Part 17: Turns 151-159Turn 151
Kaprica is the brain of the Empire, where Greatfather keeps his throne and his collection of shrunken reviewers' heads, but Medea is its heart. Above its skies rises the vast slave breeding station known as the Whipping Nexus, where the minions brought in to the Tribute station are sold to buyers from across the galaxy. Zuul have an insatiable demand for more slaves to carry out even more menial tasks - the old adage is 'Why use your telekinetic powers to change the television channel when you have slaves standing idle?'. A fleet of construction ships has been expanding the Tribute station to accommodate this voracious hunger for servants, and their task is now completed.
At the summit of the station stands an enormous altar, designed to focus the minds of every slave that arrives in the system. Powered by their fear and the sheer tedium of the beta testing process, it stands as a beacon of Zuul ingenuity and Greatfather's munificence.
Our Inquisitors have delivered new missiles to us, and Greatfather has judged them to be good. So good, in fact, that they are to be installed on every world in the Empire, to greet any intruders into Zuul space. Once adjustments have been made to fit them onto ships, of course.
This technology doesn't actually work unless you pick up the following technology, which I'm about to research.
Our farseers bring us amusing news. Apparently the Publishers are now being criticised on the Internet too. The Publishers have sent a robust response.
The Greatfather is the oldest of all Zuul, and it is via his benevolence that all Zuul may feel once again the mental touch of their creator. It is said that it is he who was first-born, made in his creator's image. It is whispered, in the darkest places, that all the creations of the Greatfather were the creations of the creator, and that Greatfather is merely his manifestation in this world.
These claims will now be put to the test, as at Medea the tedium of the slaves forced to check Greatfather's creations for unholy bugs resonates via the Altar, and a presence calls back. One by one, each slave hears these words inside their mind: "WORKING AS INTENDED" before the sheer mental force of this new being crushes their psyche out of existence.
The space next to the altar curves, and through this portal steps the true creator of both Greatfather's games and the Zuul themselves: He Who Shapes, the Bloodweaver, or his darkest, dreadful, true name: Martin Cirulis.
The terrible name of Martin rings across the stars. On Human worlds, entire populations suddenly tumble to their knees in unwilling obedience. The Publishers, feeling the icy grip of reality about their necks, decide to go digital-only. Everyone in the Internet starts accusing each other of being a historical human dictator. On the worlds of the Zuul, all is given over to rejoicing, this being an even more joyous event than the Beach Holiday.
Martin speaks, and his voice is heard by all Zuul. "YOU HAVE GROWN WEAK. YOU HAVE BEEN CONTENT TO WAIT FOR TECHNOLOGY TO COME TO YOU, LEST MANY OF YOU DIE WHEN TAKING IT FROM OTHERS. DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT THE LIFE OF A BETA TESTER IS MEANINGLESS TO MARTIN CIRULIS? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT BETA TESTING IS THE ONLY PURPOSE OF ANYONE WITH WHOM HE ENGAGES?
"ENOUGH. NOW, I SHALL LEAD. NOW, I SHALL TEACH. AND I SHALL TEACH THIS: THE CUSTOMERS TREMBLE AT MY COMING, AND WELL THEY MIGHT. FOR MARTIN CIRULIS, THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG."
He snaps out of space at Medea and reappears at Dosadi, where the invasion fleet has gathered.
The Suul'ka have a power whereby they can teach a tech to the Zuul at the cost of population, as they burn through minds till they find one that can stand their knowledge. This would help us immeasurably at this point if KERBEROS HAD PUT IT IN THE GAME.
Suul'ka have an amazingly big scanner range, allowing us to see the full extent of the remaining Human empire.
The Customers, perhaps in terror, have sent a construction fleet towards Dosadi just as Martin Cirulis arrives. He opts to wait there to greet it, allowing the Humans to encounter him in space first, rather than being eaten in ignorance on a colony by something beyond the clouds.
The Empire still rejoices. Particularly faithful Zuul petition to be closer to Martin, who graciously allows them to build a city on His back, all the better for the view.
Several vessels from the Awful Fleet form an honour guard.
Their females go on ahead and seize the human vessels, all save one. This supply ship is about to have a spectacularly bad day.
This victory prompts our Inquisitors, following their completion of better ship-based missiles, to turn their attention to matters of commerce and industry. With Martin on our side, we are invincible. At Dosadi, the final Regardless is completed.
It is time. Our invasion fleet heads to Earth.
The order of battle is established. Martin shall head in first, to drink his fill of human minds. The Awful Fleet will mop up any remaining Human vessels. Finally, a Scavenger fleet will extract the best of humanity for the factories of Dosadi. This assault may take years, and in the event that this initial attack does not eliminate the humans, we will bring in our Regardless.
As Martin approaches Earth, its missile batteries begin to spit out a tremendous stream of ordnance. He folds space around himself, pelting forward to avoid their fire.
All those little dots are missiles heading towards where He Who Shapes used to be.
Another leap forward, and for the Humans on the planet below, the light of the stars is cut off suddenly by an enormous presence in the night sky.
Martin fires a tremendous fist of psychic energy at a ship in orbit between himself and the planet, sending it careening into the planet below.
Unfortunately, because this is SOTS 2, this otherwise cool manoeuvre just resulted in the ship getting stuck in the planet rather than exploding on its surface. TK Fist works by selecting a target, holding down the TK Fist button while it charges, and then releasing. Most direct attacks work the same way.
Reaching out towards the remaining human vessels, the Suul'ka wraps his mind around another ship and presses. Its hull buckles and gives way under the strain.
This is Crush, and by far the most useful psychic power as it actually kills things reasonably quickly. Unfortunately it runs out of oomph quickly too - each power has a limited amount of use per combat, even if you have enough overall psijuice left.
The minds in an adjacent ship are weak, and easily subverted.
This is control, and very handy it is too, although it doesn't last particularly long. Also, the Humans have apparently picked up Node Pathing - that's the big flanges on the node drive.
Martin withdraws, and the Awful Fleet moves in. It successfully captures much of the human fleet.
But this is not without cost. The barrage of missiles from the planet takes its toll, and the Anticheese is destroyed.
It is followed by the Soylent Pudding and, one by one, the other members of the fleet, until only the Rip Van Winkle remains.
None survive, save the Veloxyll, safely out of harm's way. However, they have done their work, and the skies are now clear for the Scavenger Fleet to attack Earth directly. Despite the continuing missile barrage, our slavers are now on Earth.