispute.

    Jack managed to stop remembering the circumstances of the Destruction of Nova Roma just as the Destruction itself had begun. He sighed. That entire war had been a disaster, but it was over now, and he needed to avenge a planet.

    Oh, the Nova Roman Empire was doomed anyway, but massacring the entire planet of Nova Roma was barbaric. Jack didn’t like the nobility of Nova Roma any more than he liked New Greece, but Nova Roma was dead, and New Greece was not.

    Jack smiled grimly. He needed to talk with an old friend.
     
    A meeting and advice
  • HistoryDude

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    That wasn’t to say that he trusted the Ancient that he was taking council from, or even that he knew it existed. Still, it had good advice, and he was going to need that right now.

    He was waiting for the settlers to finish building a city. Of course, this city would serve multiple purposes. It would serve as his supply depot, which he desperately needed. However, it would also serve as a governing center for the people who chose to stay on New Carthage. After all, many of his fellow refugees liked this planet and didn’t feel the need to follow him to the ends of the galaxy. He couldn’t blame them, honestly.

    He walked towards where the Aurora was docked. That was on the edges of the small city that was slowly being built.

    He entered his flagship, and he was unsurprised to find that it was deserted. Well, deserted of humans, at least. He figured that the Ancient he was taking council from would be here, though. He had never known it to leave the ship during his previous military campaigns.

    As he thought that, it took all of his effort to remain in the moment. His mind seemed to want him to remember the Nova Roman War.

    He sighed. He had work to do, and he couldn’t afford to be distracted by flashbacks right now. In fact, he would prefer if he didn’t have flashbacks ever, but the gods - and, perhaps, the Ancients - weren’t that kind. Or they wanted him to remember the war for reasons of their own - the gods were fickle.

    He headed towards his private room on the Aurora. That was where he always felt most at home. It was also where the Ancient who was counseling him lived, as far as he was aware. At the very least, he had never spoken with it outside of there.

    His personal room was almost completely unoccupied, as he had left it and as he liked it. He smiled at seeing this.

    “Anathema,” he murmured. “What should I do?”

    There was a flash of light, and he saw nothing. He didn’t respond to that at all - this was how Anathema communicated - he had never heard it speak. He waits, for that is all that he can do, isn’t it? He knows what he must do, but he doesn’t know exactly how.

    Anathema tells him that. It doesn’t speak, but Jack knows what it means all the same. He sees and hears nothing, but he smells oblivion. It is warning him off of his path. He waits, but the rejection of that fate is clear. Jack knows that it may be inevitable, but, if it is, he will not accept it.

    For a brief while, the vision continues to assault his view. The nothing grows suffocating, but he still refuses to accept it. Then, finally, mercifully, it recedes. Idly, Jack wonders if that is inevitable, but he quickly decides that he doesn’t care. He’ll fight against it even if it is inevitable. He had no intention of going quietly into the night.

    Suddenly, he collapsed once more. His room disappeared, and he saw a place that he wasn’t familiar with.

    He noticed that he was under the open sky. He looked at the stars, and he saw that they weren’t in a configuration that he was familiar with at all. He frowned. What was Anathema trying to tell him here?

    Nothing happened. That meant that all of the answers were already in his current vision. Well, he might as well look around this mysterious place, then.

    He recognized none of the stars in the sky. He looked backward, but he saw nothing. He looked forward and sideways, but he still saw nothing but open fields. Emptiness was all he saw.

    As he looked closer, however, he did notice something. There were many ships in the distance, and it even looked like a small settlement existed.

    Then, as sudden as it began, the vision ended, and he was in his room on the Aurora once more.

    Jack understood exactly what he was being offered, though. He would have to pick between destruction or exile… and he would need time to think over his choice.
     
    Answers
  • HistoryDude

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    Jack quickly pushed his choice to the back of his mind. He figured that he would probably have more time, although nobody had explicitly stated that. Then again, the only being who could’ve given him that information was Anathema, and it wasn’t very clear.

    In the meantime, he needed to figure out what the deal with New Sidon was. The people of New Carthage weren’t fools. It was possible that they were merely being extremely generous, but Jack doubted that… and, if they weren’t, then what was wrong with New Sidon?

    The continent seemed like a perfect place to settle. It wasn’t paradise, of course, but it wasn’t worse than the rest of New Carthage.

    As he wondered this, Marcus entered the room and told him that the exploration team he had sent out to figure this out was back in the new capital. Well, it seemed as if his questions were going to be answered. He hoped that the news wasn’t that bad.

    “I can find out the answer to the question we have asked, and then tell you,” Marcus offered. “It is possible that they didn’t find out anything. Of course, it’s also possible that they did find out part of the reason, but not the entire reason.”

    “I’m aware,” Jack said. “Do that, please. After all, New Sidon will be yours to rule. It is merely a refueling point for me. You should care about this information far more than I do.”

    “Oh, I definitely want to know why the New Carthaginians were being so generous,” Marcus said. “I was asking if you were fine with hearing this information second hand, which you are.”

    Jack merely nodded. Marcus left, and Jack mulled over what to do next. He could commune with Anathema on that, but it hadn’t been all that helpful earlier. On the other hand, he could prepare for his exodus…

    Yes, that was what he would do. He needed to figure out exactly where he was going to lead his fleet - or what remained of it - to. The Aurora would lead the people of Nova Roma to a new dawn. The original empire had fallen due to decadence. That couldn’t be allowed to happen again.

    This line of thought was abruptly cut off when Marcus entered the room again. He said that he now knew why they had been granted New Sidon, but he had a completely straight face, so Jack wasn’t worried. However, he was curious, so he asked what the reason was.

    Marcus was silent for a while. “In the far south,” he began. “There is a wasteland - some would call it a desert. In any case, it is completely uninhabitable. I’m not exactly sure if it can be inhabited.”

    “And how does this explain why the New Carthaginian government gave us the entire continent?” Jack asked. “It would be understandable if they just gave this uninhabitable land, and probably also some land around it, but why the entire continent?”

    “I believe that the people of New Carthage are very superstitious,” Marcus said. “They probably believe that this desert could spread. There are probably legends as to why exactly that is. I’m not worried about that. It’s probably nothing.”

    “Very well, then,” Jack said. “The small capital city is rapidly growing, and I almost have all the materials that I need to refuel. I’ll leave a few ships with you on the planet, but, after that, I’m leaving. This settlement will be your responsibility.”

    “I know,” Marcus said. “And I will conquer the planet from here - one way or another.”
     
    Jack's Last Moves In New Carthage
  • HistoryDude

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    That was his ambition, not Jack’s. Jack cared not for Marcus’s private ambitions. If he succeeded, then he was likely to have an ally on the galactic political stage, but there were no negatives to Jack if he failed.

    However, he knew that he would have to officially give up leadership of New Sidon to Marcus. After all, he had been crowned as Despot of New Sidon, not Marcus, and having confusion about who ruled wouldn’t be good for anyone.

    Jack initially hadn’t thought that this would be a problem - he viewed New Carthage as merely a stopover point. However, many of those that he had rescued - or that had rescued themselves - had decided that New Sidon was a good place to retire - or to live. He didn’t blame them, and they had the right to make their own decisions. He wasn’t king of all of the refugees - he wouldn’t order them around unless absolutely necessary.

    However, that meant that New Sidon would need a ruler. He couldn’t rule a continent from a different solar system - at least directly. He needed to sort out exactly his, well, he supposed it was technically his succession. Thankfully, there was an easy solution to that problem.

    Jack knew that Marcus was ambitious, but he wasn’t worried about that fact. Marcus had made it quite clear that he had no intention of leaving with the refugee fleet. They were going to be parted. This did, however, present a solution to his problem. He could name Marcus as Despot of New Sidon. Marcus wouldn’t refuse, and it would allow Jack to wash his hands of New Sidon entirely.

    He’d heavily implied that this was what was going to happen before, but he would need to make it official somehow. Once that was done, he could leave New Carthage. It was highly unlikely that New Carthage would meet with the nation that his refugees had established for a long time yet. Marcus would be free to plot to take over New Carthage.

    Jack didn’t know it then, but he would live to regret that decision. Ambition wasn’t an intrinsically bad trait, but it wasn’t good, either. And Marcus was a man ruled by ambition. Ambition was a dangerous thing.

    Nevertheless, Jack seized the opportunity to hand control of New Sidon to Marcus. He held a small ceremony where he transferred the title of “Despot of New Sidon” to Marcus. The people swore their new loyalty to their new liege, and all was well.

    All of this meant that Jack had effectively washed his hands of New Sidon. Marcus, meanwhile, had to get used to ruling a continent - and Jack could leave for a new planet.

    The refugee fleet still had many members, but about half of the refugees chose to stay behind on New Carthage. Jack decided to leave about a quarter of his ships on that planet. The extra ships could be used for other things - and Marcus shouldn’t need a fleet at all. It wasn’t like he planned on building his own empire.
    Jack did want to build an empire, though. Nova Roma had been destroyed by the decadence of its rulers, but his new empire wouldn’t fall into that trap - at least not as long as he was still alive.
     
    Considerations, Part 1
  • HistoryDude

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    From the deck of the Aurora, he watched New Sidon disappear as his fleet ascended. Soon, it was only a large orb. Once his fleet had left the atmosphere, he began mentally debating where he should bring the Nova Roman refugees.

    He had already rejected New Carthage. Nova Romans didn’t kneel to others, and even those that had stayed on New Carthage didn’t plan to stay reliant on the New Carthaginian government. Jack didn’t expect that taking over New Carthage would be easy, though, and so he allowed his lieutenant to attempt it if he so wished.

    For Jack, however, there were far more fertile lands. New Carthage was one of the Nova Roman Empire’s lost colonies, but that was why he didn’t want to stay there. It still had a somewhat united government, which meant it would be difficult to take over.

    Marcus was going to try that, and Jack was perfectly aware of that fact. However, he believed that Marcus’s chances of success were low. He preferred to try his luck in an area that was more divided and would thus be easier to conquer.

    That meant that he needed to find a planet that wasn’t united. After all, his men were now united, and united we stand, but divided we fall. He planned to exploit the ancient tactic of divide and conquer.

    The question was where such a situation existed. There were many uninhabited planets, but Jack didn’t want to live on a planet that was uninhabited. Most planets that weren’t inhabited were that way for a reason, and he really didn’t want to understand that firsthand.

    Still, there were many planets where civilization still existed, but unity didn’t. Jack intended to unite one of these planets, and, from there, he would build a new empire. That empire would be the instrument of his humbling of New Greece, that civilization that he despised.

    The question he had to answer was which planet would become his seat of power. There were many planets that technically fit that description, but some would be difficult to access, much less rule from.

    He needed a planet that provided a good enough position to form an empire capable of forming an empire that could take revenge on New Greece.

    That automatically eliminated any planet that was located in what was New Greek territory. It also eliminated planets near the New Greek borders, even if they weren’t technically inside said borders. New Greece clearly wanted to expand, and the Great Nova Roman War, as it was already beginning to be called, only proved that.

    That still left the vast majority of the galaxy open as a potential beginning of a new empire ruled by the Nova Romans. Unfortunately, there were only so many light-years that the hyperdrives could transport his entire fleet. That eliminated vast portions of the galaxy from his options.

    Still, most of the old Nova Roman colonies could still be used as a new starting point. Many of them hadn’t been able to create a unified planetary government, as New Carthage had. Any of those could be used as his starting point.
     
    Considerations, Part 2
  • HistoryDude

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    He decided on somewhere in the Far Rim, where Nova Roma had once reigned. Nova Roma had ruled much of the Far Rim, and that area was now in anarchy. He had heard that much. He didn’t know whether that was rumor or fact, but it didn’t much matter. Logic dictated that the former colonies of a destroyed empire would be far from stable.

    Jack suspected that a few mini-empires had already risen in the Far Rim, but he doubted that would last for much out of them. New Greece would never allow Nova Roma to rise much more. They wouldn’t get a say in that, of course, but Jack’s fleet was stronger than almost every other force in the Nova Roman remnants.

    Indeed, Jack was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the rain hitting the spaceship’s windows. That was a significant oversight, although Jack wouldn’t know that for a long time. After all, the gods didn’t often weep.

    Still, Jack had other things to worry about. He still needed to choose a planet to settle on, and that concern trumped everything else.

    He would have a new Nova Roma rise. This empire wouldn’t be decadent, and it would be glorious…

    He looked over his maps. He frowned. He had maps, of course, but he needed more. These maps could easily be outdated. Outdated maps were completely useless to him, and relying on them would almost undoubtedly lead to the destruction of the fleet - or, at least, its decimation. People took territory - even in space - very seriously.

    Unfortunately, he didn’t have any other maps. As such, he was faced with a conundrum - either rely on old maps and potentially destroy one of the last remaining legacies of Nova Roma, or figure out a way to get new maps.

    He considered this for a short while, but he quickly realized that he didn’t know how to resolve the problem. Maps were unreliable in the Far Rim, but he had never been to the Far Rim before this.

    He had never been to the Far Rim, but some people had. This ship contained people from across the former Nova Roman Empire. It was all that was left of that empire, and that empire had contained portions of the Far Rim. Somebody had to have been from the Far Rim or at least to have visited that area. They would know about how navigation in the Far Rim worked.

    Besides, he needed new advisors. He had had one, but that was Marcus, who was a) completely loyal to Nova Roma, and b) ruling over a continent on New Carthage right now. What should he do?

    He needed to find a new planet to settle on. That much was obvious. Where could he settle, though? The Feudal Empire of New Greece would probably hunt those who attempted to flee from the destruction of Nova Roma. Marcus knew that the Far Rim had been the edge of known civilization, so it was probably the best place to hide, but he needed someone who knew the Far Rim.

    He needed to get new advisors as soon as possible, given that Marcus was ruling New Carthage…
     
    Considerations, Part 3
  • HistoryDude

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    Still, he needed advice - and he knew that which could grant him advice already. He needed to talk with Anathema. Perhaps it - she, a small part of him said, but he ignored it - could give him advice.

    On that, at least, he was right.

    Anathema was everywhere and nowhere at once, so he had to specifically summon it (her). “U hfryt hyu, A Anacursma Quf,” he murmured. I summon you, O Accursed One.

    He saw a bright light, and then he heard it (her). It (she) didn’t speak. If Jack was being honest, he wasn’t certain that it (she) could speak. The ways of the Ancients weren’t known to mere mortals, after all.

    Instead, he just sort of… knew that it (she) was there. It was a feeling in his mind. It felt… oddly pleasant, if he was being honest. Still, he couldn’t focus on that right now, as he needed answers as to what to do next. He needed to find a new home planet, but how was he supposed to do that?

    At first, all he saw was a repeat of his previous vision. That wasn’t even remotely helpful - he didn’t care for Anathema’s games. He needed a straight answer.

    Thankfully, Anathema heard his request - his plea, if he was being perfectly honest with himself - and it (she) answered it. He saw a flag that looked vaguely like the old Nova Roman flag, but it was subtly different. He saw this flag planted in many different regions. Some of these regions were so different from one another that they must have been on different planets. The vision then faded away, although he didn’t feel Anathema leaving him.

    He smiled. He would build a new empire, then. His expedition would be a success. This was excellent news! All men - and all legacies of men - must die, but his empire would last a long time.

    Then, as if Anathema had been tempted by his pride, he found himself in an unfamiliar place. To his credit, he quickly realized that this was another one of the visions that Anathema gave. Why would it (she) show him this? Was it a warning? If so, she could be more straightforward about it, starting with actually showing him a place that he knew.

    Wait. This could actually be a place that he knew, just not a place that he knew in its current form. Still, there could be clues as to where this truly was. He looked around.

    At first, all he saw was darkness. He looked down, but he couldn’t see the ground. He looked around, but he could see nothing. He looked up, and, at long last, he saw something other than darkness. He saw a blood red moon. There were no stars in the sky at all.

    To his shock, though, he then saw a reflection of himself and a pair of eyes. He got the message well enough. “Do you see?” Anathema was asking him. What was he supposed to be seeing? This message meant absolutely nothing to him.

    He opened his mouth to ask that question, but that action was unnecessary. Anathema showed him a pit filled with punishment, and he quickly understood what it (she) was truly trying to say. The pit was Hell.

    Abandon all hope. The structures and creations of men - of mere mortals - never last. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair at their might - and at their mortality. Your empire will not last.

    An ominous message, but it didn’t actually tell Jack anything. What Jack wanted to know was where the seat of his new empire - where the seat of his revenge - would be. And he would gain his revenge. The Feudal Empire of New Greece needed to suffer as he had suffered.

    He then saw a burning planet, and he assumed that it was Nova Roma at first. As he looked around, he realized that this wasn’t Nova Roma - indeed, it wasn’t even a Nova Roman planet. No, it looked more similar to the few New Greek areas that he had seen. It might even be New Greece itself, and it was burning.

    He smiled. This meant that he would get his revenge.

    Then, his vision changed. Now, New Greece was gone, but wherever he was was still burning. It was still dying. He looked around, and he saw Nova Roman structures. As he looked closer, he realized that structures from civilizations all across the galaxy were present on this planet. And the planet was being destroyed.

    Finally, for the first time ever, he heard Anathema speak. “This is the cost of your revenge,” it (she) said. Its voice sounded feminine. “Do you truly wish to gain revenge? Even if the universe is the cost?” She sounded sad. Then, she muttered something. Jack could have sworn that it was, “don’t repeat my mistakes”. He wasn’t certain on that, though, so he ignored it.

    On that note, she faded into mist, leaving Jack alone to ponder her words.

    He would like to say that he would choose the universe over his own personal vengeance, but he didn’t know if that was true. That was the worst thing of all.