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The first rule of diplomacy is to have more guns then the other guy. - Thee of War Rose Velvet, Burgerland Ruler, Age of Imperialism, Pre Burger Wars

Dreams of Something More slowly moved across the large stage and up to the hoverdisc behind the podium. She had actual paper index cards in her hands, mostly to give her hands something to do, and she shuffled them as the hoverdisc raised until she was at a sensible and dignified height behind the podium.

In front of her were the self-appointed rulers of what had been the Unified Council.

Normally, the Confederacy insisted on voting, on representation, on the beings of the systems choosing their representatives for themselves.

But the damnable figures behind Magician's Hat Games and Electronic Grazing Field Software had waited until voting day to release DLC's to their wildly popular games.

Which meant less than 3% of the Lanaktallan population had voted, meaning that the election was invalid and had to be done again.

I fixed that problem, Dreams thought to herself.

It had been a simple fix.

Next election, which would be held in only two weeks and three days, Lanaktallan would get an "I Voted!" sash decoration that would be displayed ahead of all but the warsteel level achievements. Magician's Hat Games and EGFS had agreed to offer in-game bonuses to anyone who had an "I Voted!" sash decoration.

Predictions estimated that roughly 95% of the Lanaktallan population would vote with those incentives.

Beyond her, in the comfortable lighting, was nearly two thousand representatives of various stellar systems, tiny star micro-nations, corporate boards, the various species, even a few of the old military and corporate unified council members.

The startling ones were the jet black Lanaktallan, that looked like they were a curious combination of flat black biomechanical elements and living tissue. There were thirteen males and thirteen females, the males having horns, unlike normal Lanaktallan.

Herd Stallions and Herd Mares.

They had emerged from hiding only a few months before.

Dreams had watched their propaganda broadcasts repeatedly to get a feel for them. While many beings in the former Lanaktallan systems believed the Herd Stallions and Herd Mares were returned because of something related to the Atrekna's ability to manipulate time, Dreams felt that it smacked of some kind of Terran Black Box project dedicated to destabilizing the Unified Council.

Nobody could have predicted that a complete cultural collapse would lead to the Unified Council basically surrendering by walking away from the war, she thought to herself.

She tapped the cards on the podium again and the lights came on around her even as the massive 2.5D screen behind her lit up.

Dreams waited until everyone looked settled down and it appeared that nobody was involved in something in VR space rather than paying attention.

"Gentlemen, ladies, both, and neither," Dreams said, leaning forward slightly into the microphone, even though it was just a non-functional prop. "I bring news that the Confederacy has engaged in overwhelming military actions against the Atrekna."

There was dead silence.

Dreams brought up the stellar map of the Cygnus-Orion Galactic Arm Spur, highlighting Confederate Space, Allied Space, Neutral Space, and former Unified Council Space.

"As of seventy-two hours ago, local time, the following systems were either under Atrekna attack, Atrekna occupation, or were predicted to be under attack," Dreams said. "Confederate Military Intelligence and Predictive Analysis estimated that their gains were due to what is being called the Spoked Offensive as well as previous Atrekna military operations over the past year."

"Galactic positioning, both historical and future, allowed us to determine that the Atrekna used a single system as a jumping point to move forces and attack and/or occupy five new systems," she waited until the first six systems were highlighted. "From there, each newly conquered or occupied system was used as a jumping point for five more systems. This made each 'hub' system at the top the base for five more systems down a chain, with each of those systems attacking five more."

"Additionally, each of these systems attacked intersected within two light years of a Niven Ring or Doom Tube, which were confirmed to be built by an ancient Precursor mega-facility the built those types of megastructures and then loaded them with what is known as Dwellerspawn," she said.

"At the end of a year, the Spoked Offensive had been largely blunted and prevented from going past the initial five pearls in the chain," Dreams waved at the screen behind her. "However, the Atrekna made great gains."

Just shy of fifteen thousand stellar systems were lit up with a red circle.

"As you can see, the Atrekna attacks were scattered through former Council Space, into Confederate Space, but largely in what is called the Long Dark," Dreams stated. "Even unaligned star nations known to the Confederacy found themselves under assault by Atrekna forces."

Dreams shuffled her index cards. "Eleven unaligned star nations, some with nominal belligerent status, have requested assistance from the Terran Confederacy of Aligned Systems in the last year."

There was silence in the auditorium.

"However, the Atrekna errored in one simple fact," Dreams said. "They were unaware that the forces within Council territory were not the bulk of the Terran Confederate Armed Services," she tapped her index cards again as the screen showed a set of bars that sudden lowered. "Even with the fact that Terran Descent Humanity was over-represented in the ranks of the Confederate Armed Services, the Confederacy's flexibility and doctrine allowed for the call up of veterans and reserve forces."

"Additionally, the Atrekna gave the Confederate Armed Services nearly a year to retrain, rearm, retool, and reload," Dreams said. "It also gave time for the bulk of the Confederate military to join the advance party and rapid ready units from across the Confederacy."

Dreams brought up statistics. "The vote to outright exterminate the Atrekna, based on their displayed technology and phasic abilities determined that, while the 1% Line (which may not be applicable to the Atrekna due to their ability to 'shift' forces through time) is allowable under previously voted conditions," she paused for a second.

"The decision to outright xenocide the Atrekna was voted down."

There was a murmur through the auditorium.

"However!" Dreams raised her voice to cut through the quiet chatter. "It was decided to lay The Prorsus Destrue, the Total Destruction, upon the Atrekna."

Dreams stood silently for a moment.

"Right afterwards, the capital was attacked by androids who seemed intent upon seizing the starports and planetary weather control systems. Quick action by LawSec stopped this assault and we are still determining who was behind it, although evidence points at an Atrekna temporal attack," Dreams said.

"With that in mind, military planning began to take the war to the Atrekna despite the fact they were still attempting to sally out of their held worlds and begin another five by five spoke attack."

Dreams looked at everyone, passing her eyes over the Lanaktallan and other xenospecies, all of whom were paying rapt attention to her.

"Ladies, Gentlemen, Both, Neither, I bring you the solemn news that the Confederacy is at war and is activating the mutual defense clauses of all of its treaties," Dreams stated.

"As of eight hours ago, Operation Iron Piglet was launched by the Confederate Armed Services," Dreams said solemnly. "Ladies, Gentlemen, Both, Neither, we are at war and have engaged the enemy."

There was dead silence in the Council chamber.

"The Confederacy has not sent in tiny packets of troops to a handful of systems," Dreams said.

She pointed at the 2.5D screen behind her.

"All systems in flashing amber are where the Confederate Armed Services are in direct combat with the Atrekna or liberating the system," Dreams said.

Every single one of the systems that had previously had a red circle around it began flashing amber.

"You are seeing that right," Dreams said. "The might of the Confederacy, which was originally going to land straight on the Unified Council, is instead repelling Atrekna occupations and attacks," she let herself feeling slightly smug. "Over one point five trillion combat troops, ten trillion support troops, a half billion combat ships, and then their attendant vessels, have all descended upon the Atrekna."

She let herself display a slight emoji icon of smugness.

"It had all been heading this way anyway before the Unified Council surrendered," she smiled.

"At the eight hour mark, when I was debriefed, there has been no major setbacks," Dreams stated. "Fighting is fierce in over three thousand systems, but that was to be expected and was accounted for in initial planning and predictive analysis."

She tapped the index cards. "I will now take any questions."

There was silence for a moment then a single light lit up. The Lanaktallan leader of roughly seventy stellar systems.

"Does the mutual defense pact mean I must levy a conscription upon my population?" he asked.

Dreams shook her head. "No. The Confederate military does not accept conscription outside of biological caste systems such as the Mantid or Treana'ad."

Another light lit up.

"Will we be required to turn over authority of our planetary and system defense forces to the Confederate military?"

Dreams signaled a negative. "All personnel wishing to sign up for the Confederate Armed Services must be seen at a recruiter's station. System and planetary defense are urged to drill and ensure their equipment and manpower matches paperwork, but other than that, you retain your authority."

More lights lit up.

Dreams purred as the questions poured in.

Finally she had engagement with them.

-----

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

OK, so it's tax time.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TREANA'AD HIVE WORLDS

Well, pay your taxes or get a nerve weasel shoved into your waste orifice. Pretty simple.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

Nerve weasel? Really?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

No, he's teasing.

It sounds like you've got a question.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

Yeah.

On the Confederate tax forms, section J3, line 38D, is that right?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

PUBVIAN DOMINION

Let me check.

Yeah, looks right.

What?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

That can't be right.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TREANA'AD HIVE WORLDS

It's right.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

<snicker>

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

So wait, I just check this box and I don't have to pay any taxes at all?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

PUBVIAN DOMINION

Well, only for private citizens.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TREANA'AD HIVE WORLDS

The language is pretty clear.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

So all I do is check this box, as a private citizen, and I don't have to pay taxes?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

Correct.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

RIGELLIAN SAURIAN COMPACT

What part of "Get your grubby hands off my money, you parasites, and get a damn job" is confusing?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

Well, that the option to check a box that is labeled that exists at all.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

It's easier than trying to wrest credits from some of our members.

Besides, everyone knows the bulk of the tax money comes from GalNet, governmental licensing of patents, and shipping tarriffs and taxes.

And it isn't like the Confederacy doesn't get it back in other ways.

Just let them check the box. It makes them feel like they're getting over on a government that in some ways seems all encompassing.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TELKAN FORGE WORLDS

OK.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

LEEBAW CONTEMPLATION POOL

How did the Council take the news that we're at war.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

Don't get me started.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

PUBVIAN DOMINION

<snerk>

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

Don't laugh at me.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

LEEBAW CONTEMPLATION POOL

No, seriously, how did it go?

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

HAT WEARING AUNTIE

They all asked questions that basically boiled down to "I, personally, aren't going to get drafted, right?" and then when it was over, they all just went back to grinding video games.

I'm not even sure why we bothered doing such an in-depth briefing.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TREANA'AD HIVE WORLDS

Because about sixteen billion people were logged in and watching Dreams' speech.

The Lanaktallan former Great Grand Superior Most High Great Highs might not have been interested, but your Shopkeeper Sixtieth Class sure was.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

LANAKTALLAN GRAZING FIELD OF FREE THOUGHT

It was important to many of my people.

They appreciate knowing that they cannot be conscripted. That they get to live their lives how they choose.

Many were frightened that the choice, now that they have stopped fearing it and have begun to touch the edges of it, would now be taken away from them.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

PUBVIAN DOMINION

Conscription doesn't work that well with a modern military.

Too in-depth, to demanding. It's too easy to wash out if you want to.

Volunteers train harder and fighter better.

Besides, conscription just pisses your population off and sooner or later they figure they're either going to die on the battlefield or die overthrowing the system so it's better to go down fighting for the possibility of freedom rather than be conscripted to die in a meat grinder somewhere.

It's part of the Pubvian Diplomatic Model.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

TREANA'AD HIVE WORLDS

I have no idea how a bunch of paranoid homicidal fluffy things like you came up with the definitive diplomatic model.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

PUBVIAN DOMINION

It's part of my charm.

---NOTHING FOLLOWS---

The gems twinkled and sparkled as they hung in mid-air, each gem empowered to inform which stellar system they represented at the slightest touch of inquiry via psychic interrogation. From how many worlds, to population metrics, to stellar luminosity, to any Atrekna historical notes, each gem held a wealth of data as they levitated in the huge chamber.

Gathered below the twinkling stars in the twilight dimness were Atrekna, but not Atrekna like so many others.

These ones wore finery and jewelry wrest through beguile and cunning from a Mad Lemur of Terra Tomb World. Each one had survived the various tests, quests, and requirements to become one of the gathered Atrekna. Each carried a vial of biting insects whose pain and venom brought wisdom and clarity.

These were not just Ancient Ones, merely Old Ones, or plan Young Ones.

These were members of the Cult of the Defiled One.

They were all looking up at the representation of the Cygnus-Orion Galactic Spur, watching the tiny phasic holograms of spaceship fleets orbiting many of the gems.

**Surely they are overstretched** one suggested.

The Mistress of Blades shook her head. **Our ignorant brethren gave them too much time to prepare. The Mad Lemurs of Terra and the Inheritors of Madness are a martial culture. If they are attacking upon this broad of a front then they have the numbers and logistics to support such a war effort**

**I withdraw my statement of ignorance** the one who had made the suggestion put forth. They respected the Mistress of Blades, who had fought a Mad Lemur to a standstill and managed to escape.

**Ignorance cleared away by the fire of knowledge is nothing to feel shame of** Dalvanak stated. **It is when ignorance is held tight despite evidence and facts is when ignorance should be shameful**

The others all nodded.

**The Grand Convention will seek to burn the hyperatomic plane to stop this assault** a Young One stated. **They claim to be above emotion but secretly the seeds of panic and doubt have already been sown** The Young One lifted up a wood instrument and blew through it, twiddling his fingers in a short, staccato tune to signify he was done speaking, as was his way.

The others nodded sagely.

**We must discover where they make their preperations to burn the hyperatomic plane** Dalvanak stated. **I fear we must do what no Atrekna has done in hundreds of millions, perhaps hundreds of billions, of years**

**What is that?** the Mistress of Blades asked

Dalvanak turned and looked at her, his eyes burning red.

**Make war upon our own people. Not minor skirmishes, not for a last gasp of resources, not for a pittance of extra energy** he stated. **No. We may have to make war and crush their way of thinking and doing things lest their arrogance leads our people into oblivion**

The others clicked their fingers, a few clinging cymbals. The one with the flute blew a short sharp set of notes in agreement.

**It will have to be decisive and overwhelming** the Mistress of Blades stated. **As well as we must determine a way to stop temporal replication of forces to oppose us**

**A difficult, if not impossible, thing to determine** several stated at the same time.

**difficult indeed** Dalvanak himself mused.

Another Atrekna signaled that they wished to speak. When they all turned to look at her she waved her hand at the stars.

**Let us watch the Inheritors of Madness* she suggested. **If there is a way they will discover it**

The others all nodded.

**An excellent suggestion** Dalvanak stated. He waved at the exit. **Let us consider it over a new ritual I have discovered a pleasant ritual for a change**

The others reacted with slight excitement.

**I call it...** Dalvanak held off for a second, building the antici...

...

...

-pation.

**Tea and crumpets."

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Writeathon Stats:

Chapter Length: 2,867

Total Length: 2,867+7,275 = 10,142 


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About the author

Ralts Bloodthorne

Bio: The Wordboi, the Creation Engine, the Mad Arch-Angel TerraSol. I am Warlord Ralts Bloodthorne, the crazed speaker, the dark whisperer, the chronicler of dreams who's mind's eye peers into the spaces beyond for the sights to show you, such sights I have to show you, should you choose to look.

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Comments(26)
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mupp98 ago

O shit the bongistan Queen got competition for em crumpets. Beware the rage of almost british Tea addiction 🍵

    A Nony Mouse ago

    Tea and crumpets only works if they're hot [toasted], buttered crumpets and come with a strong, sweet cup of black tea* with milk and sugar. The idea is to utterly overwhelm the tastebuds, not to tantalise them with hints of flavour.

    * No, not Earl Grey. That's for the pretentious, who wouldn't be seen dead with something as common as hot buttered crumpets. They don't know what they're missing.

    Leahcim Zanathax ago

    Well, I mean this new Atreknan society IS built around self-flagellation and masochism...

    So the fact that they enjoy tea and crumpets isn't THAT surprising!

Moldor ago

Edit proposal (sorry if not needed my first time proposing an edit)

Volunteers train harder and fighter better.

Volunteers train harder and fight better.

    A Nony Mouse ago

    And...

    "At the eight hour mark, when I was debriefed, there has been no major setbacks,"

    Debrief is an after-action report. Diplomats and others who are being told what is happening are briefed. And has is singular, whereas setbacks are plural....
    So I suggest instead:
    "At the eight hour mark, when I was debriefed, there has have been no major setbacks,"

      Scramsax ago

      .. ah no need to mention that then. Cheers fellow Mouseketeer.

      Edit suggestion:

      "You are seeing that right," Dreams said.
      "You are seeing that right," Dreams asked/queried.

       

      The following seemed like some seriously icky diplomspeak to me:

      "However!" Dreams raised her voice to cut through the quiet chatter. "It was decided to lay The Prorsus Destrue, the Total Destruction, upon the Atrekna."

      Dreams stood silently for a moment.

      "Right afterwards, the capital was attacked by androids who seemed intent upon seizing the starports and planetary weather control systems. Quick action by LawSec stopped this assault and we are still determining who was behind it, although evidence points at an Atrekna temporal attack," Dreams said.

      "With that in mind, military planning began to take the war to the Atrekna despite the fact they were still attempting to sally out of their held worlds and begin another five by five spoke attack."

      First, lol.. It was decided to lay the prorsus destruction.. heh yeah implying more than the reality of X being told such would be.

      The whole android business that Dreams mentions here.. that is some straight up falsehood. Evidence points to no such thing. Oh gods, the next sentence.. gah.. with that in mind. Just

Tattle Tail ago

This might weird some people out, but brits kinda suck at Tea, a Russian tea service is AMAZING! Chinese, India even Turkey is WAY better.

And Turkish and Cuban Coffee... you will either fall in love or die... that ain't no joke

    EmpireofTrust ago

    I am not 100% sure Turkish coffee has water in it

    A Nony Mouse ago

    The British create British tea. It's a specific, specialised form of tea which isn't understood by non-British people. Put simply, British tea is more of an comforting emotional experience for the British psyche than a mere drink.

    In all the countries which have tea cultures, the teas are entirely different experiences, and they really shouldn't be lumped together or compared, any more than American pretend-Italian "barista" covfefe should be even mentioned in comparison with Turkish (or, better yet, Iranian) coffee.

Ray2024 ago

So where do the cult stand on the Great scone debate - how do they pronounce it (given the time period may I suggest reverting to the original Scoon) and does jam or cream go on first?

    Gasmaskbro ago

    I think they are too new to the ritual yet to begin to fracture and debate the finer points of its steps. Given enough time and numbers and I'm sure they too shall begin to fracture and war on the details of said ritual.

    A Nony Mouse ago

    Pronounce it how you want, and put your jam and cream on how you prefer. The whole 'cream tea debate' is only a tourist marketing tool to make the grockles and emmets [tourists] visiting Devon and Cornwall buy far more cream teas than their waistline can cope with.

Gasmaskbro ago

I like how the Cult of the defiled one now has an atmosphere of a laid back jazz club. It's such a bizarre dichotomy for a gathering of the most dangerous members of one the scarier, heartless, and cruel races out there.

WalkingInWonder ago

Bloody Brits/Pums/Limeys with their tea and crumpets… actually quite enjoyable.

Thanks for the chapter.

Ashish choudhary ago

1.5 trillion combat troops and Treana'ad warrior caste are 750 Billion among them

cause by all means they need to absolutely show everyone the percentage they earned against Terrans was not a fluke in any case

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