Ithkul Gambit

One of the nice things about MoO3 is the subtlety of the diplomacy system. Some deride it as random but I have not seen this to be true. What can be said is that there are multiple factors that influence the AI’s reaction to you based on casus belli, diplomacy/treaties, and actions. What seems to be random is, in fact, not random at all. It is too bad that the creators of MoO3 were not more forthcoming in explaining these factors since, in this case, the ‘fog’ and lack of feedback surrounding diplomacy has created considerable irritation.

This short story was inspired by one of my favorite tactics in diplomacy. I hope you enjoy it!

Part One

The glow from the holographic projector faded, and the pleasant maelstrom of sulfide and methane gasses swirled into the void.

“That did not go well,” First Diplomat T:Sar said as she remembered the invectives and indelicate speech that had been inflicted upon her hearing diaphragms. She was clearly irritable and her third buoyancy sack was distended and purple in hue, indicating that her irritation bordered on distress.

“They are Meklar,” Associate Wrehn responded, “and they have always been contrary to our people and our race. Even for land based beings they are irrational. I would venture that their hatred extends to others of our race, even the beneficent Saaemaal.”

“The Saaemaal have a stronger hold than we,” T:Sar replied. “Their sway is large, and their systems rich with the large gas giants we both prefer. They have some of the unpleasant rocky worlds that infest our systems, but not nearly as many as we. The Saaemaal are in the center of the greater spiral arm. We are at the edge of the center and have fewer opportunities. They have been fortunate.”

Wrehn trilled a third order agreement. “We must expand to survive. What of the Silicoids? And the Raas?”

T:Sar belched a deep discordant. “The Silicoids are allied to the Meklar and the Raas have spurned all our overtures for a non-aggression treaty. We barely maintain trade and research agreements, and we have no hope of more than this.”

Wrehn shifted, altering his neutral point as he floated to the left. He turned to face his colleague. “The Emperor will require a report. This is of primary importance. We must make a recommendation.”

The First Diplomat was silent for a moment. “Yes, we must. Our relations with the alien empires are at an impasse, and likely to worsen.”

She forced herself into a calm, rational mode. Her body deflated somewhat and the purple hue subsided to violet. The Associate waited patiently, knowing that interruption of the First Diplomat and Advisor to the Emperor would be massively counterproductive.

After a few hours her color melded to pink. Concordance. Harmony.

She had reached a decision. “Tell the Emperor this: Our diplomatic position remains tenuous and our prospect for allies are few. Redouble efforts to reinforce the Fleet. Concentrate on the Cynoid border near edges of the Silicoid Empire. That is where the test will come.”

*~*~*~*~*

Diplomat T:Sar watched her failure unfold.

The scene was of destruction and waste. The Toliman-B system, located near the Silicoid Empire, was the farthest part of the Eoladi Protectorate. It was a choke point to the hostile galaxy beyond, including the simmering Silicoid and ravenous Meklar empires. Others lay beyond, of course, but they were not of immediate concern. As might be expected the system was jealously guarded. Two Eoladi armadas plus innumerable system ships were in residence. Two cycles ago a disturbance in the wormhole lines were detected. The signature traces were clear: the intruders were Meklar. Their intent could only be hostile.

As T:Sar watched wormhole points opened and the emerging Meklar fleet assumed immediate battle readiness. The Meklar fleet was formidable and it consisted of a missile, carrier, and long range armadas. There was no communication, and no announcement of war. They simply exited the wormhole and immediately made for the third planet, which as a class 12 gas giant and the most developed with 57 billion Eoladi and Darlok. It was also the most heavily defended planet in the system.

T:Sar paid only superficial attention to the battle. She noted that the Eoladi and Meklar forces immediately fired volleys of missiles. Point defense destroyed many, and the lead Eoladi missile armada took some serious punishment. The Meklar fared worse since they absorbed the missiles from the ground base and armada’s firepower. Fighters from both fleets swarmed lead elements, and remaining point defense erupted in spasms of fire. Fighters and some ships died.

The firepower of the planetary bases started to tell and the Meklar carrier and long range armadas started to take severe damage. Individual ships cartwheeled and exploded and their formations jockeyed as they struggled to maintain coherence. The last missile volley erupted out of the Meklar indirect fire group and then they all stopped firing. Space around the attacking ships wrinkled and then puckered as the enemy fleet activated their jump drives. Their last act of spite was the already inbound volley of Meklar missiles and the remaining Meklar fighters that were left behind to savage the Eoladi long range armada. The Eoladi fleet would not get its parting shot. An Eoladi battle cruiser absorbed the missiles and withering fighter onslaught and finally succumbed and exploded. There were more pinpoints of light as point defense eliminated the few remaining Meklar fighters.

T:Sar looked on with no satisfaction. They had won, but at great cost. The Toliman-B III had not been significantly harmed, but the two defending armada has been damaged to below 70%. The Meklar had lost perhaps a third of their ships before they left.

It would be a long grinding war.

*~*~*~*

Some days were a sore trial of patience and understanding. The New Orions, creators and head of the Galactic Council, had decided to support the election of the Zulzrila race to the Council. T:Sar recoiled, for the Zulzrila were the one of the two known empires of the hated Ithkul, a scourge from the Time of Terror when the Antarans had dealt death and destruction throughout the galaxy. It was almost beyond reason why any sane race would propose that the Ithkul join the Council or support the irrational petition. No one knew who petitioned for the dread Ithkul to join the Council, but the only race that supported the Ithkul’s election to the Council were the New Orions. That singular note of support was enough since the New Orions wielded enormous influence – the measure passed and now the Ithkul were a member of the Council.

All hated the Ithkul, or Harvesters, who consumed not just the body but the mind. They fed not on lower forms of life but the highest, those intelligent beings, subsuming their intellect to their will and then, when their host was reduced to a husk, it was discarded and another unfortunate was selected. To her this was more of a horror than mere enslavement, or even death. Somehow knowing that these parasites would subvert the mind made it all the more repulsive. These beings treated all other intelligences as cattle, no more, no less. And why the New Orions would approve their inclusion to the Council could only bring dark thoughts as to their motives, and their aspirations.

It was clear that these Ithkul were hated not just by the Eoladi but by all other intelligent races, even other Ithkul. Using her sources from the Council it was clear that the Ithkul were at war with everyone except the New Orions. Even those races that were relatively far from the Ithkul, such as the Eoladi, were not immune from their search for new hosts, such was their dark ravenous appetite. T:Sar reflected that this was a good thing since the maw of war might consume their fleets of death at every turn, and that their endless wars of aggression would lead to weakness. In the end, their dark need to consume others would be their downfall.

But this was not so. Their power was waxing, and their ships numbered in the hundreds. Moreover, the maw of war was consuming the fleets of all races except the Ithkul, who seemed to grow even as others declined through war with each other and with the Ithkul. Even the nominally friendly Raas were reduced and Ithkul fleets were in orbit around their undefended planets, where they were enslaved and eaten or bombarded and destroyed. Such was the pattern of the Ithkul.

T:Sar reviewed the history from the last 50 cycles and it painted a bleak picture. The Ithkul were literally consuming their neighbors and were expanding in every direction. Already the Raas Empire was in a fight for its life, and now the Ithkul infection had spread to the outlying Meklar and Silicoid systems. While the Silicoids need not fear being consumed they were not immune from being their slaves, or simply destroyed as inconvenient non-food cattle. Only the Silicoids had fleets that could defend their border systems; others were prostrate.

It did not take a great leap to see that soon the Ithkul would advance to the Eoladi Toliman-B system, the vital Eoladi choke point that defended the home systems. There were other ways to break through to the home systems, but that would require the Ithkul or any other invader to conquer the numerous and populous Tachidi Hive systems, and even then they would reach the only newly claimed Eoladi frontier colonies. These could, at need, be sacrificed. It would be a sore loss, but it could be borne.

That would not be, however. The Itkul were both insatiable and dangerously intelligent. They would not take the long road to their rich Eoladi feeding grounds if the Silicoid and Raas defenses finally failed. No, they would send their endless fleets to the heart of the modest Eoladi Protectorate.

T:Sar felt herself grow violet, agitation and fear growing by stages. Others that advised the Emperor were fixed on their historical enemies, the Meklar. The emperor listened to their whisperings, expanding his dreams of conquest and assimilation of their age-old racial foe.

This was not her belief. The threat of the Silicoids and even the Meklar had passed. The time had come to deal with the true threat to the galaxy: the Ithkul.

T:Sar composed a new recommendation to the Emperor:

The threat to the Eoladi has shifted. No longer are the Meklar a bane to our existence. That test can be borne, for they are weak and struggle with their wars with us, the Ithkul, and the Raas. As they wane the Ithkul wax, growing even as they consume our neighbors. Planets belonging to the Meklar and our friends the Raas have fallen, and entire systems have been penetrated and used as feeding grounds by the Ithkul. These Harvesters are a true bane. Soon they will test us, and they will be much greater than they have been: time is not our ally. We must try ourselves, with every resource at our disposal, to eradicating the Ithkul, the Harvesters of Primordial terror. They must be not just reduced, but eliminated. In doing so we preserve not only ourselves, but we give hope to others; in preserving ourselves we will ensure the survival of our friends and potential friends. It is my belief that, if we undertake this great task, that we will reap rewards beyond simply removing this danger.

Read on - Part Two

 

 
 


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