Part 16: Turns 118-150Turn 118
Our War Astronomers have been studying the very slowly approaching Internet cube, and have noticed something odd. All imaging techniques designed to peer through the hulls of enemy vessels in order to gain a better understanding of their internal structure have failed. Of course, this could be the result of a new form of stealth armour, but our Farseers have a different hypothesis.
The Internet is the aggregate of billions of opinionated artificial personalities, all in a constant hubbub of criticism. Artificial personalities do not require any real space aboard a ship. It is entirely possible that these vessels are completely solid and comprised mostly of silicon and transistors. If this is the case, then our women will be useless in combat, as they will have nothing to board. This is disastrous for our traditional attack plans, and a new fleet of missile boats led by the Dimwit is laid down at Thundara to help forestall this irresistible invasion.
Loa are immune to boarding pods, and that's a big reason I included them - it means I can't just board everything in sight and actually have to use proper weapons.
Only a single colony lies in the Thundara system, and its industrial output is unimpressive as a consequence. The Greatfather mandates the consumption of as many resources as possible to speed the construction of our new fleet.
You can increase the industrial output of a planet by setting it to 'overharvest'. This consumes resources but produces a big industrial boost. In this case, it'll reduce the production time from nine turns to three. The Zuul naturally have a small level of overharvesting on every world to represent their consumptive nature, and gain extra bonuses from doing so. In the first game you'd normally set overharvesting to max when terraforming a planet, but for some reason it's now only possible to properly overharvest when a colony is developed.
Our Inquisitors have finally lucked out and found a technology that might aid in the production of an Earth-destroyer.
This technology will aid all our ships currently using ballistic weapons, and promises to use a traditional Zuul approach of throwing metal objects at the problem to defeat incoming missiles after another round of research.
Our fleet at Thundara is ready to set off. Placed in charge is Lord Rithasak the Silent:
Rithasak's legendary hatred of all things digital will stand him well in this fight. He is renowned for eschewing all melee weapons save a calculator, which he uses to bash in opponents' heads. Frequently the calculator breaks on an especially robust skull, but he counts this as a win regardless.
'Technophobe' means that this fleet will have a substantial rate of fire increase. It's in red as it will also have a reduced shot at Reaction moves, but since those are useless it's hardly a downside.
Our defence force arrives at Ixion in the nick of time, as the object from the Internet arrives. As it approaches the system, the cube apparently dissolves into a fine mist. Out of the mist arises eight warships of a highly unusual design. The refugees on the planet have managed to construct one Shoeless in anticipation of their arrival, but defending our colony will require a stalwart effort by the Dimwit and its fleet.
As they enter the system, we get our first good look at this new enemy.
Their hideous countenance is partly made up for by an abundance of weaponry. While the very design reeks of criticism, all Zuul can respect the urge to put more guns on a thing.
The Dimwit takes an unusual tactical approach: he has arranged it so that the incoming ships will first see the rear sections of ours. While partly a hilarious joke, this also enables our ships to fly in front of any weapons fire while bombarding the enemy with missiles.
Our Falcons from the Shoeless bring back an odd report: they are under fire from what is apparently a short-range rapid-fire laser weapon - precisely the kind our Inquisitors judged to be impossible.
Despite this weapon, our missiles find their mark, rapidly destroying their command vessel and grievously injuring a combat ship.
The strategy is a complete success, and the Internet vessels are unable to catch our own and are rapidly destroyed. Our fleet moves in to finish off damaged stragglers. They are observed to be firing a more powerful version of our particle beam, albeit without the accuracy one would expect from a computer.
In the end, the point defence laser proved useless against our massed missile fire.
The Humans again send a construction fleet against Dosadi. Information picked up from its remains indicates that it was on a mission to upgrade a science station near their homeworld. This obvious confusion on behalf of the Customers amuses the Empire greatly, and is the subject of a popular MindTV show called Name that Nodeline.
The Utterance of Ibur, a salvage project dating from the time of our first Human slaughter, has been completed. Apparently they replicated our PainTech technology by giving their Admirals better computer systems. It is unclear how this provides the necessary motivation.
Our Inquisitors have failed yet again.
We are not even to understand throwing steel balls at missiles, it appears. The Greatfather settles on one last throw of the dice, before utilising a strategy that involves blocking missiles with really large numbers of Inquisitor corpses.
A survey fleet out from Ixion has discovered the Internet home world; their first place of retreat after leaving the Human empire.
It appears that they are planning an invasion. It also appears that our War Astronomers were incorrect: the base of the Publishers is towards Galactic West, rather than North.
Half of the final gambit has again, failed.
Only one chance remains.
The final gambit has succeeded!... But also failed. In his wisdom, the Greatfather gives the Inquisitors a chance to try for marginally more powerful beam weapons before we begin to throw Zuul at the problem en masse.
In SOTS 1, the Sensor Jammer technology allowed you to field ships that would block sensor view and thus block incoming missile fire for ships that weren't in visual range. Unfortunately, in SOTS 2, it turns out that it doesn't do anything beyond help unlock a particular section for a dreadnought. I've just wasted tens of turns on this in order to grab BR tech too just to check it's not used there. DOCUMENTATION!
On the flipside, sometimes you get lucky. I had a 27% chance to get this one.
Greatfather mandates that this new weapon is to be incorporated onto a new generation of assault shuttles, designed not for slave capture, but for extermination.
These Pvt. Scott vessels will be carried aboard a design named after one of Greatfather's famous sayings:
The prototype for this vessel will be laid down at Dosadi.
While the Regardless-class is prototyped, our Inquisitors consider new ways of improving our missile forces, following their tremendous success against the forces of the Internet.
The prototype is complete, and performs well under testing. The remainder of the new fleet is laid down, and will be led by the Murgos. Because of the additional point defence requirements of this particular fleet, a Scout Command vessel was considered more appropriate.
An incredibly boring set of turns while I tried to find some kind of point defence - any kind at all. Sorry about that. However, it is quite representative of the Zuul mid game if you're trying to tech up. What I should've done is just continue my inexorable advance and not worry about losses. To make up for it, have a teaser for the next update: