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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
What's left of us

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From the memory pool of Revered Elder Josephine Dufresne


When the Union Council first convened, the oldest of our number, Courtney Fleming, opened the initial session by asking whether we were cursed from the beginning as a species, or if the fate which had befallen mankind truly was one we had brought upon ourselves. A question with a controversial answer to this day, and with much less clear answers than an early 21st century human would have thought, considering how advanced technologically our civilization has grown to be. They also probably would flee us or try to kill us on sight - an ironic consideration, really, considering how we are the result of decisions made and not made by them and their direct ancestors. And even if somehow we could stop and talk, they certainly wouldn't acknowledge us as humans. But humans we are, the United Remnants of Earth, and as we are, fate has given us custody of a planet that has greatly suffered at our predecessors' hands...



The blue planet of myth is no more. The death blow was struck shortly after the first inhabited landing on Mars, in the year 2063, according to the calendar used back then. The particulars went largely unnoticed by the mass of humanity at the time. The age of information had given birth to the age of control. Automatic, highly sophisticated machines ensured that the masses of the "developed countries" were kept ignorant of how their world was truly ruled and for whom, and focused on the inner enemies that had patiently been fostered to keep the masses distracted, and hide from them that their lot had truly become miserable, while the sparse ranks of their ruling classes grew ever more corrupt and authoritarian.

The end came as a result of greed and negligence. In the spring of 2063, the thermonuclear fusion experimental site created for the ITER project in south France was still in use, a consequence of graft and mismanagement delaying the construction of the experimental production site DEMO. ITER's budget had been cut in the wrong place, and notably with regards to the indispensable absorption layer for the high velocity neutrons released during the fusion reactions. The cheaper layer broke, resulting in a catastrophic nuclear meltdown that wiped out a hundred thousand square kilometers on the shores of the Mediterranean basin - that was the greed.

The human cost was immense, with 42 million dying directly or indirectly from the consequences of the explosion. France and Italy were the hardest hit countries, and after all the deaths, the irradiation of a hundred and the disastrous economic consequences which ensued, resulting in widespread misery for two of the largest member states of the European Union. And as 21st century humans were usually wont to do, they sought someone to blame - and their governments hid the truth and provided patsies, blaming the explosion of ITER on terrorist sabotage, like so many other and smaller accidents had come to be over the course of the years. And the populations, enraged at what had happened, demanded a thermonuclear eye for a thermonuclear eye.

Yet, their leaders, and the world leaders in general, thought they could control the fallout. Vast mock cities were built in the middle of the Sahara for the specific purpose of their destruction being filmed. The various dictatorial regimes ruling the world supplied their contingents of "undesirables" to fill those mock cities, and give the appearance of actual retaliation. And in the fall of 2063, the entire construction was nuked into non-existence, and a quarter of the desert alongside it.

That was the negligence, as the result was the release of hundreds of millions of tons of radioactive dust and sand in the atmosphere, covering the entire planet in a shroud that hid the sun permanently, causing a dramatic drop in temperatures, dooming all the vegetation not sustained in hydroponic installations. Then the rains started to fall, bringing down with them massive doses of radiation no one and nobody was prepared to endure. The resulting destruction of the entire world's biosphere was swift and nearly absolute. Society broke down completely as irradiation syndromes brought a permanent solution to the problem of planetary overpopulation, and it really seemed like our species was doomed to extinction, alongside all other species unfortunate enough to have coexisted with mankind on earth.

Irradiation, however, brings mutation and rapid evolution, and it was our stroke of good luck that one of the newly evolved lifeforms actually thrived on radiation and seemed capable to survive in a symbiotic relationship with a large number of species, including mammalians. Our ancestors took that as a sign that whichever greater power had put mankind on Earth did not in fact want to wipe out our species. Abandoned, mutated, forced to survive in a completely broken down society, they took the leap of faith. It worked, and the species were saved... after a fashion. For our ancestors had largely mutated already, and continued to devolve as a result of the symbiosis. And the pleasant and harmonious appearances of early 21st century humans have since become a distant memory, only existing in what few media from that era survive...



Human life today is nothing like what it was in the earliest years of the 21st century, before the age of information began to precipitate our species' downfall. The most evident difference lies, of course, in our appearances. By original human standards, we are monsters, abominations they would have great difficulty telling apart, even where the gender is concerned. And we have enough of a biological memory of the fact to make coupling a repulsive activity only a few of us find the courage to engage in. It does not yet endanger the continuation of the species, as our symbiotic relationship with the parasitic life form fate bestowed upon us seems to considerably extend our life expectancy, and most of us survivors who embraced the worms are still relatively young, even by old human standards. The oldest member in the Union Council, the overseer of our astrological department, is only 48, and she has good hopes of living for another century or more.

We do suspect that there has been a heavy price to pay by embracing the symbiosis. We are stronger, cleverer, more durable, but what keeps us alive needs the contamination from radioactivity to sustain itself, and we have no idea how, should our species actually reach for the stars someday, we would manage to create a favorable environment for us on an Earth-like, uncontaminated world without considerably damaging its ecosystem, and we are all agreed, after the horrors we have endured, that vitrifying outer worlds would not be an option. We keep using nuclear energy because it is the most efficient, and because we have little choice to keep up the levels of radiations our organisms now require, but the age of mankind as a force of destruction is over, and so is the age of information and trust in central government.

Our shared goals as a species are remembrance and the betterment of ourselves. And should we ever happen upon other lifeforms, untouched by our kind of dark fate, we will do all in our power to preserve them from horrors similar to those we endured in our past. For that purpose, we will ascend, we will transcend ourselves as a species, and we will find the way to the stars. We very much aim to become a superior species, but not as masters; as guides, as friends, as mediators, like we act already for those among us already willing to trust us with our fates, and as I will, as the Revered Elder elected and chosen to guide our path for a while. And we will always remember what fate befell us, and do our utmost to ensure it is never repeated for others...



* *

Hello, and welcome to a completely weird experiment that may or may not go anywhere, as I'm not entirely sure the game is going to be stable as we're only staying in 1.8.0 for a few more days and, as you may have noticed, this Stellaris is modded to hell and back to allow for any and all kinds of possibilities ^^ Still, since reading stnylan's excellent Pax Humanitas (which I heartily recommend you read at https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/pax-humanitas.987613/ ), I've kind-of wanted to write a roleplaying AAR at this game. It is going to be crazy...

I'll be playing this along with writing it, on a game client that will evolve a little more before eventually becoming a "consolidated" 1.8.1 game (ie. there'll be the long hassle of integrating 40+ mods into one Stellaris folder whenever Paradox don't think issues need fixing immediately anymore). Weird things might happen, the pace will be completely random, and I may very well lose horribly at some point, but hey! That's the game, and this will not be an optimal playthrough by any measure. I mean, you've seen the five negative traits, and there'll be more broken stuff in one direction or another :p There is no balance whatsoever in that game. I'll just be trying to have fun telling a story, and hopefully you'll have fun reading it.

Enjoy, and if you wish to know what mod something you see comes from, feel free to ask in comments.

* *
 
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stnylan

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I am humbled that my own work was an inspiration here. This is a very fine beginning. It fills me with interest at what may come.
 
The solar system

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I'm the one being honored, stnylan! Going to have to try not to disappoint ^^

* *

The Solar System in 2200

An overview, by Courtney Fleming

* *

As requested by my fellow Elders, this report is published so that all humans on our poor Earth may know of our situation and of the immediate goals the Union Council have set for ourselves, with the resources we have been granted. The Solar System does not lack in potential, with plentiful resources to mine and two potential candidates for terraformation, specifically Venus and Mars, once our technology and resources allow us to eliminate the hothouse effect rendering the former inhabitable, and to create a breathable atmosphere on the latter.

Those are very long-term prospects, even with our apparently augmented life expectancies. The list of more immediate goals starts with developing any form of faster-than-light travel engines, as our galaxy is not a small place, and our hold over it fairly limited as it is... It is not a situation that will improve in the near future, not until a breakthrough occurs. In the meantime, I am preparing for a very long expedition to the neighboring Barnard's Star, as a proof-of-concept for the possibility to travel to distant star systems and maintain, if not faster-than-light travel, at least reliable faster-than-light communications. Of course, there's no knowing whether there are other species out there to communicate with, or how many if there are...



The resources in the Solar System will be used to supplement and replace existing production on Earth, so that more of its resources can be devoted to the development of new technologies. There is certainly plenty of space for the construction of laboratories and science complexes on our planet, and that is without taking into account all the ruins and slums which remains from the past and still need being cleared. The main difficulty we will encounter may very well lay in finding the workforce to run the research - it will come as no surprise to any of us that our demographics are pretty stagnant, considering the difficulties of the current human condition. And before anybody asks what I personally do to combat these difficulties, I'll remind them I'm past childbearing age.



Our Revered Elder insisted a lot in her acceptance speech about how much technological progress we have made compared with our 21st century, pre-disaster ancestors. The truth of the matter is "not that much". We lost a lot when we forwent the redevelopment of the advanced machinery and artificial intelligence our predecessors used, not to mention of course that a lot of their knowledge was lost when most of their computing systems were left in disuse and degraded (and don't even get me started about hacking into those which still function by some miracle). If an assessment had to be made, we are, at the start of the 23rd century, approximately where mankind should have been at the end of the 21st.

We do have some ideas about the direction to give to our research efforts, starting with better sublight engines, but there should be no miracles to read about in scientific reports for a fairly long span; and of course, there's no knowing when the higher powers will bless us with the kind of breakthrough that leads to actual faster-than-light technology.



Hopefully whoever does the report on the state of our science by the end of our Revered Elder's mandate will actually have something to report. My colleagues are optimistic, and see progress occurring within the next few years, but that's not going to help us much towards the lofty goal the Union Council has set for mankind.



The policy report will come as no surprise to the local Councils, as all there really is to say is the validation of the principles of governance for the United Remnants of Earth, as set and voted by the Assembly of Councils. Our welfare policies remain well established. It is, however, the opinion of our Revered Elder that since we are capable of building space-worthy ships of war, and as a precaution against the marginal criminal elements still roaming our planet, some military buildup should be made, at the very least just enough to fight off any corvettes stolen by adventurous types. Personally, I think it's nonsensical, as the complete absence of military ships would solve that problem and put less strain on our rather limited economy, but the Union Council voted and I must bow to their decision.

It may or may not be related with sending me on a decades-long mission towards Barnard's Star...

At least the results of my propositions regarding scientific policy and its support through taking advantage of the Solar System's resources should be visible within a decade or so. I wonder who will take the credit before the Assembly of Councils.

* *
 
An unearthly child

Lordban

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Well, for once I have a free week-end. This fast pace of updates is unlikely to happen again :p But might as well get the early years out of the way, the beginning of the game is rather slow without actual FTL.

* *



Earth Orbit, 2210; Earth Defense Force flagship EDS Crossbow

Life on Earth in 2210 was a lot nicer than it had been during Elder Kumar Poojary's childhood. Back then, the reorganization of society had still been an ongoing process; between the remaining roving and pillaging bands still operating and the mutant predators that had been left unchecked for a century, there were enough threats preying on the edges of the rebuilding human communities to justify maintaining cadres of professional fighters. And as he stood on the bridge of the human flagship, watching his seven-year-old daughter bounce enthusiastically at the sight of the armada and battle station standing watch over Earth's quiet skies, the Elder felt he was being reminded that the politically savvy and freshly reelected Josephine Dufresne had once been one of those fighters standing at the edge of civilization, in the old country where the disaster had started.

Now that her voice was the loudest in the Union Council, the Revered Elder was applying the lessons learned on the fringes to the planet she was representing, starting with "always be prepared". And somehow, she had been able to convince enough other Elders on the Union Council to authorize spending over half of their budget on building up the 15-ship-strong armada of space corvettes Kumar and his daughter were now watching, the latter with glee, the former with unease. That unease did not abandon him when the voice of his host rose from behind him.

'One of the few emotional developments that remain untouched for humans nowadays: childish enthusiasm.'

Kumar didn't turn around to face the Revered Elder. It was not considered impolite to do so; most people's instincts remained to be uncomfortable when they had to look at the deformed body of another human being, and it wasn't going to get any better. A good portion of the young adult generation felt very uncomfortable towards the generation who had sired them, as they were the ones who had truly embraced the worms. And most humans didn't know how to cope with how a third of the children born nowadays had been artificially conceived and incubated, like Kumar's own daughter had been.

'So this is the child' Elder Dufresne said, focusing her attention on the young girl.

Kumar felt queasy at that remark. That one prompted him to turn and face his interlocutor, not bothering to hide his unease. 'Why is it Kalinda is always the reason people wish to talk to me?'

'If I could chance a guess, I would say it has to do with how she was just skipping without her feet ever making contact with the bridge' the Revered Elder replied with a ghoulish smirk.

'You do realize nobody can explain how she can manage what she can manage.'

'Nor can we explain how any of the other sixteen children of the incubators who have displayed extraordinary abilities perform their small miracles. We just know it happened.'

Elder Poojary stood still, baffled. His daughter was grinning widely, showing a full mouth of uneven teeth. 'There are others like me?'

The Revered Elder nodded. 'A few.'

'Does it mean people will stop asking dada if he wants to send me to live with them?'

Another grin. 'You belong with your dada, like the other children belong with their parents. Just because you're a little be different doesn't mean you shouldn't be treated the same.'

Kumar couldn't help but think the latter sentence was really for his benefit. He cleared his throat, the sound halfway between rasp and gurgle. 'I was summoned to see you not to talk about my daughter, but for a different purpose, Revered Elder.'

'I know, Elder. But before you do, allow me to commend you for your contributions in organizing our datalinks for higher efficiency. And it is due to your tenure overseeing various research contributions that I feel you are the best positioned human to deliver a report on our progress in areas not military-related.'

'You are a bit annoyed at the lack of progress in strictly military technologies' Kumar remarked grimly.

He was rewarded by a gurgling laugh. 'It doesn't hurt to be prepared for any eventuality, but at this stage, we don't even know there might be an eventuality.'

'I know, but there are a fair few Elders who think all we will ever need are naked corvettes and the economy to support them if it ever comes to war with a hypothetical alien species.'

'I pray it never comes to that' the Revered Elder said solemnly. 'Even if initial contacts were hostile, I sincerely hope an encounter with a spacefaring civilization would result in a permanent pact of mutual protection.' Elder Dufresne smiled again. 'But to find other spacefaring species, since they aren't finding us, finally reaching the stars stays the more important goal, wouldn't you agree?'

'I would, but we aren't really close to any breakthroughs in the direction of FTL, or at least not according to the data I collated. Data you should already have seen, Revered Elder.'

'Still, I would welcome your commentary' the ghoulish woman prompted. 'Run it as if you were presenting it for commonfolk.'

'If you insist, Revered Elder.'



'As was laid out by the Union Council at the beginning of your first mandate, Revered Elder, progress has been encouraged specifically in two areas. Specifically, the improvement of our scientific ability and the implementation of practical methods of artificial procreation capable of integrating our symbiotic partners at the earliest stages of embryo development. That latter area had a few offshoots, as mapping our genome entirely was one of the necessary steps to solve our problems.' Elder Poojary's tone turned a bit biting. 'You'll be pleased to know that, among other things, this has led to improvements in the treatment and performance of the settlement guards, even if it wasn't really necessary.'

'You're leaving out the more interesting part' Elder Dufresne noted in a neutral tone, 'specifically, the fluidification of data streams in our research centers thanks to an offshoot of the recent progress in databank uplink technologies.'

'Yes, our scientific oversight services defined improved methods of data exchange thanks to the new possibilities and the accompanying protocol' Kumar replied, his tone calmer now. 'It really was a question of administrative reorganization, not one of science.'

'And yet it opened whole new venues of research' the Revered Elder replied. 'Also, I'm noting how you are being mightily quiet about how the schemes implemented were really your idea, and you had to bypass all regular channels to get them implemented.'

The man couldn't help a blush, which translated into turning an unpleasant shade of purple. 'I haven't done all that much.'

'You do lots of things all the time, dada' his daughter said pointedly, earning herself a frown.

'Kalinda.'

'She's right, Elder Poojary' the Revered Elder pointed out, 'you could do with a position which implies a good deal less traveling. Like overseeing a major sector of research from the offices in Sanctuary, as Elder in the Union Council in charge of organic and societal sciences... and as a father.'

The Elder looked at the older woman, his eyes uncomprehending. 'As a father, Revered Elder?'

Elder Dufresne nodded. 'You have shown an uncanny knack at organizing the work of researchers more efficiently. You are also the parent of one among seventeen children who have been altered in incomprehensible way by the incubators, and who has until recently been pestered by all kinds of people who seek to understand the underlying mechanics to supernatural powers - which, let us face it, is something we need to learn about if we seek to transcend our current conditions.'

'I am with you there' Elder Poojary mumbled. 'I know it has to happen. But this isn't the 21st century. Enough dangerous and heartless experimenting has been done in the past. We must be better.'

'Precisely. Wouldn't you rather research on such matters happening under the aegis of a loving father, who will place the concerns of the children first, and never succumb to the temptation to take dangerous shortcuts?'

And that was when Kumar Poojary finally understood why the Revered Elder could keep the trust of the Assembly of Councils in spite of having directed so much spending towards the acquisition of force. She had not lost the vision of the future mankind wanted for themselves after the horrors they had endured. For all her uncommon ruthlessness, Elder Dufresne believed in peace and in ascension.

Kumar took the job.



* *
Kind-of lucked out with that trait being gained on the first level-up by the first guy I assigned on a science ship to assist research, considering Psionic Ascension is where I've wanted to go from the start :p

As to the rest of the development, mostly uneventful. Just in the right direction, with a counterperformance in energy because one of my power plants isn't functioning, its pop having 'left' for a science lab.



* *
 
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stnylan

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I rather like this narrator. Given how Stellaris usually goes the comment about corvettes is rather amusing as well.

And the enthusiasm of children - what a hopeful notion
 

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Thanks, Idhrendur!

stnylan, I kind-of had to do the comment about the corvettes... :p And it's a good thing children can still be enthusiastic even when they can't be cute... >.<

I'll likely update again tomorrow. I've gotten a bit trolled by the research card RNG... :p No FTL showing up by 2240, reloading, sorry ^^
 
Last edited:
Faster than light

Lordban

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Second attempt was less of a troll.

* *



Barnard Star's system; 2225

When she had set out for Barnard's Star, back in the year 2201, Courtney Fleming had known of the possibility that, some decades into their journey, her ship and her crew might be caught up with by another human craft equipped with functioning FTL engines. It was another thing entirely to have to halt her vessel just within scanning distance of Barnard's Star, her objective, and explain to the men and women who'd accompanied her that their entire journey had indeed been for nothing. Worse even, insult had been added to injury when the very embarrassed captain of the FTL-capable science vessel had boarded with the aging EDS Vagabond, and Courtney had realized she recognized the other woman.

Zeinab Salman had been among those young space crewfolk who had received an offer to accompany the first manned mission to a different star system, and had declined joining Elder Fleming's mission. She was now Elder Salman, tasked with her own crew on the very first FTL-capable vessel built by mankind, and just stopping to inform the woman who would have been her captain under different circumstances that another, more modern and FTL-capable Science vessel was on its way to Barnard's Star so that Courtney and her crew could take it over and continue their initial mission.

And then, a few months later, a message from Earth had arrived, celebrating the achievement of the explorer captain who had surpassed Christopher Columbus himself, and it was Zeinab Salman who was celebrated, when the most interesting discovery Courtney herself had made was the possible existence of ceramics orbiting around Barnard's Star...



Nobody paid much attention to the traces of life found by the older explorer's crew above the methanous moon of Barnard Star Ia, although it was something with far more profound significance than the discovery of actual alien life forms. Ironically, one of the few who paid attention to Courtney's reports was her old political enemy, who was now serving her third term as the Revered Elder. An entire civilization of killer machines bent on destroying all sapient organic life sounded alarming enough, but in the middle of the ongoing euphoria, there were very few who cared.



While Courtney Fleming and Josephine Dufresne were busy wondering about the ramifications of that discovery, another capital event in human history was taking place. Alpha Centauri I, as fate had whimsically decided, was another world where techologically advanced sapients had researched their way to nuclear armaments and used them to trigger a planet-wide extinction. That species, however, had been a lot more thorough than mankind. Very little was left standing to attest intelligent life forms had ever resided in Alpha Centauri, and only mutated, radiation-resilient fauna and flora akin to modern Earth's had survived.

This meant that much more delay before mankind would make their first contact with equal intelligences, but also that the extinct sapients had unwittingly provided the survivor humans with their first genuine opportunity for colonization. Preparations began on Earth to provide and train an entirely new colony's administration, and a call for volunteers was issued to man an immense and hugely expensive craft constructed specifically for the purpose of settling Alpha Centauri I.



Thankfully, the economy of Earth was more than capable of supporting such costs. The initial economic and scientific expansion had continued on, and now that Earth boasted a respectable fleet, dedicated to defending the homeworld, its authorities had accumulated stores that remained respectable even after taking out the investment for the future colony. Earth under Revered Elder Dufresne had prospered into a respectable local power, stronger than its fragmented nations ever had been. There was no knowing yet whether Earth represented power of any significance on the galactic scale, but now that mankind actually could travel the stars, it would be found out.



With the advent of faster-than-light travel, the Union Council also voted a resolution deciding to formally lay claim over the neighboring systems in the name of the United Remnants of Earth. This included Barnard's Star, which Courtney Fleming had the consolation of being legitimate in calling the first completely explored stellar system outside of Sol's, although it was nowhere near as rich a prize.



With a solid economy, and with scientific advances having taken the form of regular leaps and bounds over the preceding fifteen years, mankind found themselves in a comfortable position to take on the challenge of becoming an interstellar power, which it was estimated to become by the year 2235...



* *
And now that the RNG troll job is over, will try and start actual exploration (actual Stellaris? :p ) tomorrow!
 

stnylan

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At least they seek beyond their ravaged world ...

A PDS game troll its players. Never! .... :rolleyes::eek::p
 
First expansion, first contacts

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stnylan, about that ravaged world thing, well... Kinda wish there was more ravage in the galaxy :p

* *

A view of the first human colony, New Haven, in the Alpha Centauri system. The first signs of human habitation are already visible from space.


From the memory pool of Elder Kumar Poojary

I've been reminiscing a good deal over the past couple of weeks. There is little else to do during interstellar travel. It's not a matter of decades, like it would have been just five years ago, but the space traveler has to accept the notion of staying confined within the cramped halls and rooms of a ship for months on end. The journey to visit our fresh colony in Alpha Centauri took five months, and the trip back to Earth is going to be just as long, nearly equally split between sublight travel and faster-than-light travel. Captain Baumann expects us to leave Alpha Centauri's gravity well by the end of next week, at which point it will be possible to engage the calculations for the pathway our warp-distortion engines will take us through without our scanners being interfered with by the local gravitation fields.

That journey is going to be another hard one for Kalinda...

Sometimes one has to laugh at the irony of sentences uttered decades in the past. I remember the Revered Elder's remark about Kalinda's untouched childish enthusiasm. It has very much stayed untouched: like the couple of hundred others of our species who had the misfortune of having their psyches altered by the incubation process, my daughter is a perpetual child. Not unlike how most of those of us who have become symbiotes hardly ever seem to change.

On my way to the spaceport, I chanced upon the oldest of our Council. Courtney Fleming is easy to recognize, you just have to watch for signs of temper, and she was in a towering one after her battered exploration vessel had docked, fresh from escaping an encounter with reactivated combat drones while she was investigating signs of some ancient form of mechanical life she calls Cybrex. What struck me was how vigorous and spry she was for a 75-year-old woman. Courtney is just as energetic as men half her age, and she's showing no signs of slowing down. She also looks almost exactly like her three decades younger pictures from her investiture in the Union Council. Of course, "age has been kind to you" wouldn't be much of a flattery attempt, considering what we humans have come to look like...

Man is very much unchanged, but the same cannot be said of our horizons. Only five years ago, we had no functional faster-than-light engines other than dangerous prototypes, no survey knowledge of any other star system, no evidence of any trace of any extraterrestrial lifeforms - sapient or otherwise, and of course no established presence outside of the solar system. How things have changed, in so little time...


Mankind's knowledge of the stars, nearly five years after the development of the Warp engine.


Courtney would hate to admit it, but the deciding factor in convincing enough men and women to venture beyond the Earth did not come as a result of Zeinab Salman's glowing reports about extraterrestrial life - it came as a consequence of her locating the trace of ceramics orbiting around Barnard's Star. Elder O'Malley mounted an expedition to investigate this most peculiar occurrence, and with patience, his team actually managed to take close-up photographs of an ancient vase, floating in the stars.



This incontrovertible proof of another higher intelligence existing in the universe started a wave of enthusiasm of unexpected proportions considering it's, well, pottery circling a sun, but life works in strange ways. There are certainly many who push this entirely random find as incontrovertible proof of an intelligent design, to push us towards settling new worlds. Whatever the reasons, we are there, with a colony firmly established in Alpha Centauri, and slowly making its way towards self-sustainment.

Elder Salman's name regained some lustre while the colony was being established. Her findings in the Ythin system were also of profound significance: the proof of existence of other sapient lifeforms, on a world we've labelled as Gruk'kamy, after one of the soundbites captured from the chirping speech of one of creatures that seem to call themselves Mondovaak. A species who seem evidently much more suited to spacefaring than we are...


EX-TER-MINATE! (or not...)


Unfortunately, this species also seem to be engaged on a path to commit the exact mistakes we did. Just like our ancient societies, theirs are organized vertically, their populations exhibit severe mistrust of strangers, and they regard material pursuits as self-justificatory. Hopefully the first spacefaring species mankind come into contact with will prove to be more reasonable... If they don't, there have already been discussions in council about implementing containment measures to deny potential aggressors colonization opportunities, of which there seem to be plenty...



In addition to Gruk'kamy, our already settled colony in New Haven, and the two terraforming candidates close to Earth, we have found a further five conventional habitable planets of various sizes, another barren terraforming candidate, and three very-low-temperature moons playing host to lifeforms constructed around liquid methane or ammonia as a solvent, instead of water, like seems to be the more common occurrence (1/2/6, though of course these figures aren't large enough to be statistically significant).

None of them are remotely favorable environments for our species. Considerable efforts will have to be undertaken if we ever want to set foot on one such world. Ironically, perhaps this means we will have to change again at some point in our future. We would possibly be more than capable of defending them, considering the outrageous expenses our Revered Elder used the discovery of hostile ancient drones to justify...



According to Elder Yuan Zhang, who conducted the mop-up operation, the new, FTL-capable design performs admirably. I still cannot help but wish the Revered Elder had realized all that was really necessary was equip four or five of our corvettes, rather than waste resources that could have been used on further development and send the entire fleet in what amounted to a glorified maneuvering exercise. The last thing we need as a species is remind ourselves we are war-capable, especially when we are poised to decide what approach we should be taking with regards to a different, technologically less advanced species.

Should we gift them with the technologies needed to ascend to spacefaring capability, or keep them for ourselves? Mold their society until it takes a less dangerous path, or leave it untouched? And should we even seek to interact with the Mondovaak at all? Would it not be more humane to observe them from afar and let them develop in whichever direction fate has assigned for them?

I have four months left to ponder on that question, before I attend the Union Council where it will be brought up, once mankind has decided whom to elect as their next guide and Revered Elder. There aren't too many who doubt of the answer...

* *
Stats and tech for 2230:





... 120 years left before the first crisis check roll... :p
 

stnylan

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I would say only if one really hates these creatures would one risk them walking the path one has already trodden.
 
The beginning of friendship

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Hate? What's the point of that? :p

* *

The first spacefarers mankind made contact with: numerous, belligerent... and starbound.

At long last, the long-awaited first contact with another spacefaring species had come for mankind. In November of 2234, the exploration mission led by Courtney Fleming signaled they had entered an inhabited star system, as evidenced by the flurry of activity their arrival engendered on the side across from the local red dwarf. A veritable armada had been sitting there, standing careful watch over a world teeming with life. The Arbiter's medium-range sensors and communications arrays were promptly activated, in order to assess whether these alien ships represented an immediate threat to the exploring crew, and to intercept enough communications for an attempt at deciphering the language in which the aliens were communicating.

The first findings were familiar to Elder Fleming: just like her own vessel not ten years before, these strange spacefaring species had yet to develop any actual faster-than-light drives. Their largest ship of war, however, was considerably bigger than any the United Remnants had been capable of constructing, and on-par with the Sniper-class corvettes in terms of armament.



Elder Fleming's teams succeeded in deciphering the first communications in a little over seven weeks, and finally, a holographic projection of the Revered Elder was relayed on one of the alien screens to initiate dialogue and, hopefully, friendship with the Republic of Tunnel to the Stars.



The initial contact was, all things considered, less unfriendly than the Reverend Elder had expected. For over a century humans had learned not to look at themselves in the mirror, repulsed as they were by their own mutated and deformed appearances, but it appeared immediately the reptilian Bronbholan cared very little about the ghoulish characteristics of Earth's most prominent personality. What they were very clear about was not wanting anyone to interfere with their civilization. Their basic messsage was "leave us alone".

But Josephine Dufresne had not been reelected as leader of the Union Council three times in a row for nothing. Her diplomatic masterstroke came through a response agreeing that mankind's fellow star travelers should indeed be left alone to prosper and develop while continuing adherence to their soldierly ways, and that human arms would protect the Republic for the time it would take the Bronbholan to develop their own methods of traveling to other stars, should any faster-than-light threat happen upon the reptilian species. That response left the Commissary handling the contact on the Republic's side surprised and perplexed. What was supposed to be a brief, to the point communication warning humanity to leave the Bronbholan alone on pain of severe consequences ended up as an invitation for Elder Fleming's craft to dock at Bronbhobha's spaceport for an ambassadorial meeting with Senate representatives.

The proposed meeting did end up occurring six weeks later, in the presence of the Commissary-General, who met with a Courtney Fleming armed with plenipotentiary powers and a mandate from the Union Council. In fine, what had begun as a less-than-warm contact resulted in the signing of extensive diplomatic accords involving a non-aggression pact between the two spacefaring entities, agreements for scientific cooperation, mutual sensor-link exchanges, and a one-off payment by the Republic to the scientific departments of the United Remnants.

The result of the negotiations was hailed with great cheers everywhere on Earth and on New Haven. The first official diplomatic contacts between Humanity and an alien government ended up in a rousing success, and the Revered Elder in particular was given great praise, which joined a rising heap. Josephine Dufresne was the leader who had, over three and a half decades, guided her fellow humans from a tentative and frail, starbound coalition to a prosperous and harmonious stellar empire who could boast moral, technological, and potential military superiority over all the sapient lifeforms who resided in their galactic sector.

And the muffled talk about the pointlessness of the 2230 elections surfaced and grew quietly and increasingly louder, and people began to openly suggest that perhaps, so deserving and efficient a leader should be offered to retain her position as Revered Elder for the duration of her lifetime...



* *
 

stnylan

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For Life could be a very long time. ....
 
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For life could possibly span the entire game. At this point the base life expectancy for my leaders is 177 (72 base + 85 racial + 20 harmony), that's more than long enough for a very long term of rule. I even used to have a resilient leader, but she slipped on the baseline 1% anomaly critical failure chance...

* *


Elder Dikotsi Onobanjo was a patient man. He was also a pious man, and one of a few who genuinely thought Revered Elder Dufresne's rule had been one disrespectful of the higher powers, and that Earth's long-tenured ruler would ultimately lead mankind in a disastrous direction if she was allowed to stay at the helm much longer.

Most importantly, Dikotsi Onobanjo was aware of the disgruntlement among those humans who thought it had been sinful to start colonizing and exploiting Alpha Centauri I, a world serving as the tomb of a species that, to this day, only were known for the skeletal remains found it what had to have been the last refuge of their people. A tomb whose doors had been forced open on the orders of the Revered Elder in the name of the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, desecrating the final resting place of the first sapient alien species whose existence humanity had ascertained. It was one of two blemishes on the Revered Elder's long rule, the other being her ceaseless investments in the military, and as the overseer of the Engineering divisions, Elder Onobanjo knew better than anybody else just how far the Revered Elder's military designs went.



And absent any kind of foreseeable threat, what with the only other significant power known, the Republic of Tunnel to the Stars, having agreed a non-aggression pledge and growing increasingly warmer towards the United Remnants, there were many who thought humanity had very little need for armaments, and would be able to forsake them entirely once more if their militarily-inclined neighbors could be persuaded to take over the defense of Earth and of its colony.

Elder Onobanjo himself was a firm proponent of the notion. He also felt the large scientific and monetary investments made under Josephine Dufresne should have gone towards developing and mastering terraformation technologies and means of ensuring the viability of settling the wealth of planets which would have been fit for human habitation - for humans who had existed before the disaster and the symbiosis.

His design for mankind was one where the Branbholans would take charge of protecting a commonality formed with humanity from outside threats, while the humans would expand and grow ever more prosperous, attracting ever more species into their orbit. They would elevate the Mondovaak and any other primitive species they might encounter, convince any other spacefaring species they had everything to gain from peace with humanity, and eventually mankind, as the most enlightened of species, would find their path to securing a quiet domination of a pacified galaxy abiding by the human ways.

Someone else had once shared similar designs with Elder Onobanjo, although she had not taken them to their ultimate conclusion. Elder Courtney Fleming had also balked at the investments pushed by the Revered Elder into armaments and had believed in a more peaceful way. She had not quite understood humanity's moral, economic and scientific superiority were enough to convince any would-be attackers to rethink their posture, and had reluctantly agreed that Dufresne talking to the Commissary-General as a soldier to a soldier had considerably helped secure the solid friendship the United Remnants now enjoyed with the Republic of Tunnel to the Stars, but those opinions had been kept private and there was no material Elder Onobanjo was aware of that could have been used to undermine his claims of sharing the thoughts of one of humanity's greatest explorers.

Not even Courtney Fleming herself; the Eldest of Elders had died, at the respectable age of 86. Not death of old age, she had still been remarkably spry and healthy, even compared with other mutated humans of her age, but death by accident. The longest tenured of Earth's explorers had died due to a miscalculation by a rookie member of EDS Arbiter's crew. The more distrustful workers in the scientific departments speculated Fleming's bitter rival, Zeinab Salman, had arranged for the incompetent's transfer on board the Arbiter. Elder Onobanjo didn't believe that for a minute, but it helped improve the late Fleming's image in some small way, as well as diminished Elder Salman's credit. Both were positives in Onobanjo's book.



The only other serious challenger to Elder Onobanjo's aims and the Revered Elder's rule had been the Home Office overseer, Elder Giovanna Garibaldi, who had managed to gather some measure of momentum behind her in 2235, during the debates regarding the stance mankind should take regarding the Mondovaak. Garibaldi and her supporters had advocated for a strict non-interference policy, a position that had become untenable when another Elder wisely pointed out only a hateful being would wish to let others walk a path leading to the kind of disastrous fate mankind itself had very nearly met and not entirely escaped, seeing as how they bore the consequences engraved in their very flesh nearly two centuries later.

Yes, everything was falling in place quite nicely, and now the talk about prolonging the Revered Elder's mandate indefinitely had quietly died down as a result of her renewed military expenses, all that was left to do was wait for the election which would take place on New Year's day in 2241. That day was slowly coming nearer.

And Elder Onobanjo was a patient man.

* *
And this decade's stats. Quietly progressing, but I really need some Habitability boosts before long.





* *
 

stnylan

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Yes ... very restricted on population/worlds. I mean, by design but that could become crippling (... if it is not already).
 
Dark portents

Lordban

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It probably has already seriously damaged me ^^ I do enjoy a position where threats are pretty much absent, meaning I can do without spending much on the military without immediate adverse consequences, so I'm sitting on a stockpile for when I can afford a "colonial explosion." There are a few options, like things to upraise and integrate, or things to uplift - and I'm actually short only another 3% habitability for the "humans" at this point.

I'm a bit sad, though. Can't upraise Fanatical Purifiers anymore :( That used to be fun!


* *
From the memory pool of Kumar Poojary

A side-effect of our considerably lengthened lifespans is the gradual lowering of the frequency at which one can be surprised by the turning of events. Yes, this is an admission to becoming a bit jaded, and odds are I probably will keep getting worse with time - that is, if life runs out of curveballs to throw at me. Admittedly, in the past eight years, there have been quite a few, the latest of which was finding my daughter pacing in the living room, deeply engaged in conversation with none other than a seated Josephine Dufresne. And I'll admit I felt a bit ashamed at not having anticipated the woman's coming. And of course, my daughter managed to read the emotion.

'Don't, father' she chided me, waving a gnarled finger. 'You spend enough time complaining about rarely getting the chance of going anywhere incognito. You shouldn't begrudge Miss Dufresne the chance.'

I couldn't help a stammer. 'R-revered Elder.'

The woman shook her head and smiled that patented ghoulish smile of hers. 'Miss Dufresne or Josephine. We both know the title amounts to meaningless honorifics.'

'Still, I apologize for not making more of an effort at preparing for your visit' I replied, doing my best to ignore Kalinda's disapproving stare. 'You may no longer be in charge of guiding us, but your tenure did earn you more respect than I have showed to such an illustrious visitor.'

That amused the woman. 'And I would have been a bit disappointed had you been the one I came to visit.'

Judging by the burning of my cheeks, I must have turned an unpleasant shade of purple. 'Oh.'

'Miss Dufresne is a nicer woman than you ever gave her credit for' my daughter admonished me, before addressing me a smile. 'Still, since you're there, you should get yourself a drink and join us, father. You complain enough as it is about our Revered Elder, might as well do that in the presence of a willing party, for a change. And you're worried enough that I don't think my own words could comfort you.'

As I poured myself a glass of strong brandy, I couldn't help but ponder, as I often do these days, about just how much my daughter had changed in the past couple of months. It was surprisingly hard to adapt to the notion that a child who had depended on you for 44 years had turned into a full-grown adult - an uneducated one, but a self-responsible person nonetheless. The same had happened to many parents when their psionically gifted children had been treated with the retrovirus that inhibited just enough of the worms' biology to stop their drain on a psionic host's mental capabilities. This revolutionary finding, and the discovery at the onset of the decade of the exact process in the incubators which resulted into psi-embryos, had just opened a wholly new prospect of psionic ascension for humanity.



That had been the source of heated debates in the Union council. Nowadays, the lines were drawn between two distinct parties. Revered Elder Onobanjo's religious conservatives were the proponents of a "human transcendence first" line. They held nine of the eighteen seats, just shy of actual majority, while another five seats were held by Elders defending a xenophile outreach agenda - essentially, their line was "let's first ask what we can do for others; once their needs have been satisfied, we'll see what we can do for ourselves." The remaining four of us were aligned with neither party, although there was almost invariably one of us supporting the religious conservatives whenever issues came to a vote. On this one, though, the four of us were staying on the fence. It was too important a decision to make without considering all the ramifications.

Idly, I wondered about what the former Revered Elder would have thought the conundrum we now had to face.

‘She’s sitting right there, you know’ Kalinda said, startling me. I nearly dropped my glass. ‘Seriously, father.’

Elder Dufresne chortled. ‘Yours must be an interesting life, spent with a daughter who knows what your thoughts are turned upon at all times.’

‘I sometimes wish she didn’t’ I grumbled as I started to clean up the spilt brandy.

‘Believe me, so do I’ my daughter said tartly.

‘Don’t you think a world where all daughters knew what their fathers are thinking about would be a better place?’ the Elder asked her playfully, prompting a giggle from my daughter, quickly replaced by a look of shock.

‘How did you know what father has been thinking about?’

‘You don’t necessarily need to be a psionic to read people you know, when you have some clue about their concerns’ the damnable woman explained with that ghoulish smile of hers. Kalinda pondered over that, but did not offer a verbal response.

‘Alright’ I groused as I sat down, glass in hand. ‘So? What do you think?’

‘Do you know why the Commissary General reacted so favorably to our initial approach of the Republic of Tunnel to the Stars?’

‘I do’, I grumbled.

‘It was possible to pull the same trick with our new neighbors because they saw us at the very least as equals, thanks to our already existing military accords. But the galaxy is immense, and just in a fifth of one of its arms we’ve already made contact with another two spacefaring species who reached the stars about the same time as we did; that in addition to another, passionately xenophobic sapient species that has progressed to a level akin to our Renaissance, and a pre-sapient species that has just begun experimenting with live fire.'


We only wish to be not-friends!


'Your point being?' I grumbled, thinking I already knew where this discussion was headed.

'Have you paid attention to the reports about the Cybrex research expeditions?'

'Yes, but that was six hundred thousand years ago' I said dismissively. 'Their rampage through this sector of the galaxy has long-since ended.'

'And what were we six hundred thousand years ago, if not a pre-sapient species that had just begun experimenting with live fire?' My interlocutor was growing passionate. 'We owe our survival to pure luck - specifically, luck that several species far more advanced and powerful than we ever were sacrificed themselves to stall the Cybrex until they finally grew bored of exterminating every sapient they encountered! What exactly would you expect us to do if such a threat came knocking at our metaphorical doors? Just ask them nicely to please not kill us?'

'Violence is never the right answer' I replied, but my voice sounded hollow, and the three of us knew it.

'Nice words and a gift or two are not going to stop a tidal wave of we're-gonna-kill you-bots' the Elder said harshly. 'This is why I insisted that we at least funded the research of a number of military projects and pushed for the expansion of our fleet capacity. We know enough of the space around us to at least have some advance warning and start producing from already tested designs. But aside from the last ongoing project under my tenure, fleet research has entirely stopped since Onobanjo got the top job, and not a single credit has gone towards improving or expanding our fleets and starports. On the contrary, you people found nothing better to do than reduce our operational response capabilities by nearly half!'

'Ships are expensive to maintain and supply, even when they don't maneuver' I retorted with some bite. 'The savings in upkeep costs have allowed to finance a considerable expansion of our interstellar mining and research operations. That would have been untenable had we had to keep spending more and more on space forces we don't need now we're about to have a defensive pledge with another faster-than-light able civilization.'


When you can't colonize and there's lots of empty space around you, build frontier outposts!


It was my own daughter who countered my argument. 'That's not enough, father' she said quietly. 'That's nowhere close to enough.'

'Our soon-to-be allies, the Torjini, are capable of mounting a response four times stronger than ours, and once they finish their FTL research, our Bronbholan allies will immediately be able to muster twice our strength.'

'Yes, and trusting one's rich and disarmed nation's fate to two heavily militarized species with hegemonic ambitions has always ended well' my interlocutor replied sarcastically.


The eastern neighbors: more numerous and more belligerent.


'None of that matters!' my daughter bellowed, taking the both of us aback.

'Kalinda?' I asked with concerned.

'Father, the Revered Elder is right' she told me urgently. 'Even if we have strong friends on our side, it will not be enough.'

'How would you know?' I asked with bafflement, and really, with all of her two months as an educated adult, how could her understanding of such matters surpass that of people with nearly half a century of experience?

'I have foreseen it.'

That was how.

I couldn't help but stare in shock at Kalinda. 'You- you foresaw?'

'Our end' she replied, her voice quivering. 'I've seen it in my dreams ever since I was a child, many times. Something coldhearted and dark lurks beyond, and when it emerges, fire will be coming. The endless flames, burning to consume us all.'

'When?' I couldn't help but ask.

Kalinda shook her head. 'I don't know. Not during your lifetime.' Her voice grew firmer. 'But I will live to see it happen.'

I will admit I did not want to believe my daughter. I still don't. But Josephine Dufresne did.

'Message me everything you remember from your visions' she demanded, and Kalinda nodded in agreement. 'I will investigate whether any other psionics have had similar dreams, and bring the matter to the attention of the Revered Elder.'

My daughter's reply was made in a sad voice. 'I will do it. Something has to happen if we are going to escape oblivion, and nothing will happen if no-one says a thing.'

That was the last time I saw Josephine Dufresne alive and conscious. When next I heard of her, it was from a live holoreport airing from the Council offices, stating our first Revered Elder was suspended between life and death after a brutal stroke in the middle of a conversation with her successor. She had suffered terrible brain damage, and her medical condition was already beyond our medical knowledge by the time assistance arrived on the scene. She now resides in suspended animation in what is, for all intents and purposes, a public mausoleum at the entrance of the Central Council compounds, where every human can come and pay their respect to the woman who led our kind across the stars.

My daughter did not attend the inaugural ceremonies. A week before Elder Dufresne's stroke, Kalinda abruptly informed me she was leaving our house and boarding the next transport convoy to New Haven. She was already packed and ready to go.

Hopefully she can afford to send me a message from her new home before long.

* *
And this is where we stand in 2250.




 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Well now if that is not ominous I don't know what is.

But also I pity anyone with a psionic child like that.
 

Machiavellian

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Great stuff thus far. This is quite the good read. Would I be correct in assuming that you do not yet know what the cold and merciless threat is, but are counting on either a Fallen Empire, an Awakened Empire, or an End-game crisis to fill that particular void?
 
The Ancients

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stnylan, Ominous? What a slanderous notion! All you're seeing is peace and harmony preserved! :D (And explaining away the disappearance of the original leader because Stellaris doesn't keep them around :p )

Machiavellian, thanks! And you are correct, that "premonition" is basically knowing something bad is inevitably going to happen in a game of Stellaris. The save file is currently in 2261.


* *

Since its installation in the entrance to the Central Council compounds over a decade ago, the suspended animation pod housing the body of the first Revered Elder had attracted a large number of visitors from Earth and a good few more among those who could afford the pilgrimage from New Haven, come to see the “great woman”. A fair number of those who made the pilgrimage expressed their confidence that one day the woman who’d led mankind to the stars could be healed. His successor had other ideas; Dikotsi Onobanjo liked his predecessor in the exact condition she was in, and had no intention of ever permitting that she be woken up. The woman had ultimately proven herself to be a scaremonger, referencing the vision of one psychic along with remains of a warmonger species from hundreds of thousands of years ago to proclaim mankind needed to arm itself against dire threats that had never materialized in the slightest.

Since then, humanity had come to learn for certain that arming themselves, even to the maximum of their abilities, was futile. On their way to the fabled Cybrex homeworld, the expedition led by Elder Nathan O'Malley had been hailed by a vastly more ancient species, one who held unbelievably advanced knowledge and lined up ships of such advanced designs the smallest of them had more firepower than all of the human fleet combined. Attempting to catch up with them militarily would have made about as much sense as Vatican City launching itself on an arms race for world conquest in 2000.


Surprise, surprise...


So the Revered Elder had ordered Elder O'Malley to finish with his expedition and scan the remains of the Cybrex Ringworld, followed that by designating the place as a holy site which humans were forbidden from ever disturbing, and had pushed through legislation that permanently set the size and armaments of Union fleets and patrols, with a provision for each system getting its patrol to discourage pirates from other species.

Mankind had other concerns these days anyway; one in particular involved massive investments and the entire species, a consequence of a final breakthrough by the teams under the unreliable Elder Poojary, permitting the modification of all humans to develop psionic potential as a result of remarkably simple and inexpensive gene therapy. The retroviral agents had just gone into mass production, with a timetable for universal delivery to every living member of mankind set to the end of 2261, only a couple of years hence.

Every living member of mankind save for one, Onobanjo mused with a faint smile as he looked at the unmoving form of his predecessor. Soon, you will be the last human left alive from the original strain, my dear Josephine. The man permitted himself a quiet chuckle. The last of a breed of paranoid, xenophobic old fools who never understood that the only viable way forward lay in trusting our defense to other treaty parties and invest all our efforts towards our own development. Mankind progressed more in twenty years under me than they did in forty years under you because I never wasted a taxpayer's credit more than was politically necessary to keep my seat.


We keep adding friends to our spacebook!

The only annoyance on that road was the reluctance of the Remnants' allies to further cement the relationship into a full-fledged federation - a reluctance that had largely got to do with the backwards diplomatic attitudes of the less-advanced neighbors of mankind and their unwillingness to forgo wars of aggression entirely. Words will win in the end, if it takes me another century, Onobanjo thought. It will not be long now until our kin offer me what was almost foolishly wasted on someone with your backwards attitude, and unlike you, I won't let the chance slip from my grasp.

The Revered Elder stood straight, eyes fixed upon the unseeing ones of his predecessor. 'I was always going to be the one to guide humanity into its golden ear, not you. And one day, even your usefulness as a symbol will come to an end, and nobody will notice your removal and your final end, while I will watch over this galaxy forever.'

All that was required was patience. And Dikotsi Onobanjo was a patient man...

* *

Stats are looking a little bit better. Still lacking the last 3% habitability :p




And research going a little faster means its list gets a little longer...



* *