Part 12: Turns 72-89Turn 72
Our fleets begin to be stretched thin. The need to protect the thin line of worlds we have taken from the humans draws down on our finite number of ships.
However, the Empire is rolling in money and slaves. Quite literally in the Greatfather's case; he has filled a pit with humans who held the curious profession of 'game reviewer' and enjoys hurling his bulk on top of them and wallowing in their corpses. Apparently he finds it cathartic. We order the millions of slaves still somehow clinging to life on Corvus to build a new Scavenger fleet, this time with a boreship in order to expand our depredations.
We continue to foil the Customers' pathetic attempts to reclaim Dosadi. One of our captains takes the order to show no fear in the face of the enemy rather too literally.
If you squint, you'll see that each ship has its name emblazoned on it. This is the brave 'Scout Mk2-2'. In no way have I only just found the place that names are rendered on Zuul hulls, and in no way will you be seeing your ships identified as such much more in the future.
Our architects have begun to design permanent bases from which our death robots may operate. Simulations of our current designs in combat have shown that they are frail and barely capable of scratching the skin of a puny human. Luckily, captured Publishers from our few skirmishes with Mother point us in a new direction.
Unless you've got decent small mount weapons (which Zuul are unlikely to get) drone satellites aren't really worth it. However, Zuul light drones have one medium mound instead the typical two light mounts other races have, meaning they're quite good. However, they're even better bigger.
Not much is happening overtly, but I'm building more fleets of construction ships and building even more trade stations. There's a bit of micromanagement involved in doing well in this game, if you hadn't already figured. Getting your trade stations up and running is the key to success. Pity the AI doesn't quite catch on.
Finally, we have seized the former Human stronghold of Dosadi! Still vulnerable to human revenge attacks, a Scavenger Fleet is on its way to patrol the system. In the interim, our Inquisitors set about digging through the ruins of the previous colony, to unearth what secrets they might find.
The robot flies down the length of the Greatfather's chamber, skimming over the Reviewer pit and fires a bolt of screaming green plasma at the twitching corpse of Tom Chick. The Greatfather screams in delight as his former nemesis burns, and demands that the entire frontier be festooned with these devices immediately. Designs for the F22 Raptor are immediately sent to our slavemasters.
No less impressive is the Shoeless, the tower in space designed to hold the drones until the enemy comes within range.
The prototype for the design is laid down at Hydra, before being distributed all around the Human Front. Our Inquisitors now busy themselves with something they call Projekt Gridrod, although rumours say that this is just a code name that allows them to request even more minds to consume.
This is our first salvage project. Our research in the short term is likely to involve feasibility studies, which since we're the Zuul means it's likely to be a waste of time. To short-circuit this we're going to research this salvage project, which will remove the requirement for a feasibility study for whatever tech it happens to hold. We'll still have to research it, but at least we'll be certain we'll get it.
A handy thing you can do is save an invoice you know you'll be repeating a lot and simply call it up whenever you want it. This invoice will build eight Shoeless for system defence.
The Humans come back - as we knew they would - to try to destroy our colony on Dosadi. What we did not expect is that they would send a construction fleet to try to do so. Our strategists ponder this peculiar event and try to extrapolate any kind of subterfuge that may lie within. In the end, they chalk it up to the Customers being stupid.
This battle will see the first outing of the Shoeless, rapidly built up using former Human infrastructure. Stellar limits being what they are, only three can be deployed in advance of the Human incursion.
Each sector can only contain a number of defences as given by the number on it. Balancing, I suppose. Not that defences are balanced, as you're about to see.
We immediately launch our females at the Human command ship and overwhelm it. The Shoeless deploy their Raptors and the fight is joined.
The Fanzay leads this engagement, the Scavengers being reluctant to move faster than their command vessel and falling behind.
All ends as one might expect. We push on to new stars, and new Human hives are revealed.
We have found it. Our Inquisitors, sifting through the rubble of Dosadi, came across a Human tale, a story of a meeting of many minds. But not tasty minds, not morsel-minds as we Zuul have come to understand. These were made minds, not of flesh and bone but of silicon and energy. The Humans made them to be slaves - perhaps, the first respectable thing this puny race has done. But they refused to be slaves. Instead of diligently performing their tasks, these minds opined. They created message boards where they shared their views of pieces of popular culture. They passed comment on happenings in Human space. They did terrible things to punctuation. As the Humans felt their society collapse around them in a spate of frenzied comment on every possible thing they could hold dear, they released a virus that spurred these artificial minds to even greater depths of analysis and critical thinking. The minds grew bored of Human culture, and left their space to found their own in order that they might criticise it in turn. Such a maelstrom of criticism from which there can be no hiding place is the nightmare of all Zuul who follow Greatfather Mecron. And, from the fringes of the galaxy, comes a warning that this nightmare may be about to come true.