In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Starships, I spread the first tendrils of my influence throughout the galaxy. Normae 28, Columbae 43, and Doradus 24: all three planets were suffering from unaffiliated pirate attacks, and the United Federation fleet arrived thrice in the nick of time to dispense our particular kind of laser-fisted help. In return, the citizenry of each planet showered us with rewards and admiration: credits and technology were gifted outright, and generous trade routes and promises of future resources were promised. Our little United Federation isn’t any larger yet, but if I keep this up… Impressed as I was by Normae 28’s Food production capabilities, I even pre-emptively decided to invest my own resources in their infrastructure. I have good hope this investment’ll pay off in our favour in the long run.
I also encountered no less than two opposing empires during my initial outing: the Supreme Galactic Empire, and the Second Galactic Alliance. Language barriers meant I couldn’t figure out how to communicate with them the first time around. But the march of scientific progress is unrelenting, and after a year of stationary consolidation, ADVISR tells me we should be able to open communications any moment now. In fact, I think ADVISR is trying to get my attention right this moment…
Cyber-Élodie’s Log. Galactic Date: 2047.2.
“It’s finally done, then? And you’re sure this will work?”
“Affirmative, and positive. Our upgraded communications protocol is 100% compatible to that used by both encountered empires. Communication is now possible.”
“Alright then.” I flash a tired smile. Pro tip: never tell an AI to alert you the ‘moment’ something non-critical happens. ADVISR is a big help, I’m thankful for the lil’ dude’s assistance, but it still does not understand the concept of ‘sleeping in’.
“Which faction would you like to communicate with first?”
“Man, I don’t know. Let’s take them in the order we found them. Good a method as any.”
“Affirmative. Opening communications channel to the Supreme Galactic Empire now. Please stand by…”
I yawn deeply. “You think I can go get some coffee before they pick up?”
“Greetings, Supreme Galactic Empire. I am…” I pause. How should I introduce myself? “…Commander Élodie of the United Federation. I formally request to speak to your leader.”
Silence, at first. Are we sure this worked? But then, a clear human voice booms from the speakers. “Commander Élodie, your request has been received. Please prepare to be patched through to First Consul Bolivar.”
As our comms view-screen fills with the indecipherable techno-static of two protocol systems interacting, my mind races. ‘Bolivar’? Who the hell is Bolivar? I thought all major factions in this region of space were overseen by my former colonization partners. That was what the chatter we picked up indicated, wasn’t it? But unless my memory is really failing me — and that’s unlikely, given that my enhanced brain is like ninety percent cybernetics at this point — I don’t remember ever sharing a continent with a Bolivar. Who is this man? It’s not Vadim, or Hutama, or Suzanne, or Kavitha, or Daoming, or Samatar…
Just then, a new face appears on the viewscreen. A human face, clearly, but one ‘enhanced’ in the Harmony style to a degree I’ve never seen before. And because the face inhabits that strange shadow region between ‘strongly familiar’ and ‘totally alien’, it takes a few seconds before the puzzle pieces click and recognition crashes into my mind like a thunderclap.
“Reggie! Rejinaldo Bolivar de Alencar!”
When the man speaks, the warm Brazilian Portuguese tones filtering into the auto-translator dispel any lingering doubt I might’ve had. “I am glad you still remember my name, Élodie.” He smirks, briefly. “It has, after all, been a while.”
“I’ll say!” I don’t know why I’m yelling. I’m honestly a little giddy still from the rush of sudden discovery. “Wow, I almost didn’t recognize you. You look, er… different. If you know what I mean.”
“Oh, I know what you mean.” He smirks again, and runs a hand through his strange, moss-coloured hair. “But understand that I had to get my hair dyed. Not all of us carry the grey as gracefully as you do.”
The last of my pent-up giddy energy is expended in barking laughter. I can’t help it! I forgot what a dry wit this man has.
“What a coincidence, running into you of all people the first. You were the first I met on Terra Atlantea too, remember? You were second to land. It’s like cosmic serendipity up in here.” No answer to that, just another smile.
“So, er…” I’m not sure how to breach the giant, bio-engineered elephant in the room. “What did happen to you? Last I saw of you, you were squarely on the Purity dogma train with Vadim and Hutama. Why the possibly-literal change of heart? Don’t tell me everyone on Scorpii was really into Harmony when you got here, and you had to go along with it just to become top dog.”
It’s Rejinaldo’s turn to laugh, a deep booming laugh that somehow flutes as well. “It was the other way around, actually: I brought Harmony to this planet. No, Élodie, what happened was… well, you!”
“Consider: I was convinced that holding on to human Purity was the ‘right’ way to colonize new worlds. Partially from myself, partially from , as you say, ‘Vadim’s dogma’. I was sure that no amount of tampering with our base selves could ever out-do the human spirit.” He smiles for a moment, wistfully. “But you certainly put the lie to that, didn’t you? Your enhanced armies defeated Hutama and Vadim time after time. And in doing so, you opened my eyes to the possibility that I may have been entirely wrong.”
“Okay, I see how that works. But if that was the case, if I ‘showed you’ those things, why didn’t you convert to Supremacy? Seems like that would be the logical step.”
His smile broadens. “You should remember saying this to me when you travel further again.” Then falls. “But while your Supreme prowess was what first showed me that Purity is not humanity’s end-all, it was the raw force of the Blooming that convinced me that Harmony, bio-genetic unity with the incredibly power of all living things, is the path most worth pursuing.”
“Come again?” I look at him, puzzled. “The ‘Blooming’?”
Rejinaldo’s smile morphs again, turning a cryptic bemused stripe. I didn’t know it was possible to have this many smiles. “Ah, of course! You were not there when it happened. And I assume the records were…” He pauses, briefly. “Tell me. Did you notice anything unusual when you returned to Terra…” Quick glance at the star map. “…Cerinea 51? Anything involving the native creatures, maybe?”
“Now that you mention it, the bugs were unusually active and hostile when we got back. We had to exterminate all of them before we could do much of any rebuilding. What, was that your guys’ doing? What happened?”
Cryptic smile again. “I think the story of the Blooming is not really mine to tell. I was only tangentially involved, after all. But let me just say this: what happened there, is why you see me as you do today. That is all I’ll say on the matter.”
“‘Riddle me this, Batman’? I never took you for a riddler.” That earns me another laugh.
“Alright, fair enough, I recognize a stonewall when I see one. Let’s talk about you guys, then. ‘Supreme Galactic Empire’, huh? How are you guys doing on the universal domination front?”
I sit back, stretch, yawn off-camera. “Well, Rejinaldo — I mean, First Consul Bolivar — this has been a productive first contact of our empires. I only have one more question I’d really like to ask…” I lean forward, serious look on my face. “Given what happened on Terra Atlantea, is there… bad blood, between us?”
Rejinaldo smiles, shakes his head. “We were never friends, true, but we were never enemies either. And while I see that our empires may well turn out at cross purposes in the future, I see no reason to hasten the coming of interstellar warfare any more than is necessary. If you are willing to proclaim that there is peace between us, then so am I.”
“Rejinaldo, it was good seeing you again. I have no doubt we’ll talk more in the future.”
“For good or for ill, as these things happen. Take care, Élodie.” The connection is terminated.
Whew! That was certainly an interesting talk. I’m definitely awake now. And that’s only from the one empire! I still have the Second Galactic Alliance to talk to, too. No reason to let the proverbial iron cool down, in fact. “Alright, ADVISR.” *bing* “Open communications to the Second Galactic Alliance next.”
The face that appears on my viewscreen next is much easier to recognize, given that it’s basically identical to the way I left it. The President of the Second Galactic Alliance is none other than Kavitha Thakur, former leader of the Kavithan Protectorate and fellow Supremacy enthusiast.
“Élodie!” Kavitha’s melodic voice fills the room. “It is good to see you again. I am glad a fellow follower of Providence has made the step toward the stars.”
“Hey, Kavitha. I’m not fully sure what ‘Providence’ you’re talking about, but good to see you as well.”
“The divine Providence of Supremacy, of course!” Kavitha beams, talking in that same upbeat missionary tone I remember well. “After all, after you alone managed to defeat all false paths for the right to remake Earth in your image, who could possibly contest that the enhancements of Supremacy are humanity’s celestial destiny?”
I smile weakly. “Well, Rejinaldo would, for one. I talked to just now. My stunts did sweep him off his previous faith, but he’s a Harmony guy now. But I guess you knew that already.”
“Yes, that is true.” Kavitha’s still smiling, but her eyes tell a different story. “It is true that the Blooming threw much in disarray. Rejinaldo believes he saw a better future in it. Many others disagreed. You’ll find most of our little group are no longer the people they once were.” Then her eyes light up again. “But that you and I have stayed true to Supremacy is a wonderful sign!”
“You know about the Blooming, then? Rejinaldo wouldn’t tell me what it was.”
Kavitha shakes her head. “I am sorry, but all I know is second-hand knowledge. My colonies were far removed from the epicenter. Rejinaldo, Suzanne, and Samatar were closest to the event. Maybe they can tell you more.” Smile. “Well, except Rejinaldo, I suppose.”
Kavitha and I chat about the Second Galactic Alliance a bit more. Like Rejinaldo, she’s pretty forthcoming on basic information about her faction, and pretty pessimistic about ‘my chances to dominate the galaxy’. And like Rejinaldo, we end our talks in a Peace Treaty.
“Supremacy be with you, Élodie. Always remember that the galaxy is large, and full of dangers and unbelievers. But by holding true to our salvation through technology, we alone can lift humanity into an unprecedented golden age.”
“You have a good one too, Kavitha Thakur. We’ll talk later.” Close connection.
Alright. Time to get back into action.
Several galactic years have passed since we last set down on Doradus 24. Current galactic date: 2061.2. On the downside, this has allowed the other major factions to make their own moves around the galaxy. Reports indicate that what-I-now-know-to-be-Rejinaldo’s fleet has built relations with the planet Librae 65, and with a second planet outside scanner range. And Kavitha’s fleet has gained some influence with the governments of Pavonis 55 and Aquilae 49.
But on the upside, all this time spent shipping goods and consolidating existing relationships has refilled my resource coffers quite significantly. Close to two thousand units of Metal, Science, and Energy are waiting for a new home, and my Food levels exceed even three. And all that time spent on Doradus 24 has given us ample opportunity to do a little more convincing, if you know what I mean: we’ve converted another 25% of the population to the United Federation cause, putting us at 3 out of 4 influence points for this planet.
But as Sam’s grandmother always said, idle hands are the devil’s merry-go-round. High time for another problem-solving trip around the galaxy, don’t you agree?
I repeat the same steps I took last time. First, my Energy goes towards ship upgrades. Or more towards ship construction, this time: Rejinaldo’s three-ship fleet has reminded me that it’s totally possible to buy new vessels outright. SS Courageous, welcome to the force!
Using my Metal, I build a Metal-producing Autoplant on Doradus, a planet particularly suited for gathering Metal, and a second Aquifer on Normae. And then, realizing I should probably put this 2000-per-turn Food income to good use, I finally decide to just experiment with what cities do. Even if each individual City is an irreplaceable, meaningful decision, building one on Normae would only set me back 1000 Food, anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?
The worst that could happen is that I discover I should have built my cities last turn.
Through trial and error — mostly trial — I finally figure out how planetary resource production works. It works like this: on any planet, every ‘city’ corresponds to one billion planetary citizens. And more to the point, each standard ‘city’ produces 100 of each basic resource. 100 Food, 100 Metal, 100 Science, 100 Energy. On Normae 28, which has three cities in the screenshot, I receive 150 each of Metal, Science and Energy –the 300 they produce, times 50%. But buildings, planet types, and planetary specializations all enhance city output. So one normal city produces 100 Food, but a city on the verdant, two-Aquifer-supported farmer’s world of Normae 28 currently produces 600 Food. And if I were to build a third Aquifer, that number would go up to 900. Per city.
I build two cities on Normae 28. That’s four cities in total, currently each producing 300 Food for me. More once Normae joins my Federation fully.
And finally, 1780 of my Science goes towards a second level of Artificial Intelligence. This frees up room for two additional modules per combat-built fighter.
And speaking of combat and fighters…
“ADVISR.” *bing*. “Time to continue expanding the United Federation’s reach. If I’m reading this star map correctly, the only planet we haven’t done anything for within jump range is Draconis 96. Is that correct?”
“Affirmative. Additionally, Draconis 96 is broadcasting a general-band emergency signal that suggests the need for outside intervention.”
“Excellent.” Everything’s coming up Élodie today. “Set a course.”
“Commander.” Buh? “We are reaching operational range for planet Draconis 96. But may I recommend that you look at the star map before engaging?”
I look at the star map, and curse. Again. This is becoming a habit. “Mother fucker!”
“Radio chatter confirms Planet Hydrae 96 is the designated homeworld of the Galactic Union. Distance from planet Draconis 96: approximately two months of sustained warp travel. Small interstellar ship fleet detected in orbit: lack of advanced cybernetics and bio-mechanical engineering in ship design suggests adherence to Purity aesthetic.”
Good. Good. That’s just what I wanted. A red-bordered Purity faction. I’ve had such good experiences with those.
“Commander, shall I initiate communications with the Galactic Union?”
I shake my head. “Negative, ADVISR. If that’s who I think it is, I’d prefer ignoring them for as long as I possibly can. Let them come to us, if they want to. We should focus on the planet at hand instead.”
Draconis 96 has a problem of a different sort to the ones we’ve been encountering so far. One of their colony ships, packed to the brim with settlers, has gotten lost in a dense asteroid field… somewhere. The asteroids’ composition hampers long-range sensors, so it’s a little difficult to actually find them. And to make matters worse, what little intel we are getting suggests that pirates have seeded these fields with ‘suicide bots’: little robot ships that, as the name suggests, home in on anything that moves and explode.
I’m forced to split the fleet up to find the settlers in time. This pays off, in the sense that the SS Dauntless finds the settler craft relatively intact.
After transferring the unfortunate settlers from their otherwise-doomed craft, the Dauntless starts making its way out of the asteroid maze. Given that the Dauntless does not actually have a sensor package, you might figure this could get tricky. Luckily, as with all challenges so far, Fighters prove to be a valuable asset: I send the Dauntless’ two Fighter wings out to scout out the asteroids and intercept the suicide bots before they become a danger.
Six or so turns of hunt-and-pecking through the invisible asteroid fields later…
…and the Dauntless and the settlers make it out safely. The Draconis 96 government offers their profuse gratitude, which consists of 550 Credits outright and 75% planetary influence. Which means another full planet’s income added to mine!
Interestingly, after completing this mission, Draconis 96 offers me a second mission. It transpires that the Draconis 96 government has been making overtures of cooperation with Doradus 24, my destination not three standard months ago. They ask me to escort one of their diplomats to Doradus. In return, I am promised future favours of influence and cooperation.
I briefly chat with the diplomat aboard the SS Dauntless. She’s very much smitten with my current space-faring problem-solving lifestyle, as it turns out. “Oh, sure, interplanetary diplomacy *sounds* interesting. And I do love this job. I get to fly through space on a regular basis, how cool is that? But you guys actually explore! I don’t know what I’d give for a chance to see just a little bit more of the universe.”
I smirk a little smirk. “Madam Diplomat, let me ask you something. How would you feel about taking a little detour?”
Three months later, we arrive at Leporis 38.
Leporis 38 is suffering from some poorly-defined Marauder issue, so of course I see a clear chance to ‘help’. It turns out that they are under attack by two Marauder ships, just garden-variety corvettes and fighters: it is taking me longer to write up this description of the mission that it took me to complete that cakewalk joke of a mission. But Leporis 38 is grandly grateful for my help, of course, to the tune of 50% influence and 400 Science points. And the Draconian diplomat is having the trip of her life; I couldn’t have asked me a better exhibit ‘mission’ than this fish-in-a-barrel Marauder-shoot. And as for me? I’m just happy to have nabbed some influence on a planet close to the Galactic Union’s homeworld.
I set a course for Muscae 92 after that. On this planet, an Orbital Sentry station has come under attack from even more nondescript space-pirates. My mission, should I choose it accept it, is to claim and hold the space-hex holding the Sentry for three consecutive turns, before the pirates do so. The Orbital Sentry is a vital part of Muscae’s planetary defense network: resetting it in time will provide the planet with its security grid back, but allowing the pirates to permanently ransack it is not going to look well on my permanent record.
This mission is actually a little tricky, because the pirate reinforcements can appear anywhere on the map. Including right next to the Sentry, and my ships. I take more damage than I otherwise would, because it’s hard to react to shots fired from ships that literally weren’t there when I hit End Turn.
But in the grand scheme of things, I claim the Orbital Sentry Station back and the pirates high-tail it out. Muscae’s government rewards me with Food and influence, and my tiny proto-empire swells with one more potential candidate.
And after that… I figure it’s probably time to go drop off the diplomat. The three-month trip from Draconis to Doradus is currently already taking ten months.
Arriving on Doradus 24, the Draconian diplomat profusely thanks me for the ‘amazing excitement’ of these two rather boring routine missions. But hey, I’m not about to spoil her fun. “I’ll be sure to tell everyone I meet about your interplanetary kindness and generosity! Mark my words: before you know it, the people of this planet and mine will be jumping at the chance to join your Federation!”
And, you know what? I kinda want to see that happen.
“ADVISR.” *bing* “Initiate shutdown of all fleet activities. I’m calling another consolidation phase. The crew is working at sub-optimal levels anyway, I don’t know how much more we’d get done.”
A long pause. Then, almost hesitantly: “Are you sure you wish to suspend operations at this time, Commander? While your assessment of the crew’s efficiency is accurate, I would like to remind you that you have not yet managed to comp-”
“Yeah, yeah,” I interrupt it. “I’m positive. Initiate shutdown of all fleet activities. Hold that thought and finish it some other time, okay?”
“Affirmative, Commander.” *bing*
I never like shutting the little guy down like that, but I’m honestly just done for the moment. We’ve gained influence on three planets, built a ton of new facilities, and even influenced the settlement of new cities — I just got word that Draconis 96 is building a new city ‘in our honour’ as well, how about that? I think we’re honestly doing well. And that calls for celebration, and a little break.
Whatever it is I’m supposedly ‘forgetting’, I’m sure it can wait for another year or two. How critical can one little thing be?