Author Topic: Time's End AAR (TN start, custom race and solar system)  (Read 1872 times)

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Re: Time's End - Mark of Time
« Reply #30 on: May 26, 2021, 05:35:02 PM »

3399-3405 AM hibernation cycles

An obvious next step in space exploration was to fly towards the Crack and utilise its potential to explore some stars further from Qi, while at the same time trying to determine where exactly the superluminal highway ends, how wide and tall it actually is and why is it there, or rather why it isn't anywhere else. First system to reach using it was Naegling - two stars total, with a lonely gas giant orbiting the secondary component while the main star hosted a rich planetary system. The second one from it contained a tiny bit of ice sheets and even liquid water around the equator, with an average temperature being too hot for comfort, but still survivable without any kind of life support system. The same couldn't be said about its unbreathable atmosphere consisting of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. While it lacked methane, at least it didn't contain any toxic gases. Life did not exist even in the most basic forms, but overall the planet looked like an excellent terraforming candidate. And it was so far from Qi that a colony there could potentially serve as an evacuation destination for Groaxians to avoid extinction should the Dark Forest Lords eventually strike after receiving Qi coordinates. It was also noted by explorers that two of the moons orbiting gas giants contained traces of methane in their tiny atmospheres.

Next star in the exploration queue was Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. The Crack was ending roughly two light hibernation cycles away from it, forcing explorers to waste two hibernation cycles getting there after being forced to slow down to the speed of light away. This was enough to already disprove one of the hypothesis as to what the Crack was - it said that because of the universe being a Dark Forest, Humanity felt the need to stay on the safe side and enclosed Qi and nearby stars using whatever insane physics they'd discovered and technology they'd built in a "light speed bubble" so that Groaxians wouldn't be able to catch up to them and attack and the Crack was their "gateway" so that they could easily reach observed civilisation themselves. However, if that was the case then it shouldn't end as abruptly as it started, in the middle of nowhere with no traces of human presence in sight. It appeared that the Crack was just a specific region of space that behaved like all space should behave according to human research.

Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi wasn't an extraordinary system, with the exception being Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi III. The gravity and atmopsheric pressure were high enough for each of them to crush any Groaxian without a space suit. Oxygen alone would contribute to the pressure being almost as high as the one on Genesis. Over three quarters of surface was covered with water which was evaporating quickly, making for frequent and intense rains. Rains were observed on many planets before, but nowhere else were they as severe as there, with maybe tropical regions of Yatune being on pair, for example. In many rocky areas an interesting case of tree-like plants could be studied. Narrow valleys were often flooded during constant storms, making it tough for them to survive. But they were well-adapted to this environment. Parts of their bodies that grew below the ground level were resilient and sharp, allowing them to literally drill through the rock with the help of water constantly washing over it, weakening it in the process. Such created tunnels would often be extended later, in many cases again with the help of water. In some cases even entire caverns would have been formed, allowing the water to gather there, preventing overflooding of the above ground levels. It was also observed how these flooded caverns would host plethora of organisms. Some of them were found to get killed by the spear-like roots of the local trees. At first it sounded like extreme coincidence, but later evolutionary emulators were able to determine that it was a deliberate hunting act of the trees which were feeding off their prey in this way, able to coordinate their movements and strike right when an unfortunate animal would swim too close. Overall lands looked kinda barren in many areas, as if their conquest has just begun, however water life is where this planet excelled. One of the most intriguing species was a small creature that together with millions of its relatives was forming seemingly endless underwater chains, with one organism attaching itself to the next one and so on. These chains would then let the currents carry them to conserve energy spent for movement. Despite how they might have appeared, they were all dangerous predators. If a prey was spotted, such colony would wrap itself tightly around it, with each small organism slowly eating the victim alive once it lost the ability to move and resist. One particular species was able to create an interesting defensive mechanism against it, though - it was simply rapidly growing excessive skin all the time. If attacked, the small hunters would chew through the spare skin layers, leaving it free once they were all well-fed, allowing it to escape without taking any damage beyond the skin.

3407 AM hibernation cycle

Two hibernation cycles after return of the explorers Umbara warped into Qi once again, again attempting to exterminate all Groaxians living in the system. The time has come to test the capabilities of new human-based space forces. A squadron of Pikes and a squadron of Strikers have been sent to intercept and destroy the enemy. It didn't seem like a hard task, especially given the simple fact that this time it looked more like a bunch of enemy scouts rather than a full-fledged battle fleet:

Phased curvature disruption systems have instantly proven to be of high usability. Groaxians used them to throw enemies completely off-course while slingshoting from the gravity wells themselves, gaining rapid acceleration and circling around the enemy still struggling to restore its formation. Particle beams were launched from both sides, but well-remembered operation QiSet has led to a development of new armor patterns that helped diminish the devastating results of these weapons, minimising hull damage among Groaxian ships. Meanwhile Umbaras seemed to not be so well-prepared (or rather it was Groaxians who introduced too many improvements into their particle-based weapons for them to keep up) and their ships popped one by one, just like Lensias once did, causing mass panic and hysteria across entire Conglomerate Defense Fleet. But this time the victory clearly belonged to Groaxians without any significant trouble faced. Soon they were ready to destroy the last enemy ship. However, the admiral of Human Space Fleet was well-aware that information is far more important than any military victory and any amount of enemy spaceships blown out of the void. And so just like it has already been done in the past, Groaxians used strong gravitational disturbance to trap the last survivor motionless, hoping to gain even more insight into Umbara civilisation. This was of high importance not only on a strategic and tactical level - perhaps even more important was the fact that lack of communication was one of the reasons for a chain of suspicion to occur, so technically it was a contribution towards resolving Dark Forest Theory, even if only so small and practically meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

To much surprise of everyone, the crew of captured ship consisted soley of Zenn, something not seen at all besides that one wreck that contained the bodies of this species. Moreover, the entire squadron that appeared in Qi was like this, with no single La to be found anywhere. It was especially strange since according to Umbara knowledge, all Zenn have perished together with their homeworld, so the question as to what they've been doing among Umbara fleets was beyond anybody. Fortunately it was nothing that couldn't have been dealt with using Transcendent Speech and gaining direct entry into the heads of Zenn. What was found among their thoughts was highly disturbing.

It was true that Zenn were left behind to die out with every living being of Zenn-La, but it hadn't necessarily translated into them actually doing so. Umbara fleets left the doomed world in a hurry, leaving all the facilities they used for space programs as well as research data mostly intact. Zenn still had enough time left before inevitable extinction to decipher at least parts of it. Their starships at first weren't very effective, but at least were enough to get them off the planet, out of the solar system and onwards to space while keeping them alive in a stasis. By that time they already knew about Dark Forest and in spite of this the pile of space debris they stumbled across once was only a reinforcement of this theory being correct. It was a relic of a space force long gone, a testament of the cold nature of the universe. At first the fleet appeared to be so alien than given the poor, to put it mildly, technical state of the wrecks it would be nigh impossible to actually gather any information as to what happened and what these aliens were, but soon certain characteristic features could've been pointed out. After some time spent uncovering the secrets of the debris there was no doubt left - it was an Umbara fleet, once powerful, now reduced to ashes. Among the wrecks tanks with a strange gas could've been found in large quantities. It was dangerous. Addictive. Evil. Everyone who dared to inhale it would die quickly and painfully, yet at the same time the gas would make an individual a far more effective combatant for the time it has left to live. This discovery was quickly followed by a rapid development of support technology allowing for gas intake while continuing to still be alive for quite a long time.

Before Zenn could embark to continue their odyssey, a different Umbara fleet had been detected closing in. Engaging engines would guarantee being spotted, so the only chance for Zenn was to hide among the wrecks, power off every module including life support and hope Umbaras wouldn't care there were a few more wrecks than there should be, not neccessairly in a wrecked state either. However, Umbara ships have stopped along the space cemetery. They wanted to check it out, just like Zenn had just done. What was odd is that they did not seem to recognize it being leftovers from their own ships, though. The ones they were flying at a time were different, too. When the situation became hopeless and dramatic, Zenn tried out one last desperate measure: they hailed the ships, by then spread across the relics, using everything they knew about Umbara to sound authentic and pass as part of their fleet. And it actually worked. What later struck Zenn as something even more odd was that Umbaras have stumbled across the supplies of a mysterious gas, but they approached it as if they've never seen it. Well, maybe it was something their by then destroyed fleet had discovered independently and never got a chance to share it, after all.

A bit later, with both fleets still floating around space debris, a specific plan began to form in the heads of Zenn leaders. They shared their already established knowledge on the topic with La, but well-aware about the culture of military rituals among La they had to adapt to in order to pass as one of them, they did the sharing in a way that'd grant them total control over Umbara Commune. They advertised the gas as an ultimate gift, a perfect way to combine the rituals with practical strength in battle sought so eagerly by La, all while being well-aware that they only need to get Umbara soldiers addicted, as without their army they meant nothing. The fact Zenn had already figured out how to multiply gas particles to produce more of it only helped them declare themselves as Aether Guardians, granting them many privileges in the Umbara Commune and allowing them to act as a grey eminence. Their plan was simple: wait till more and more Umbara soldiers start dying from intoxication and wipe them out once and for all when they're already too weak to defend themselves properly. The cycle of their destruction must repeat itself, next time being different, though, leaving a permanent mark of time in the form of another pile of derelict wrecks.

Conglomerate also tried to get the coordinates of the system in which the remnants are located and both Zenn as well as La captured after operation QiSet had a detailed description of the star and its celestial bodies stored in their heads. The only problem was that after browsing star catalogues to no end, searching through all possible candidates, it was determined that such system doesn't exist and in fact never existed. The starfield visible from within it did not match with any part of the galaxy at all and given the technology described the possibility of Umbara coming from a different one was also ruled out as no ship of theirs would ever endure such a journey without falling apart along the way somehwere in intergalactic space.

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Re: Time's End - Freedom
« Reply #31 on: May 28, 2021, 03:00:04 PM »
3406-3409 AM hibernation cycles

Stories echoing across minds of Zenn and La were coherent except for non-existent planetary system and Umbara not recognising their own fleet and their own gas that apparently was in their hands before. The former could have been understood, among Groaxians not every soldier remembred coordinates of every system explored at some point since the dawn of interstellar expansion so it might as well be the same case for Umbara, they got it wrong or something. The latter was much more problematic, though. What could cause such misunderstanding? If their fleets had split at some point and later developed in different directions so that technology of one of them no longer looked familiar for the other one, that'd suffice, but then at least some of them should remember the divide which they did not. There was also always a possibility of Transcendent Speech failing to penetrate the sturdiest layers of mental armor, a somewhat common occurence for humans, but Groaxians were much more potent in that field than humans. And especially Umbara, which seemed to struggle to hide their true colours and repel psychic attacks even more than humans did.

Umbara not remembering things right was the simplest explanation of misleading navigators, but it was flawed for numerous reasons, namely the observation that every one of them was capable of providing the coordinates and they didn't seem to differ much from one another, all leading to the same star. To check this out, soulseekers cooperating with most skilled xenobiologists were tasked with performing research on the topic of Umbara memory by having them remember galactic coordinates pointing at random stars and planets. Using Transcendent Speech team responsible for experiments was able to rule out the cases when a participant did not want to learn on purpose which promised accurate results. And according to the final presentation, Umbara memory had no trouble dealing with even large datasets for as long as they were possible to be displayed graphically, which was definitely the case for stars' positions.

Basing on the above research, astronomers proposed a different approach to the problem of non-existent system. The number of new black holes appearing all around the galaxy no matter the stellar mass was so common nobody was even surprised anymore when yet another star would collapse. It might as well be that the system itself was now a black hole too (though in such case the coordinates should still point out to it, so this hypothesis didn't really solve anything), or many stars making for the navigational matrix existed no more and were no longer there, replaced by black holes. And so Groaxians involved attempted to try to find possible valid configurations by replacing some stars serving as reference point with black holes and seeing whether it'd match a particular region of space. However, there was no guarantee it'd work out, not necessarily because of the sheer number of possibilities as these could be processed quickly thanks to the newest generation of soulgrain cybersoul mainframes, but because there was yet another problem: Dark Forest Strikes. Some of these stars might as well have been destroyed by photonic missiles or whatever else Dark Forest Lords were using. To mitigate errors introduced by this possibility, traces of supernova were also included in the search, but without any estimates pointing out at a date Umbara visited the mysterious system it was going to be rough.

The side effect of all these efforts was to pull out data about another two systems explored by Umbara, but never inspected by any Groaxian from up close. They included Meirica and a pair of binary systems all grouped under the common name of Baile Atha. While Meirica had just two hot planets, one airless and the other one filled with sulphur dioxide, Baile Atha was much more interesting. One binary system consisted of a white dwarf and T Tauri-class star, the latter surrounded by spacious protoplanetary disc. The second pair of stars hosted a total of six genesian planets. Five were airless rocks, but one had an atmosphere based on nitrogen and oxygen, liquid water filling mostly a giant rift around its equator and scorching temperatures. Interestingly, life still found a way to evolve and survive there. Equator was the hottest spot, but at the same time due to terrain shape it got filled with water so easily it was the best place to live for everyone involved. Oddly enough, despite what one might expect after exploration data gathered so far, lifeforms weren't advanced. It seemed that the evolution has just began there. Red moss was covering most of the land around lakes, rivers and seas. It was so omnipresent it was observed growing on the skin of certain animal species walking around the land. It seemed that the moss and animals it attached itself to lived in a symbiosis - the red parasites were feeding off nutrients eaten by their hosts, but in return provided them with excellent camouflage protecting them from predators, allowing them to survive and eat enough to feed both sides. Fauna migrations also allowed the moss to spread and colonise different regions, but at this point of biosphere development it looked as if it no longer mattered, with every spot being already colonised or too far from water sources. Oddly enough, animals seemed to originate from land, while the water itself was almost dead. There were some microorganisms in it, but research gathered pointed out they were infectious and deadly for any other kinds of life in concentrations high enough, making inhabiting the water a hard task for everything else. The planet could potentially be terraformed, but the question of Umbara settling down there remained unanswered.

A study focused on behavioural changes among generations born after discovering Dark Forest Theory sounded an alarm. While changes for the worse in themselves were nothing new, another layer of the problem has been brought to attention. For example, safety check provided by middlemen was of lower quality and more genetic errors were likely to occur during birth. There wasn't enough proof to link this with the migration of many middlemen to Yatune. In fact, scientists couldn't all agree whether it was middlemen providing genetic checksums of lower quality or lowered breeding quality in general. A common symptom of the problems was slightly increased brain temperature during birth which later was correlated with higher aggression levels or problems with hibernating. Same researchers proposed to fix the existing issues with experimental genetic modification therapy, but Conglomerate remained sceptical about these ideas, unsure whether throwing more artificiality at the problem would really help with anything. One thing to be remembered, though, was that relocating the "overheated individuals" to colder regions of Genesis had some limited positive effects. Still, many scientists couldn't see any viable solution besides fixing things at the same level they were broken which was the level of individual genes. For now the Conglomerate at least agreed to grant affected population access to implants that were responsible for keeping brain temperature in check at all times, regardless of environmental factors.

Several hibernation cycles after first recruits of Human Space Forces completed their training, first conclusions on the project could've been made. Everyone expected Groaxians who served in this fleet would remain disconnected from main society, possibly forming their own enclosed community, a very different one, but that did not happen. They seemed to be quite popular among certain groups from younger generations. It was a worrying sign, because it hinted the problem once again has proven to be larger than predictions. Humanity has always been present in the culture of Groaxians for obvious reasons, but never before did it have such long-reaching influence. On top of it all, a dangerous ideology began to spread among population: for the first time in Groaxian history it was proposed that a freedom of an individual is more important than the eternal equilibrium of a carefully balanced society and that an interstellar civilisation cannot continue to exist with how things were before. The idea was obviously derived from the human concept of freedom, but experts instantly pointed out that such freedom was an illusion through the entire history of Humanity and that what is already known about them doesn't suggest any proof of an average human ever being truly free. Moreover, even if that'd be the case for Humanity, soulseekers agreed that Groaxian society could never function like this because of how connected it was via Transcended Speech. Dangerous thoughts of even one individual could lead to health problems among a few dozens others that were close enough to feel these thoughts which is why the balance was mandatory for the sake of well-being of everyone. It's what has always united every tribe, every clan and every member of the society at a personal level. Examples from history all pointed out that whenever the balance has been damaged, it always ended up in a war of some sort and peace was not possible until thinking patterns would align again, allowing everyone to cool down and undergo a prolonged hibernation to cleanse from any leftovers of chaos.

The question remained what exactly has happened that certain Groaxians wanted to "become human" at this particular time and not earlier, given the influence of Humanity has pretty much always been a thing to the point to this day nobody is sure how the species were originally called, before the term proposed by humans has been widely adapted. The threat from Dark Forest was one thing, but there were way too many occasions for Groaxians to adapt too much of human identity before it all started. Eventually it was proposed that this was a result of two factors combined - one being the influence of Humanity on Groaxian development which has been presented since the monolith touched genesian ground and the other being about how humanity seemingly has managed to find a solution to Dark Forest because to this solar watch no Groaxian has died from their hands and they were able to grow in strength enough to defend even from the more advanced Dark Forest players, successfully resisting their onslaught, intercepting photonic missiles and so on. On paper the approach sounded reasonable and it's exactly what Conglomerate had on mind when proclaiming the forming of Human Space Fleet, but in practice one just couldn't expect to deny own nature, try to become something completely different that evolved on an alien (and toxic for Groaxian biology) world and at the end hope it all works out fine. Besides, from what was understood about human concepts of freedom, it can't work when one being can read thoughts of the other and even if Groaxians were to resign from brain signal amplifiers they'd still get some limited understanding naturally because that's how they were.

While all this looked pretty grim and depressing, a glimpse of hope appeared in the form of yet another theory: sure, things were heading in the wrong direction, but at the same time there was a war going on, a war like never before. And through the past destabilisation of balance preceeded the conflict, leading directly to it, while now problems started to arise only after first battles have been fought and Groaxians still stood united, just trying to defend themselves and forge a path for them across the stars. And diving into the human mind further might hold the answer to Dark Forest, assuming they have really figured it out and haven't in the meantime gone extinct after one photonic missile too many or something. Conglomerate had to accept that it was a path worth checking out. The question "how to join Humanity across the stars" resurfaced again.

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Re: Time's End - Beyond Dark Forest
« Reply #32 on: May 28, 2021, 08:58:30 PM »

3410-3416 AM hibernation cycles

The last enemy fleet Groaxian army came into contact with might have not been the most powerful one, but the easiness with which it was dealt with by Human Space Fleet impressed everyone involved in making it fly above the skies of Genesis. It was concluded that they'd make for a perfect force to visit Blutgang system again, something hibernating in the backlog of planned operations, never awakened because every military ship had always been needed somewhere else, but eventually the time has come to check the system out, this time fully prepared for whatever lurks there. It was expected that Conglomerate Defence Fleet, recently reinforced with additional Syzygies (even though new mining drills or half-hibernation cellular therapy for body parts getting a bit loose after too rapid hibernation and awakening were only one of the few research projects that received support unlike new generation of space kinetic weapons so these were still the same Syzygies), should suffice to defend either Qi or Mimung should something dangerous pop up again. Having this cleared out, human-like Groaxians skipped time through relativistic flight again and arrived in the already known, but not really explored, system.

First thing the fleet has checked for were obviously wrecks. And it easily detected many of them. Too many. They bore designations of both Umbara and the second aliens that were suspected of revealing Qi to Dark Forest Lords and whose communication ways were still encrypted for Groaxian xenolinguists. A testimony of countless battles fought around the pair of stars which hosted only one planet suspected to contain oxygen-based life and its moon. Countless wrecks even formed rings around one of the stars, making both the scale and time passed since the conflict feel magnificent.

With no life signs detected, Human Space Fleet moved towards the oxygen-breathing world, ready to open fire any time. Eventually as it got close enough, radars warned about multiple Umbara-like contacts orbiting the planet as well as large signature coming down from the surface all around this grey-green planet with apparently purple oceans. Turning around right now would mean returning with no info of any real usage for future projects and campaigns, so the admiral of the fleet gave an order to engage. There's not much to be said about these few ships as a few powerful gravitational waves were enough to have them lose orbital velocity and fall down to the planet, crashing on the surface, but what followed after, as Groaxians were still closing in, straight towards the planet, was something nobody expected.

Hundreds of laser beams erupted from the surface, yet they were only detected through measurement instruments, because gamma laser beams were invisible for Groaxian eyes. A standard manoeuvre of using gravitational weapons to create a well from which the ships could slingshot themselves away from the danger worked well enough to dodge a greeting volley unscratched, but the gravitational influence of the planet itself was strong enough to cause the ships to be minimally slower than expected. Dozens of laser beams left burns and scratches on the outer hull layers, sometimes ripping entire chunks of metal off. No internal structure of any ship has been damaged yet at that point, but the threat was real. And targeting the weapons that opened fire was nigh impossible. They seemed to be using some kind of cybernetic camouflage system. Error margin when attempting to lock onto such target was far too great to except any kind of reasonable accuracy.

At this point retreat was the only reasonable decision to be made, but among a plethora of signals picked up from the hostile world one stood out. It seemed to be calling every Groaxian directly. When it was played using human speech and sound converter, allowing Groaxians to feel it as humans would, voices of the ancients filled everyone in the fleet. Time has slowed down as the voice was soothing. It filled the mind with visions of planes beyond imagination of any three-dimensional being, about concepts so alien yet so fascinating. It was alien, but it didn't feel like something Dark Forest would spit out. The way of the ancients spoke about a different solution. Something so simple, so obvious, yet something of which every civilisation seemed unaware. A safety guarantee for all who want to take it. It never got finished before the ones from Bootes Void came to exterminate and tear everything down, but it was there, ready for another civilisation to take the lead and complete it.

Sound of sirens, again broadcasted via human speech and sound converter, together with screeching of metal brought everyone back to reality. Or at least those who weren't incinerated on spot by lasers eventually tearing through the armor layers. But despite death and suffering and failing systems all around, scientific consultants of the expedition insisted on checking out the signal source before leaving. The ships have drifted too far into the firing range of planetary lasers either way, so there was plenty of time to run required calibrations before any ship would be capable of leaving the danger zone. The fleet increased engine output and started accelerating alongside the planet, hoping to be able to dodge easier from this position rather than if it attempted to pull away from the planet as quickly as possible, leaving it behind itself and allowing enemy to target them as their relative position on the sky doesn't change from gunners' perspective. But evasion was not enough and soon officers understood a counterattack was a must. While particle beams of Strikers weren't expected to hit much, it was still better than nothing to have them fired. Main hope was placed on Pikes, though. Their gravitational weapons had a potential to deal area damage, minimising the effects of enemy camouflage. Without time for any kind of second thoughts, Human Space Fleet opened fire at last, sending particles at near-lightspeed and gravitational weapons to the grey and dark green lands of this mysterious world. What was instantly observed is that the waves came into interaction with the sky, causing apparently violent storms to form after enough clouds gathered in one spot. Weapons used by Pikes, a prime source of might in battle, were sparked fear even among their users when they saw two storms being formed after just a few volleys. While very little laser firing stations have actually been hit and destroyed, the storms themselves have proven to be more helpful, because they helped disperse beams, if only a little, reducing the strain put on Groaxian hulls.

Soon the exact location of the unique signal has been extracted out of thousands of other sources. There was no time for probes, obviously (and even if there was nobody hoped a probe could make it through the laser grid), but flying a little closer should be enough to at least perform localised detailed surface scan to determine the type of signal emitter Groaxians were dealing with. Admiral decided it was worth a risk. Several more storms have been created along the way and several dozens Groaxians have died before scanning systems confirmed readiness fo perform surface analysis of the selected fragment.

A quick search through the database of already known types of alien structures returned a positive result. With little doubt left, scientists announced it was a complex of the Precursors, very closely matching the data on them received from Humanity. Having already exceeded the amount of risk initially planned to take, admiral ordered the fleet to pull of from the planet, speeding away towards safety while Pikes continued to wreak havoc in the local weather, with their waves also causing earthquakes and possibly putting too much weight under whatever existed within the spheres of gravitational disturbances. It was a miracle no ship was destroyed or at least crippled enough to not be able to flee from enemy fire until too late. In its current state, any further firefight posed significantly greater risk, but it seemed that all there was left for Groaxians to do was to engage Curvature Propulsion Systems and fly back home for repairs and a military version of a nanocybersoul-based health regeneration therapy.

Once Conglomerate read through the reports of the encounter, before it moved onto the pending topics of Umbara-inhabited planet and a Precursor facility existing on the surface it took interest into another aspect of the expedition and battle that happened. There was no doubt the planet was full of sentient life, even though this life was hostile. Gravitational weapons used against a planet showed to be very potent in terms of causing mass destruction across the surface. Exact casualties were impossible to be determined, but the pictures of multiple storms, likely to be dangerous not even because of the short-term violent weather but because of the long-term climate destabilisation such unnatural event might lead to, not to mention earthquakes and all the mess caused by local gravity suddenly shifting back and forth. With the evidence presented, Conglomerate declared the act of using these weapons against a planet a Dark Forest Strike of type II-B. In order to perform such an attack, a clearance from Conglomerate was mandatory and such permit was to be obtained only if both the existence of entire race was endangered and it could be guaranteed that after performing it the values of Groaxian civilisation would not be endangered. In this case not only the clearance had not been issued, but also the conditions for it hadn't been met (and the "it was in self defence" argumentation was rejected because according to the Dark Forest Theory itself even wiping the entire planet clean from all lifeforms, even if it was not hostile and unarmed, would still be classified as "self defence").

But eventually Conglomerate did not intend do do anything to punish Human Space Forces for what they had done. Because Transcendent Speech scan confirmed their experiences they had prior to discovery of Precursor buildings. And if what they felt was real, then it was worth to pursue it, even if they had to do what they did. Battle of Bultgang-A I was to become a symbol of Groaxian degeneration, but also a symbol of hope of stopping this madness before it destroys everything. Scientists quickly got to work at analysing the brains of Groaxians affected by the signal and comparing them with what could be found in monolith about Precursors. Given how Humanity had approached one of their ruins located on a boiling planet that was beyond any reasonable terraforming due to its proximity to the parent star, it was possible to have Transcendent Speech signal propagated from the surface to orbit and back, but they required a powerful version of mental amplifiers designated by a prodigy of theirs while for Groaxian mental capacity nothing beyond what had already been produced was needed to be able to receive the signal and discover its meaning.

The topic of higher dimensions was brought up once again, this time in broader context. But the complex also spoke about escaping Dark Forest. Suddenly it all became too obvious and so easy to understand soulseekers wondered why haven't they thought about it earlier, eventually blaming it on the physics of higher dimensions not working as described by humans everywhere else besides the Crack. Beings of a different number of dimensions consumed different types of resources. Three-dimensional metals extracted by a three-dimensional species were useless to four-dimensional ones and similarly whatever entities existed in a four-dimensional space were of no use for the standard three-dimensional civilisation. The initial concept of a solution based on exclusive list of resources used turned out to be true. It was possible to escape Dark Forest and Project Ascension was a key on how to do that.
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Re: Time's End - Endpoint War
« Reply #33 on: May 31, 2021, 08:34:49 PM »

3412-3419 AM hibernation cycles

Since Sodara was on high military alert basically all the time as everyone expected Umbara assault really any moment and Mimung still lacked neccessary protection, when a strange signal reached listening posts scattered around the surface and orbit alike, nobody seemed capable of figuring out how to raise the alarm to even higher level. It has been discovered by pure accident, during rudimentary fuel shipping operation. When one of the harvesters was dropping from orbit to dive in hydrogen skies, it picked up something. Instruments recording planetary emissions suddenly have gone haywire. There has always been something unsettling about going down to the planet that does not have a surface, to undergo a rough atmospheric entry only to see a foggy bottomless pit, even if fuel scooping didn't require to go to the depths at which clouds are too thick to let much light through. But that time, that time the horror has just begun. The source of the signal seemed to be located deep in the clouds of Iether. It seemed to be messing with the radio emissions of the planet, broadcasting hypnotising shapes and patterns which, once translated into audio produced creepy sounds.

It has been estimated that the next patrol should still take several dozens solar watches at best to arrive, even though from its own perspective it was disengaging Curvature Drives right now. For this tense period, interplanetary space of Mimung was defenseless. The thing was, the signal was not coming from space, but from the planet. From a planet with extreme atmospheric pressure and violent weather. Bhas'uhs were nowhere near as agile as military ships, but obviously due to their job they were adapted to navigating through the storms and darkness damn well, even if rudimentary fuel harvest has always been undergoing under safe, optimal conditions. Whatever was emitting the sinister messages probably was well-suited too, but trying to be better in terms of pressure tolerance was the only asset of the harvesting fleet which now has faced its first military assignment. Military, because whatever it was, it was hostile for sure. The universe was a Dark Forest.

Fleet of nine Bhas'uhs was supposed to close in, but with only three ships (first squadron) staying above the target, but the remaining two trying to go deeper into the Iether's atmosphere, way below the signal source, but still leaving a good margin so they could go even deeper if needed. First squadron was essentially a risk-taking scout, trying to determine what this thing actually was and how and when exactly was it going to attack, ready to quickly accelerate into space and use the sheer gravity of a gas giant to pick up speed faster by staying in orbit for a while and hopefully escape. But the main task lied at hands of the crews of remaining two squadrons, which were expected to try to bait the enemy to follow them deeper, hoping it wasn't as well suited to this hostile environment. The fleet lacking a proper military training and being unarmed did not make this risky operation easier, either.

Every ship has safely reached designated position, but failed at triggering the enemy's reaction. From the distance the engagement has been reduced into it has been confirmed that the target was an alien fleet composed of ships of the same classes as previously detected on numerous occassions - they must have been the ones who had likely sent Qi position into deep space. With that sorted out, it became possible to tell that the disturbed radio emissions of the planet were them trying to communicate. This made the makeshift space command array on Sodara face two next problems to tackle: firstly, the aliens refused to move (or do anything at all), prolonging the stalemtate and secondly they tried to communicate, although for what reason nobody was sure since they had already managed to show great hostility even without firing one shot.

The first thing to check for was whether they attempted to send coordinates of yet another system (namely Mimung), but this time it was either well-hidden from Groaxian sensors or not there at all. Full content of the messages remained a mystery. This was of course additional input data to boost translation efforts, but there seemed to be no pattern at all. One thing that was observed rather quickly was that the message was stuck in a loop of some sort so a beginning and an end could have been pinpointed easily, but as to the actual meaning, even single expressions here and there, there was no clue. It should'veHowever, one crucial observation has been made: the assumption of hostility. Sure, Dark Forest Theory left no doubts, but Groaxians themselves were not hostile when they first hailed their ships, so to assume the enemy was an enemy was... shameful to do for a civilisation that wanted to take pride in its good will and fighting against cosmic evil. According to this improvised theory, aliens responded to the hails, but when they were told that "Groaxians know about Dark Forest", they felt threatened and showed their ultimate weapon, far more powerful than any guns any of their fleets could carry: the simple ability to tell Dark Forest Lords that there's this system with intelligent life in it so they should probably take care of it.

Analysing the messages in this context seemed to lead to nowhere, too. Xenolinguists were on the bring of snapping out of exhaustion and needed to cool down their minds, but they felt responsible for the fuel harvesters stuck in their positions, unable to do anything, with six of them trapped in eternal darkness, deep in the hydrogen abyss. Too bad there was nothing anybody could do about this unpleasant situation and in the end, since the aliens continued to refuse to do anything, everyone had to stay right where they were, having to spend solar watches afraid of being shot at any moment.

No progress has been made, but in the meantime Conglomerate Defense Fleet has arrived in the system and immediately upon receiving updates on the tactical situation flew towards Iether. This has caused the potential enemy to turn on engines. It headed towards space, so the first squadron of fuel harvesters did the same, attempting to stay as far away as possible, while the two others went even deeper into the atmosphere, leaving the combat to be handled by ships that are actually armed. Long before alien ships could've been reached, they simply warped space around them and disappeared from the system, leaving confused Groaxians behind.

For the hibernation cycles to come best out of the best attempted to crack the alien code. Different paths have been explored, trying to translate the visuals, the audio from converted emissions, electronic signals or any mix of these interpretations. And eventually it worked. But the key to the translation was not what anyone expected it to be. First expressions could have been understood only when looking at Umbara language. They both shared some similiarities, namely the new one was also "cyclic", only this time each cycle was exactly the same. The possibilty of these two languages originating from similar sources has been ruled out, though - it was merely them expressing similar thoughts while remaining completely alien to each other. The civilisation responsible for using planetary signals as a means of communication was probably best translated as Tempestsaurs Of Achernar. That alone was enough to terrify many - the word "Tempestsaurs" had been repeated multiple times. "Cleansers", but namely cleansers bound by law, the ones who mop up the mess after Clan Master's verdict, so not quite exectuors that carry out the sentence directly, but still involved in the process when one's mind is too hot to be cooled down using conventional methods. Tempestsaurs had always had great responsibility resting on their shoulders since carrying out this job was considered to be extremely dangerous to the balance and as such great expertise was required, far exceeding the mental capacity of the one to judge, hence why most of them were recruited from former Clan Masters who excelled at their job and displayed above avergae intelligence.

The way how the alien civilisation titled itself was not translated by accident - there were many odd similarities between their command structure and Tempestsaurs. They appeared majestic and smart given the eloquence of their, in fact, short yet deep communicates which could be interpreted often in several ways at once, reducing the amount of speech to be used. And they seemed to be fixated on cleansing the universe from all evil, but they were smarter than Umbara about it - they really didn't like to do it themselves. Interestingly, the "evil" they declared to fight wasn't about other entities living in a Dark Forest, at least not directly. They have found something unsettling in the very foundation of the universe and wanted to ensure it'll be purged at all cost. Something they saw as worse than Dark Forest itself. Especially this bold statement was what confused Groaxians so much they were too confused to even be afraid anymore. Something worse than Dark Forest sounded like pure nonsense. Another unique trait of these beings was how they apparently shared Groaxian view on the "balance", with the possible exception of whatever "balance" meant for them. Similiairy to Tempestsaurs, they appeared to srtive to be careful about their cleansing operations as to not damage it. Shall they overdo it or be too quick, all efforts would be in vain and the force worse than Dark Forest would reign over what was left. Brightest soulseekers struggled to figure out what this force was exactly, but it was described as something that posessed the power to stop the cycles from proceeding and doom everything forever, without a chance of rescue. They explained that cycles repeat itself, but unlike Umbara saw them as completely separated and independent, with no mark of time being left, no information carried from one cycle to the next.

3417 AM hibernation cycle

Eventually they came to Qi. Human Space Fleet was put on high alert, but as always, Tempestsaurs remained cool and kept their weapons down. Or maybe they kept them armed but didn't fire. Instead, they sent more messages. They seemed really talkative for a Dark Forest player. Some even wondered whether eliminating lack of communication issue wouldn't help move over it in the long term. These dreams were quickly shattered, unfortunately. The messages were clear and easy to understand. Coordinates of both Qi and Mimung had been encoded into a sequence of gravitational waves and sent across the void right as Groaxians were listening. It was terrifying. Mass panic erupted in every major and minor city within the system. Until suddenly one of the hostile squadrons fired a powerful gravitational blast. It warped space across a huge area, demonstrating power surpassing phased curvature disturbance systems engineered by Groaxians. It obstructed the space around previously sent waves, messing them up and effectively destroying whatever information they were supposed to carry. At this point it was simply shocking how they first broadcasted position of Groaxian space only to cancel it themselves at the very last moment, but not for too long. It was a threat. They demanded no Groaxian starship to ever leave the territory marked by the two inhabited by Groaxians systems under the threat of a broadcast followed by a large-scale invasion aimed at destroying every enemy ship existing. On a sidenote, it was depressing how they wanted to be so sure that Dark Forest Lord would hear about Groaxians that they were ready to sent position of both Qi and Mimung, whereas Mimung was close enough and constantly communicating with Qi that once the home system was revealed, Mimung was too.

Conglomerate organised a high-alert secret meetings to quickly assess the new strategic and tactical situation as well as try to come up with the best solution possible. Firstly, the most important and optimistic information was that Qi had yet to be revealed to those who watch, ready to strike any moment. Secondly, Groaxians were in a big trouble. Thirdly, according to the Tempestsaurs doctrine, they should have sent the crucial information away right at the start. There was no need for them to make threats. Just broadcast and mark the civilisation as already cleansed. However, it ws also quickly realised that it couldn't have been so simple. Firstly, for whatever reason they were afraid of doing too many purges at once, meaning maybe they determined sentencing Groaxians to extinction at that exact moment was not viable and they were about to wait for who knows how long until the possibility opens up. Second issue with "fire and forget" approach lied in every starship that has ever appeared in the void over Groaxian worlds. These starships were ready to be launched. After latest pre-ignition optimisations it was very likely Curvature Propulsion Systems would've been engaged before their weapons, giving a decent fleet a chance at escape to spawn a continuation of the Groaxian race somewhere else. However if Tempestsaurs were to simply threaten Groaxians, of course escape was still possible, but at a price of dooming their homeworld and all colonies, something Conglomerate would never allow. Not that there was anyone who'd have tried in the first place.

There was also a possibility they were afraid of Groaxian space forces. They had already demonstrated a more powerful weapon, but maybe overall their fleet wasn't so strong and they didn't feel too comfortable about having a space battle under present conditions. In theory they could've launched an attack and still have their threat in place aka if even one ship tried to escape the system only then broadcast would occur, but maybe they weren't absolutely sure about no crew attempting to flee under such extreme and stressful conditions. However, some quick simulations have determined that their motivation for not attacking was most likely them not being sure about their victory. This opened up a possibility of dispatching combined Conglomerate Defense Fleet and Human Space Fleet and rooting the enemy out, restoring safety, albeit only temporairly, but that fell out of the question, too - the moment Tempestsaurs had seen any offensive manoeuvres, probably they'd have just sent their deadly message. A possibility about neutralising the broadcast the same way they did was also to be discussed, but there was too much uncertanity whether Pikes and their weapon systems would suffice for the task. Even very small risk was unnacceptable with stakes so high. This solution was not to be ruled out completely, though.

The last topic mentioned during the meeting was certainly the most important one. Less than one hibernation cycle before, another exploration mission to the Crack had been sent. As aliens were keeping the entire civilisation hostage, an independent fleet of Groaxian starships has been cruising at superluminal speed somewhere in interstellar space. They seemed to be the best chance at breaking free from the deadlock and resolving the situation without taking unneccessary risks. A question remained, awaiting immediate answer: what exactly they would be supposed to do. And how to tell them to do it without making Tempestsaurs aware of the plan as well as the presence of Groaxian vessels beyond the cage they'd prepared.
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Re: Time's End - Signal of Despair
« Reply #34 on: June 01, 2021, 06:46:32 PM »
Upon closer examination, it came as in fact surprising that Achernar hadn't restricted Groaxians to stick to the system they were currently located and allowed the transit between Qi and Mimung to continue freely. They seemed to have been establishing larger presence in both systems, but several light hibernation cycles is a damn huge distance to get lost somewhere along the way. Technically they could've simply register ships leaving and entering and fulfill their threat shall the numbers not match after enough time would have passed for the journey to be completed, but what if a ship would suffer some failure and have its journey delayed, or worse, end up destroyed? Technically they could've issued "travel at your own risk" rule and not care at all, but for some reason they didn't appear as really wanting to transmit the "killing signal". If that was the case then them doing so because a ship had been unlucky to get stuck in interstellar space for longer than estimated would have poor consequences, doing something they weren't fully set on doing because of a false alarm. And even with the current rule it was obvious a ship could've stopped for a while, far from any Achernar spying infrastructure and be free to at least send a message. But possibly that was the point - beyond sending a message, the ship wouldn't really be able to do anything, and taking explorers out of the equation meant there wasn't anything in particular that could've been accomplished that way.

But the explorers existed out there, so obviously stopping somewhere between Qi and Mimung was the safest and most reliable way to inform them about this mess. How to do that to prevent the enemy from intercepting the message, that was a separate question. Gravitational waves have been ruled out instantly due to them travelling in every direction, meaning they'd reach Achernar too. An interesting idea involved using neutrino beams for this purpose, an experimental technology showing promising results back on Genesis. Main reason why it worked was simply because of the radio pulses emitted by the interactions of neutrino beams with ice sheets. Baernoloths did not come equipped with onboard icesheets, though, let alone the proper equipment to measure and decode the input. There was also a possibility to try to encode the message in the patterns of warped space, utilising the property of Curvature Drives leaving permanent marks in place of usage unless the space has been straightened up again. That was nearly useless, though, as it was more likely the enemy would look in this particular direction and eventually break the code than explorers would bother since there was no reason for them to ever try to observe that particular region of space, being somewhere out there in the Crack.

The solution that was accepted at last seemed to be quite simple yet complicated at the same time. Groaxian Navy still had one important asset at hand: the warship captured mostly intact and later repaired and brought up to Groaxian standards during the last battle of Qi when Zenn had been captured and interrogated for the first time - Hobbiton battlecruiser. Since then this particle beam-firing ship had been adapted to serve as a command ship in Conglomerate Defense Fleet, replacing former squadron of Lensias. All there was left to do was to mount a Curvature Drive so that it could travel across the stars again (the one Umbara has been using had been destroyed beyond repair during the battle and it was much easier for engineers to build a new one than to try to work with alien tech specifications), make it fly disguised among a fleet of freighters or something and have it send a message in Umbara language. Of coruse with that method chosen Conglomerate had to be extremely careful with what the message body was supposed to be filled with, but the setup could basically guarantee that it'd be taken as simply Umbara attempting to do some random tactical stuff, not linking the incident with Groaxians at all. At least that was provided the enemy wouldn't detect an odd Umbara ship flying alongside Groaxian vessels without shooting at each other. The risk wasn't trivial, because enough Umbara interrogations via Transcendent Speech and communication translations in case of the new foe had confirmed Tempestsaurs having been already attacked by Umbara and likely knowing how their ships presented themselves. It was simply hoped that hiding it in a civilian fleet after already changing its signature via applied modifications would be enough for Tempestsaurs to not care about one odd "freighter". As long as they wouldn't take a closer look during launch hopefully everything should be fine. Key was to have the "freighter" stay really close to other freighters so that thermal signatures would blend together, hiding the odd one and not engage engines besides initial acceleration at all as to not emit anything beyond what was strictly unavoidable. The route should've been planned to avoid any patrols that possibly had radars to detect the odd shape of a "freighter", with Curvature Drives turned on when far enough from main monitoring squadrons.

BC Zahndrekh 006  (Hobbiton III class Battlecruiser)      21 889 tons       658 Crew       2 979,9 BP       TCS 438    TH 2 100    EM 0
4797 km/s      Armour 5-69       Shields 0-0       HTK 139      Sensors 6/18/0/0      DCR 12      PPV 105
Maint Life 2,18 Years     MSP 1 021    AFR 319%    IFR 4,4%    1YR 288    5YR 4 327    Max Repair 175 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 4   BRG   AUX   ENG   CIC   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

Ion Drive  EP350.0 (6)    Power 2100    Fuel Use 59,76%    Signature 350    Explosion 10%
Fuel Capacity 2 000 000 Litres    Range 27,5 billion km (66 days at full power)

Particle Beam-4 (15)    Range 150 000km     TS: 4 797 km/s     Power 10-3    ROF 20       
Beam Fire Control R192-TS3000 (3)     Max Range: 192 000 km   TS: 3 000 km/s     71 67 63 59 55 52 48 44 40 36
Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor R4 (15)     Total Power Output 53,7    Exp 5%

Active Search Sensor AS69-R114 (1)     GPS 12312     Range 69,6m km    Resolution 114
Thermal Sensor TH1-6 (1)     Sensitivity 6     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  19,4m km
EM Sensor EM3-18 (1)     Sensitivity 18     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  33,5m km

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

There was also a pending question of what message was to be sent, but it had proven to be easier than initially estimated. Probably one of the most common types of communicates sent back and forth between Umbara was a movement or investigation order, pointing out at a particular system. Simply sending the name of the star according to Umbara chart alongside the order to "move there" would be enough for the message to reach explorers while not raising suspicion of Achernar. Or, to be precise, raise their suspicion against a possible Umbara move rather than Groaxians attempting to break free. However, a simple Umbara-originating order to fly somewhere wasn't something explorers would've cared about, besides where they were supposed to be sent was next issue awaiting answer. The decision as to where send the explorers was made much easier after browsing through the old journey logs - three systems were determined to be the most interesting candidates, namely Shamshir e Zomorrodnegar. The system was dead, but a large Achernar fleet had been spotted there. Remaining two exploration prospects were Thuan Thien, with Thuan Thien-B I hosting an Umbara colony, something Conglomerate should have taken into consideration more extnesively but lacked the resources and time to do anything meaningful about this information, and Tizona, with Umbara fleet being detected there too plus a total of four planets very likely to host oxygen-based life. The aim of this special mission was initially proposed to be about gathering information regarding possible planets inhabited by Achernar, ideally their homeworld. Conglomerate hoped that if its location would became known, the threat could've been reversed, balancing out this assymmetrical situation, possibly opening up ways of negotiation as well, something so crucial if Groaxians were to ever make it alive out of Dark Forest. Currently there was a painful lack of good search spots, but if Umbara was actively fighting with Achernar then trying to get some information from systems were La or Zenn were likely to be well-established was still one of the better options at hand.

As to how to catch interest of the exploration mission, only one way made it to the accepted propositon stage: claim that the system with the cemetery of Umbara fleet, the origin of Mark of Time, has been found. It was supposed to be a simple message sent by Zenn, telling that "the time has come" or whatever like that and giving orders to pay close attention to the three systems Conglomerate intended to be visited as a starting point, with each one of them playing a "key part". Explorers had direct orders to always try to investigate priority targets like that and of course that mysterious system was the highest on the priority list, so message constructed along this subject was pretty much guaranteed to cause desired reaction and make the fleet move where it was needed, even if crews serving in it would end up having a wrong idea as to what their real task was about.

After reiterating through the accepted strategy for one last time, Conglomerate meeting on the subject has came to an end, at least in theory. The entire plan of finding and threatening a permanent population of Tempestsaurs (or their main fleet in case of more nomadic lifestyle like Umbara Commune after embarking from Zenn-La) to build symmetry in an asymmetric conflict didn't look very convincing. While explorers were bound to react to the message the way it was expected, how they were to find what they had to look after seemed to be beyond current imagination of the Conglomerate. That was very hard in itself, and the fact explorers weren't to know what they are in fact searching for added another layer of forced complexity. And the risk of enemies blocking Groaxian space figuring out the plan was still there, even if limited to minimum. At the end of the solar watch this was still the safest attempt proposed and discussed.

But such approach was highly controversial, and that had nothing to do with the risks involved and whether it would all work out. To threaten with a deadly broadcast was something no Groaxian had every thought of doing before, so for this to become an official Conglomerate-approved strategy sounded plain horrifying. Times were brutal and survival was at stake, as always since the first Groaxian starship has left Qi, though very likely long before that, but was that enough of a justification to do as much as threaten a world to be destroyed and all its inhabitants killed? But that in itself still wasn't nearly as worrying as something different. There was something wrong. The idea of a "counter-threat" was proposed all too quickly and moral dilemma hadn't been brought up until all strategic and technical details were thoroughly considered and worked through. Somehow it felt natural for these suggestions to be made. This impression was likely reinforced by the concept of "restoring balance" thrown as an argument as to why Achernar needed to be approached the same way as Groaxians had been by them. Was the state of mutual deterrence natural, too? Or, more precisely, was it in the nature of Groaxians to commit to such acts without feeling too weird or ashamed of them? The possibility of something yet undiscovered in the nature of the same species for so long didn't seem like a viable explanation, but whether this could be, influenced by Dark Forest, next step of evolution was a separate case. Most members of the Conglomerate still remembered the historical breakthrough of first Groaxian object leaving the atmosphere of Genesis and the solar watch the Conglomerate itself had been formed and still remembered how things were before. For them to come to such conclusion was a sign that maybe soldiers weren't the only ones who needed retirement, for the sake of the entire civilisation to not to move on further through the sloppy path of slowly adapting to more and more horrible deeds one could commit among the stars and accepting it "for survival's sake".

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Re: Time's End - Path of Insanity
« Reply #35 on: June 02, 2021, 03:26:10 PM »

3420-3435 AM hibernation cycles

Shamshir e Zomorrodnegar was even more dead than when it had been visited for the first time, because Achernar weren't there anymore. All celestial bodies orbiting either of the three stars have been scanned in detail, but there was no trace of the enemy. Full spectrum deep space scanners didn't pick up any messages left whatsoever either. In that system, space felt the way it should - vast, calm, silent, also dead, with life being a rare miracle rather than common occurrence. But the pioneers of space expansion hadn't come there to just gaze at the stunning views. They were on an important mission that could serve as a turning point in war with Umbara, allowing insight into the genesis of their civilisation as an interstellar species. Why exactly Shamshir e Zomorrodnegar was put on the search list nobody was really sure as there was nothing specific there and no Umbara presence has ever been noticed on any of the planets or moons. Two next destinations sounded way more logical, though, with Umbara presence spotted in both, though the Expedition of Insanity was still a well-remembered event and to go visit these cursed and dangerous stars once again instead of exploring in the Crack vicinity and see what had remained yet unseen. Stakes were too high and orders clear, unfortunately. Curse of the Dark Forest had succeeded at tainting even the pure and innocent exploration. Nothing was the same anymore.

In Thuan Thien nothing interesting has been detected either besides already known terraforming candidate which was a moon too cold for habitability, but with traces of methane in the atmosphere and a deserted planet with oxygen in the air on which Umbara colony has been located. It still lacked any infrastructure suggesting the ability to reach space on its own and no fleets had been stationed nearby at a time. Having nothing better to do, Groaxians stayed at a safe distance for the planet, trying to monitor deep space or intercept any communication between it and whatever else it might attempt to get in touch with, but this yielded nothing particularly specific. Overall the colony seemed to be quite inactive, almost dead. Possibly something was up. Maybe Zenn were indeed well on their way to close yet another time cycle and the La extermination had been going on for quite some time already.

At last Groaxian fleet emerged in Tizona system, a perfect colonisation destination if not for the dangers lurking around every planet. This time no Umbara fleet had been observed guarding the system. Possibly it was too far to be detected, possibly it was not even there. Whatever had happened since the last visit, explorers were now free to scout the system, explore alien environments and try to come up with a satisfying conclusion to be presented in front of the Conglomerate. From the planets with oxygen in the air, Tizona V was the easiest one to terraform. Average temperatures matched Genesis perfectly. It was a large planet offering lots of space for perfectly balanced cities, but a bit denser than Genesis and with thicker air, making both pressure and gravity a bit high, but tolerable, especially with the first problem being fixable by Qive stations. It was mostly dry, though, with ice sheets covering only one fifth of the planet and a bunch of snow fields here and there. Dry fields of rocks was a common sight. That didn't mean life wasn't present there, far from it. For the dry conditions and a very high oxygen pressure, toxic even for the other oxygen-breathers encountered so far, it was bustling with life. Across dry fields six-legged, thick-skinned organisms were walking around. Their forehead served as a sturdy hammer, finished with a sharp horn. Both tools were used to smash and cut through the rocks. When it was all muched to the point of reaching gravel structure, sucking apparatusses sticking out of every leg were used to directly consume the prepared rocks. It was found out the digestive system of these animals allowed them to eat rocks and was good at extracting every tiny bit of organic matter from them before expelling them out of the body. It turned out the rocks weren't as dead as previously estimated - colonies of bioluminescent fungi covered vast areas, brightening them up in the night so that species feeding off them had an easier time locating them. The gain for these colonies from being eaten was the fact they could not multiply and grow on their own in the frozen drylands. They required the microclimate of a rock eater's stomach to remove the protective shell and allow them to merge and split in the pool of acid. Most of the fungi obviously died by being consumed, but some were lucky enough to escape with piss or breathing system and reinforce local population.

To much surprise of the xenobiologists, though, ice sheets were completely dead. A crucial part of the genesian ecosystem did not exist on this world at all. Instead, very deep below the ice, liquid water existed. In these dark abyss lurked horrors surpassing the most dangerous and fierce warriors of Genesis. Swimming saucers wrapping around their victims and choking them to death was one example. They seemed to be unnecessarily cruel, though, with only minority of their prey being eaten. Most of the time the killing was done simply because they could. But despite their body construction allowed them to take a beating and still recover easily, there was only so much they could've done when their natural predators, always hunting in pairs, would grab them simultaneously from opposite sides and stretch until their bodies were ripped apart. Sometimes the hunters would fail to catch the prey, because they were too busy fighting themselves and cannibalising on each other. The bed of the abyss, reached only by half the probes sent and the other half making their way to the deepest depths only thanks to the advancements in pressure-resisting hull structures engineered while coming up with fuel harvester designs, was covered with strange rocks that were not rocks at all. They were quite bulky and heavy species that evolved their own natural anti-pressure cabins and muscle mass huge enough to allow them to swim up to the "higher levels". They were observed to be dragging other species with their sheer mass down to their domain until the water pressure was too much, collapsing the victim's body into itself. Groaxians observing the recordings of the probes were utterly disgusted. Seas under ice sheets were deemed to be basically a Dark Forest on a micro scale. Some felt no terraforming would help this doomed place, even though the argument was completely irrational and it was the best choice for colonisation in Tizona despite its darkest secrets.

Tizona IV turned out to be a letdown. Upon closer examination, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere was barely noticeable. The pressure was only one tenth of the one on Genesis in the first place, making the brightest stars visible even during solar watch through the sparse air. As if this wasn't enough, water existed only in the form of two small ice sheets near the poles, leaving the surface dead and empty. No traces of life have been discovered. There was no organism in the entire universe to settle down on it naturally. Despite being closer to the sun, it was also much colder, not having a thick atmosphere to contain at least some heat. No Groaxian could ever live in such low temperatures.

Next planet to be explored was Tizona III, with still low pressure and amount of oxygen, but obviously much higher than on Tizona IV. And that's where things became interesting. As the fleet closed in, multiple signals were detected, both across the surface and in orbit. This must had been the very opposite of a dead world. It was expected to be an Umbara colony, but the signals from orbit didn't really match what was known about Umbara at all. Instead, a few of them were assigned by scanning algorithms to belong to the second alien civilisation, first encountered in Eckesachs. It wasn't something to be expected. Looking after the mysterious wrecks and Umbara history, a world belonging to the civilisation still vastly unknown and not understood beyond what Dark Forest Theory was suggesting.

Visuals that came in from onboard telescopes were stunning and every member of the mission wanted to set their feet down on the surface, but it was a possibly hostile world, so observing from distance was the only way. The planet seemed to be bustling with life, sentient and not sentient alike, as if it was inviting Groaxians to be explored. Groaxians hanged around for a while. It didn't take long to take notice of two fleets arriving into the system and a total of three leaving towards the unknown. Explorers wanted to believe they can't be seen from the range they had been occupying, but the problem was that even if they were detected, unless the aliens wanted to open communication, there was no way to tell after such a short period. The situation got much more complicated and stressful when space began to bend in strange ways not too far away from Groaxian temporary position. It was too late to get away before space straightened up again and alien starships, one by one, flashed in front of the onboard radars as their interstellar propulsion was switching off. If there had been any detection-related doubts before, in a time span covering a few deep breaths they were all clarified. The aliens knew. And they probably knew that Groaxians knew that they knew, too. Cybersoul mainframes autmoatically switched scanning mode to full spectrum and soon the logs were overflown by a sheer amount of bizarre signs. Before leaving Qi, xenolinguists still struggled with translating them, so there was no way to tell what it meant and given the proximity of their world it couldn't even be said whether Groaxians were the expected addressees of the messages. Soon one of the ships involved in the encounter fired a gravitational blast, demonstrating its capabilities to be based on the same concept as Groaxian gravitational weapons. Why only one of them fired was an interesting question. Especially given the waves were too weak to threaten the integrity of well-armored Baernoloths. What was even stranger was that a blink of an eye later they fired once again, this time leaving a more visible impact on the fabric of space, messing up with the former wave they'd sent. A warning was the simplest explanation, but Dark Forest Theory left no places for such concepts. Whatever the case might be, Groaxians had no time to think about it anymore, busy with engaging Curvature Propulsion Systems and getting the hell out of the danger zone. They might have failed their mission, but they still found something disturbing that required an immediate report.

The scope of the problem was beyond their expectations when several hibernation cycles later they emerged in Qi only to instantly detect several alien fleets positioned around key locations in the outskirts of the system, effectively making leaving it without having to come too close to them quite challenging. They rushed towards Genesis, freaking out about suddenly getting killed, but for some strange reason the fleets didn't move much and there were no signs of a battle going on, not really signs of Groaxians preparing to intercept the intruders. They still remained puzzled when they learnt Conglomerate Defense Fleet was defending Conglomerate that time quite directly by escorting several members into orbit of Genesis to arrange a meeting in space as to not waste time for planetary landing. Whatever had been going on when crews serving on Baernoloths were in deep space, must had scared everyone to death given nobody involved in arranging the emergency orbital meeting was seen in good health and shape. Even standard Mind Synergy Ceremony got skipped in favour of exchanging information ASAP. Still shocked from all the mess going on, explorers had barely managed to share their reports, all sensor logs and claim that their mission had failed, because none of the systems they'd visited contained anything related to the origins of Umbara, finishing with their observations on the Umbara inactivity and the discovery of a large alien-inhabited world on Tizona III.

They expected everything except the Conglomerate thanking them for excellent service and surpassing what was expected from them. Nobody before had been thanked so much for a failed mission, but at this point none of the arriving crewmembers was able to get more confused. Eventually this confusion started to be replaced with rising sense of dread and primeval fear when Conglomerate officials started explaining all the events surrounding the Endpoint War. Messages intercepted in Tizona were quickly translated. It was yet another warning. Why Tempestsaurs had issued yet another warning, as if giving a second chance, was strange, but only for the explorers who had missed several hibernation cycles. Tizona was only 11 hibernation cycles away from Qi. Broadcasting Qi coordinates was a very risky endeavour. It was likely both stars would get exposed. Sending coordinates directly from Qi was reducing the risk, but it was still there. Dark Forest Lords were very likely to think that another civilisation was involved beyond the one they were about to destroy and start searching for the senders as well. And discovering traces of interstellar flights between Qi and Tizona was possible. Or they could just annihilate Qi together with all nearby systems "just to be sure". As such, fulfilling the threat was suicidal for Tempestsaurs. As a consequence, exactly suicidal was fulfilling a counter-threat from the Groaxian side.

Before the emergency orbital meeting has come to an end, communication endpoints on Genesis detected incoming messages. Tempestsaurs Of Achernar wanted to talk. The historical moment of first proper conversation with an alien race was about to begin, but the circumstances were far from the ones Groaxians dreamed about when looking at the night sky. Soon Tempestsaurs Of Achernar introduced themselves. Their tone appeared as non-hostile, but it was just an illusion.

Tempestsaurs Of Achernar: We see you're smart... Had no way of checking if there are any ships of yours somewhere out there and you played your assets well and efficient... For a while we really believed Umbara tried one last desperate assault or something. Go ahead. Share your findings with Dark Forest.

Groaxian Conglomerate: We know how this goes. Can we get past the classic "i pretend I don't care" stage and discuss what really matters?

T: We really don't care. The goal of our species is not survival. No individual can live forever, no civilisation as a whole can either. Everything comes to an end. Even time.

G: Then why were you so hesitant about broadcasting? Why all this? Why not just simply fire and forget?

T: We weren't sure whether to push the button or not, that's correct. But it was not because of the suicidal nature of this move. It's because we are afraid of things currently beyond your understanding.

G: What are those things?

T: The universe as we know it it's on its way to collapse if things continue this way. And that's a good thing. The cycle will be complete, although everything that happened and existed through it will be permanently lost, but a new one will begin. But if not for effort of us and countless other civilisations, the universe would have expanded indefinitely, eventually dying out from entropy increase and reaching a state when nothing besides free-roaming photons in an eternal darkness exist.

G: We understand the possible outcomes of the universe's timeline coming to an end. Collapse and rebirth or entropy death are both valid theories. But what does it have to do with two photonic missiles, one for Qi and the other for Tizona?

T: Photonic missiles... Such primitive, savage technology would be too unfortunate and indeed would make this broadcast go to waste. But currently in our galaxy there are entities with far more advanced devices and we expect it is likely those would be used instead.

G: What are you talking about?

T: Ever wondered about the black holes suddenly appearing all over the place? Stars collapsing even if they were nowhere near massive or small in diameter to do so? You don't think it's a natural phenomena, do you? You've mastered Curvature Propulsion and soulgrain mechanics, you are not that stupid.

G: What do you suggest? Dark Forest Lords? How?

T: Oh yes, yes indeed. We don't know how. We're too primitive hence need to rely on coordinates broadcasts. If we knew how to do it, we would generate a nice black hole in the center of Qi and Mimung ourselves without making an appearance.

G: Still haven't answered as to why you haven't pushed the button yet.

T: We try to maintain equilibrium... From what we know about your civilisation, that should be very easy for you to grasp. Call advanced civilisations too many times over too small area and the additional black holes will be useless in the grand scheme of things while wiping out too many races that might start to send their own broadcasts as they spread. That's why we can't overdo it. Also if we die together with you, we won't help this universe anymore. Can't get us killed too soon. But the time is indeed coming to an end it seems, so might as well do that right now.

G: That's insane. That's not what equilibrium means. That's pure evil and destruction.

T: Maybe for you. But we see things differently. And we want you to understand, too. If things continue the way we wish, in a relatively short time cosmic-wise everything will collapse into one giant supermassive black holes, first galaxy-wise but then such strong gravity will pull the galaxies closer and closer, entire clusters of them, until it all collapses into one soulgrain singularity. This singularity will explode, though, giving birth to a new universe and a new cycle will repeat. The current one got started in the exact same way. The way the fabric of space behaves... It's all a proof everything had been sucked into a black hole at some point, until it began to spread again.

G: How can we believe this is not all a game of yours? You don't seem too confident in the outcome of the battle of Qi shall one be fought, so you try to break us down the other way?

T: You seem to think Dark Forest is evil... On an individual level it might be, but it's what allowed you to exist in the first place. Precursors weren't first, they were first just in this particular cycle. Countless of cycles of erasing everything with black holes is what kept the universe from dying out. The biggest fear is not Dark Forest - it's that eventually an anomaly will occur, with the civilisations somehow not applying the sacred rules that bound the matter together, sentencing the universe to entropy death. Dark Forest is what got us all this far. Your beautiful civilisation was able to rise only because of it. Embrace it. It's everywhere, even on your homeworld, even in your genes, because you were all born from it. Dark Forest is not a force of destruction: it's a force of balance.

No fleet would make it in time. Soon readings confirmed the gravitational waves carrying Qi coordinates were spreading at the speed of light across the universe in every direction. Before Conglomerate recovered from initial trance, all alien ships warped out of the system. Blockade has been relieved and space was peaceful once again. There were no traces of anything ever happening there except from the countless logs recorded. Conglomerate wasn't willing to believe the intruders, but them actually pushing the button and then simply leaving was a worrying sign. But wasn't it all a bluff? There was no way to make sure Tempestsaurs hadn't colonised space somewhere else, somewhere safe from the imminent attack. Sacrificing one colony was well worth destroying their enemy from their point of view, especially they might as well evacuate it to minimise losses, maybe even completely neutralise them shall they have enough time and lose only the system itself, but nothing of what belonged to them. That was a simple explanation, and simple explanations were often true.

Despite different opinions on the topic, Conglomerate came to a conclusion no significant strategic or tactical error have been made as every military action Groaxians might had attempted would face same response, which was especially clear after the button had finally been pushed. Explorers were the only chance and they did their job as good as they possibly could. Once they returned, no military fleet would make it in time to destroy each of the alien squadrons before at least one ship would be able to do the deed. But if Groaxians were on losing position since the beginning and had no way to prevent what had just happened, why would the aliens bother with all their show. That was not quick, silent and economical, something every Dark Forest Strike should strive to achieve. A worrying sign was also the fact that the theory about the universe being a product of all matter being sucked into a black hole at some point accompanied Groaxians ever since first among them had left Genesis as it was encrypted in a monolith among other early human theories about the nature of the universe. All in all, whether it was all a mystification or not, "Dark Forest is not a force of destruction: it's a force of balance" played on repeat in the minds of Conglomerate and circulated quickly via Transcendent Speech across larger and larger groups.

With entire civilisation now officially on a timer, Project Ascension was the only hope left. Before retirement, Conglomerate passed one last declaration, mobilising both the army and civilian population to focus on preparing for retaking the Precursor complex from the apparently severely weakened Umbara. Combining the findings of the Ancients with knowledge stored in a monolith seemed to be the key to completing the project, or at least so did soulseekers studying the monolith believe.

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Re: Time's End - Brave New World
« Reply #36 on: June 04, 2021, 05:35:26 PM »

3436-3441 AM hibernation cycles

Quick medical examination confirmed all members of the Conglomerate had at least a mild case of Dark Forest Disease. When last of them had been placed in an emergency hibernation, a new one had to be elected, from younger generation to ensure long-lasting and unobstructed leadership to guide Groaxians through the cosmic fires of Dark Forest, all the way into Ascension.

An official election had to be announced, with the closest advisers of former Conglomerate responsible for smooth organisation and having decisive vote themselves, but every citizen being welcome to participate in the discussion that was a mandatory step preceding the final vote, moreover, with every citizen being allowed to candidate provided they could pass intelligence test to prove their capacity to take the lead. Within thirty solar watches, a list of candidates have been completed and published for everyone interested to take a look.

Chi'Shosujaj, Clan of Arkaits, Mental Cooling Squad officer

Chi'Shosujaj expressing tranquillity that overshadowed the sky behind him with purple after awakening from hibernation, 3495 AM

Chi'Shosujaj, born in Thoania Rift in 3382 AM hibernation cycles, was one of the older candidates, but still having yet to reach the middle cycle of his life. Having received solid education from the finest soulseekers, he seemed to grasp more than others. His complicated spawning process, involving a total of two genetic fixes from a middleman on Yatune, hadn't set him back, in fact it was the key trait that allowed him to succeed. He was a prime example of Groaxian nature, always hibernating and waking up on time, constantly in love with the precisely balanced ecosystem of Genesis, his mind strong and untainted by the horrors of Dark Forest. From his first solar watches his parents knew he was gifted, but that did not make him arrogant. He was always there to help others when periods of instability would strike or when someone's brain temperature got a bit too high. But thanks to the essence he got from middleman on Yatune after a bunch of his genes requiring a fix, he was also capable to grasp the nature of war as well as he was able to understand the culture and history of his species. Such rare and perfect combination of knowledge of war and peace merged in one soul is what made him remain calm during Operation QiSet as the Lensia he served on was falling apart under heavy Umbara fire, saving a lot of his colleagues not only from death as they rushed for escape pods, but more importantly from insanity, spreading his calm posture via Transcendent Speech. After the battle he received a direct proposition from the Conglomerate itself to oversee Mental Cooling Squads protecting citizens on Yatune as his talent was better spent on preserving Groaxian nature than to have him risk his life too much. That he was always ready to fight is what allowed him to resolve most of the interventions he was personally involved with peacefully, because he used the knowledge of Groaxian violent essence to his advantage. His candidature was seen by many as a chance for Groaxians to take only truly unavoidable battles to come while leading the race towards restoration of the shattered minds and restoring the balance as it was before Groaxians were aware of Dark Forest.

Ghu'Zhasovix, Clan of Caaneik, soulseeker

Ghu'Zhasovix carefully gazing at the monolith and talking with its creators via Transcendent Speech, shining dark purple from the light emitted, 3420 AM

Ghu'Zhasovix, born in 3400 AM hibernation cycle, started his career as a scientist working on improving the Curvature Propulsion System, inspired and encouraged by the discovery of a the Crack, trying to make FTL travel possible beyond that region of space. Having failed that, later in life he took a path more akin to a soulseeker, having excelled at wielding Transcendent Speech, he was redirected to work with monolith, focusing on understanding the Human nature and the way of thinking of that ancient civilisation. His collaborators often mentioned he was so invested in this job he really began to think like a human even during his free time. However, despite the blood-drenched history of this civilisation, he managed to only take the best aspects of this race, namely scientific curiosity, eagerness to explore and will to cooperate and help each other. When he signed up for the Conglomerate election, his supporters claimed he will be invaluable asset at uncovering the path to Ascension, wisely guiding researchers through the arcane of sometimes irrational human mind, showing which parts to focus on the most and in what order to yield best results.

Zu'Zhuchuziv, Clan of Thrustrax, Human Space Fleet admiral

Zu'Zhuchuziv in a cybersoul reactive combat suit painted in expressions calling for battle on board of a Pike, 3431 AM

Soon after spawn in 3411 AM hibernation cycle in the rising colony on Sodara, the middleman enlisted for fuel shiponing in Iether, fascinated by the wonder of a planet without surface. Unfortunate enough to participate in beginning of an Endpoint War, but showed great degree of steel nerves and cool mind as the ship the middleman was assigned on descended deeper and deeper into the clouds to face the unknown. But such expousure after barely arriving in this universe hadn't come without any consequences. This experience resulted in leaving Mimung and moving in to Yatune to cooperate with other middlemen in their experiments on cybersoul-based internal implants and genetic modifications, despite the latter still being forbidden to leave the lab and reach the general public. Overall it didn't take long before Dark Forest Disease was diagnosed as the middleman expressed more combative approach that average Groaxian. Calling for the Groaxians to rise and stand up to Dark Forest, killing or be killed, initially couldn't gain much support, but the fierce warrior spirit boiling inside is what made the middleman advance through the ranks up to the rank of a fleet admiral. However, with such attitude and opinions Conglomerate Defense Fleet was off limits. Instead, Zu'Zhuchuziv had been taken care of by soulseekers responsible for teaching the human way, thus directing the violent side into something more tame and structured, ultimately leaving to the middleman taking the lead of Human Space Fleet. More conservative Groaxians refused to give support for this candidate, but it was also pointed out that times were more difficult than ever and with Groaxians on an extinction timer someone not afraid of pulling the trigger was a sad but neccessary addition to the highest level of command.

Lhu'Zhothamum, Clan of Nihmu, explorer

Lhu'Zhothamum in front of her personal orbital shuttle visiting half-terraformed Sodara before heading out into deep space, 3420 AM

Ever since she was born in 3390 AM hibernation cycle, she looked at the cosmic watch sky wondering what's out there, set on following the path of an interstellar explorer. Focused and practically approaching every challenge thrown at her, she quickly caught attention of more experienced space pioneers and was allowed to take part in the memorable expedition that discovered the Crack. Her expertise was of great value in figuring out that Groaxians indeed travelled faster than light for the first time in history back then. She surveyed lots of alien worlds during her career, wisely using soulgrain mechanics-based evolutionary emulators to determine past and future of the ecosystems visited alike. Having seen so many planets, she saw more clear than others than the nature of Groaxians, albeit beautiful, is sub-optimal, to put it euphemistically, at surviving the Dark Forest and wished more would see why evolution and change shall never end - just because Groaxian nature was the way it was at a time did not mean it was never to change, to evolve into something better, to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances, to continue existence despite challenges thrown by Dark Forest. Most of her supporters lived on Yatune or in Mimung, but even on Genesis she became quite popular. On the one hand she openly admitted to wanting to change some fundamental parts of Groaxian nature via genetic modifications, but on the other hand her idea was less about making the race more combat-oriented, but rather to allow them to handle Dark Forest in a way that would ensure Groaxians came out of this as unscratched as possible, with modifications allowing breeding of a new kind, one immune to the Dark Forest Disease and requiring more mental beating to be thrown out of balance, ultimately reducing the overagressiveness of certain groups and clans and building a more stable society despite unstable era.

Cho'Shuvewus, Clan of Qakrons, hunter

Cho'Zhuvewus traversing ice in Ez'uts in search of a prey near the end of hibernation cycle, attempting to claim one more trophy before hibernating, 3421 AM

Cho'Shuvewus spawned in the Ez'uts Fields region in 3417 AM hibernation cycle and spent all her life hunting rare, valuable animals for food, the ones that were deemed too pure for anyone to attempt to tame and breed them artificially. While it sounds like a simple job, it required lots of expertise as to carefully select targets, time period, frequency and check tons of other circumstances before pulling the trigger as to not damage the fragile balance of Ez'uts ecosystem. Spending solar and cosmic watches all alone with her ancient kinetic rifle out there among nature, she possessed an unique bond between the civilisation built by Groaxians and the biosphere evolved on Genesis. She felt she understood what the hapless race in turmoil needed to get back to how things were before, while her hunting experience was something her supporters advertised as a great strength: soulseekers hoped her hunting knowledge could be extrapolated to the Dark Forest Theory and understanding of the prey-predator relationship between two civilisations, especially from the hunter's perspective which could help gain insight into the ways the ones who attack think and act. Her lack of interest in politics was worrying, but at the same time if she played that trait of her well she could be used as a mediator when lack of united voice would interrupt Conglomerate's work.

Ghu'Shositigh, Clan of Fizers, Conglomerate advisor

Ghu'Shositigh on his way to the Conglomerate meeting regarding sending a message to explorers during Endpoint War, 3417 AM

Ghu'Shositigh sacrificed his right to vote in the incoming election in favour of candidating himself. Ever since his spawn in 3397 AM he'd been actively participating in many public discussions and his smartness unlocked the career of a Conglomerate advisor in front of him. He strongly opposed any changes to Groaxian nature, but he was the last one to be ignorant of the challenges thrown at the entire civilisation at the same time. Spending a lot of time with soulseekers discussing the nature of societal processes and changes undergoing in Groaxian society and even studying medicine for some time and the correlation between soul and biology, he was well-informed about the harmful effects Dark Forest had on the species he wanted to represent from a scientific side. At the same time he was educated enough to be aware of how accurate Dark Forest Theory is, but instead of falling into despair retained enough willpower to continue his push towards saving the values and tradition of Groaxians regardless of the odds, treating as an enemy not any particular alien race, but rather Dark Forest Theory itself, with Project Ascension being the best weapon to be used in this war.

Xi'Watipath, Clan of Kondrin, Tempestsaur

Xi'Watipath analysing mental map of a patient involved in a negative Mental Synergy, 3406 AM

Her career couldn't be more typical to other Tempestsaurs - after throwing out enough useful ideas during Clan-wide conferences she eventually earned the title of a Clan Master in 3399 AM hibernation cycle, only 14 hibernation cycles after her spawn. She was especially gifted at handling complex Mental Synergies, when a bunch of Groaxians had their brains overheat, but even after resolving the conflict, negative thoughts would continue to circulate among them because a negative feedback loop had been established via Transcendent Speech, not allowing any of them to drop these thoughts because they were constantly receiving them from the others, like bullets ricocheting in a metal room. To untangle such situation without causing harm to the Groaxians involved required a lot of time, patience, mental strength, but most importantly extreme faith in everyone involved and someone who could reliably do so without much trouble has always been a perfect candidate for a Tempestsaur. Medics had diagnosed her with something that, out of better terms, has been named as "internal feedback loop condition" and was truly bizarre. Basically her brain operated in a way that made her experience Mental Synergy with herself all the time which is why she felt so comfortable interacting with the others experiencing the same. As if that wasn't enough for her to become quite popular during the incoming election, her observation skills were exceeding the ones of an average female, making her one of the most perceptive Tempestsaurs in history, hardly missing the truth and key points of a problem in her judgements and actions. The gap between her skills in that regard and the ones of other females was almost as big as the gap between observing ability of an average male and female. As a member of the Conglomerate, she hoped to be able to leverage her skills to "untangle the problems persisting in the modern society".

Wo'Bepexut, Clan of Thraar'iels, astronomer

Wo'Bepexut in front of her favourite stars during a cosmic watch, 3413 AM

Following a typical female career as an astronomer since 3401 AM hibernation cycle when she had spawned on genesian ground, there was nothing about her that suggested she might even be interested in candidating, having her observation skills best used in her field of choice. However, after other candidates have been announced, she felt that in such shape the Conglomerate would lack required expertise from a purely astronomical standpoint. Dark Forest Theory originated from certain facts about the universe, after all, so having someone contribute to the research revolving around it was a valuable addition if Conglomerate's decision was to be made on the basis of analysing the situation from all possible points of view. In her opinion, understanding the scientific foundation for Dark Forest Theory or the actions of Achernar in regards to contributing to having the universe collapse back into soulgrain singularity was the key to fight it and to adapt to the universe.

We'Duhadaz, Clan of Zeere, artist

Artistic vision of We'Duhadaz and a human being watching ground-constructed space station being raised above Earth's sky, 3393 AM

Born in 3383 AM hibernation cycle, We'Duhadaz started his life by becoming a soulseeker dedicated to finding out possible common traits between Groaxians and Humanity. His research had yielded less results that he wanted, though, and as a result he followed a different path - he wanted to express his feelings towards Humanity via art. At first glance his works might appear monotonous, always portraying a Groaxian and a human together on planet Earth the way he imagined it, but after taking at least a few moments to watch them one was able to see the uniqueness of each piece. In his art style inspiration by human culture was omnipresent, with paintings and picture compositions taking the same form as the ones made by humans. He justified his candidature by pointing out that it all started with Humanity sharing their gift and entire civilisation being founded on that, hence Conglomerate needing someone capable of thinking about Humanity in a way that'd allow for a smooth first contact. This approach was highly controversial, though, because meeting humans was a far-fetched goal no Groaxian had an idea how to tackle and art alone wasn't enough to figure it out. On top of that many assumed that shall the Humanity finally reveal itself, extreme cautious will be required because their motives behind not destroying Groaxians weren't understood and the universe was a Dark Forest. From the other perspective, an addition of an artist could introduce frequent positive Mental Synergies during meetings, increasing the odds of Conglomerate not doing anything against the nature of the race unless absolutely necessary.

Pa'Voxihik, Clan of Krovrans, Conglomerate Guardian

Pa'Voxihik on the way for the training session in Qusmont underground facility, 3422 AM

Spawned on Sedara and joining Conglomerate Guard stationed there in 3419 AM, Pa'Voxihik was just an ordinary soldier, albeit showing a great degree of understanding when it came to both modern tactics and the history of Groaxian warfare. Despite never seeing combat, the middleman excelled at simulations and officers were proud of him, believing the middleman would perform well in any battle to come. What was worrying is that Dark Forest Disease was affecting the ambitious soldier, but Pa'Voxihik had refused to retire, claiming likely being lost already personally, but it's a sacrifice young middleman was willing to make to ensure others can continue to thrive and enjoy the wonders erected by the perfectly balanced civilisation. Pa'Voxihik had his own vision about direction Groaxians should turn into. The proposed "lost generation strategy" was about pushing for establishing an army of volunteers willing to undergo drastic training and nature overriding to carry out what was necessary so that after this generation passes away no Groaxian would have to undergo through such traumatic experiences ever again. In some way this proposition resembled Declaration of Human Rights taken to the extreme and probably that's the sole reason the middleman gained the amount of support gained.

It came as quite surprising that out of well over two billion Groaxians alive, only ten were interested in taking the role of a Conglomerate member, but on the other hand the responsibility was much higher and situation way more challenging than back in the day Conglomerate was proclaimed. Advisers responsible for casting votes had mixed feelings about the election. Perhaps their responsibility was in some way even greater than the one of the leaders to come, because depending who would end up being selected, Groaxian civilisation might take radically different turns and shift its character to pursue vastly different ideas, possibly venturing into dangerous territory of militarism as well. On the contrary to these worries, a large portion of population expressed hope that the new Conglomerate, whoever might become a part of it, will carry the weight and save Groaxians from Dark Forest, guiding them towards Ascension before the timer ticks down to zero and unavoidable Dark Forest Strike comes.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2021, 05:37:31 PM by Stormtrooper »
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Re: Time's End - COVID-19
« Reply #37 on: June 09, 2021, 05:44:11 PM »

Everyone important was preparing everything for the first few discussions preceeding the Conglomerate election, trying to hurry as to not waste any solar watch because time was so precious after the deadly broadcast. But there was only so much that could be done when one of the advisors, closely monitoring development of space forces and one of the Declaration of Human Rights supporters, showed first symptoms of Dark Forest Disease. Technically he was still capable of voting, but concerns were raised as to whether his vote would reflect his true soul instead of being affected by rapidly deteriorating health. So far it was already a well-established practice that the ones affected would end up retired, on the other hand the moment was critical. Questions as to whether breaking the balance by introduction of retirement was a good thing, even if getting sick was also of same consequences, were asked again. And despite best efforts, doctors still lacked an effective treatment, even after so many hibernation cycles worth of research. The single case wouldn't probably influence that much, but when within ten solar watches another three advisors started having trouble with talking, breathing and digesting and repeatedly lost focus during meditation, something needed to be done. Before anything constructive has been brought up, though, several more advisors as well as a few other Groaxians directly cooperating with Conglomerate felt sick.

On top of being seriously worrying, it was also beyond the comprehension of medical personnel. So many Dark Forest Disease cases popping up at once in short time frame in the past had always been linked with one particular tragic event, for example an entire crew falling sick after being fired upon, but this time there wasn't anything like that. Sure, the broadcast could be described as such event, but it wasn't something affecting precisely the Conglomerate and whoever it was collaborating with, being a more global, and as such distributed, problem. Dark Forest Disease was not infectious, having a purely psychological background, but that statement was put into question when most of the advisors were already sick. Everything was thrown off the balance, making election impossible. Some experts demanded the Conglomerate members to be awakened, but being ill themselves, their capability of taking the lead before the election crisis would be resolved was questionable at best and would likely not end up better than ill advisors selecting new Conglomerate before their health would deteriorate further.

As these pending topics were discussed, Dark Forest Disease started manifesting in a larger groups of population. It spared no one, soulseekers, scientists, engineers, technicians, industrial workforce, mental cooling squads, doctors, explorers, terraformers... Unlike in all previous cases before, there was no pattern. Nobody could predict anymore who will be next. Industry and services on Genesis started experiencing slowdown as solar watches went by and balance, already disturbed by the events of the last hundred hibernation cycles, took a beating. The end of 3439 AM hibernation cycle was nigh and everyone feared incoming hibernation. Relatively few cases were manageable, but large portions of society at large not being able to hibernate properly could have apocalyptic consequences. With no more time to waste, sick advisors changed the election rules, hoping to not only elect strong leaders, but also restore order at the same time. All candidates had one task to fulfill: end the rapid spread of a Dark Forest Disease and preserve the societal structure. It was expected that how each candidate approaches the crisis would also determine the kind of decisions likely to be made in the future. Microelectronic cybersoul readers prepared a complex set of simulation tools serving the purpose of extrapolating approaches made by the candidates to a new set of problems, likely the ones they'd face as Conglomerate officials. After a few more controversies, Conglomerate members were awakened with the sole goal of overseeing the candidates to control their power.

Zu'Zhuchuziv was the first one to come up with a plan. The middleman reminded about one of the experiments conducted in Qusmont labs. technology for rapid tissue expansion and cybersoul-based machines for shaping it into any organical form desired were widely used in medicine to heal wounds or replace corrupted organs, capable of even completely replacing all of them in case of advanced stages of most severe diseases. But that was just a mere entry point to more advanced cases. Bioengineers working with this technology predicted it was capable of doing much more, for example regenerating whatever part of a brain required replacement. The research on this part was mostly theoretical, though, with a few of experiments with animals here and there. Groaxian applications were strictly prohibited by Conglomerate. The plan of the candidate was nothing more but to continue the suspended project and replace damaged parts of the brain with a new tissue. This posed a significant challenge as to not override any personality trait, but at the same time with the way Groaxian brains worked, in theory one part could be replaced freely as the remaining nodes, spread across whole body, would easily handle the workload. The one crucial thing that wasn't clear was how the brain would react after the transplant. Cutting out a part of it was perfectly safe and at worst would only make the patient think a bit slower or remember a bit less, but what would happen after insertion of the replacement was a mystery. In theory patient's soul should flood it with own stream of consciousness, but purely theoretical risk involved it starting to "think on its own", forcing its "mind" onto the patient. After a few of emergency meetings Conglomerate finally approved a next set of experiments. Its focus was to grow replacement brain parts that hypothetically could be used to restore sanity of the affected and later attempt to communicate with them via Transcendent Speech, first tried by healthy Groaxians, then by the sick ones. Further approval or disapproval of this approach dependent on the results.

As labs on Yatune were reactivated with full power, Xi'Watipath decided to tackle "the biggest challenge in her career". She believed the rapid and sudden, infectious spread of the well-known disease was possibly some kind of Mental Synergy originating from exhausted members of the old Conglomerate and took the burden to slowly untangle it. Cooperation with experts on the matter actually led to a first breakthrough - it was indeed a Mental Synergy. To further add to it, it was possible to happen at any moment and with the complex network of Transcendent Speech connecting entire society it was just a matter of time. Maybe that would even be enough to resolve the crisis, except Xi'Watipath was only able to untangle local outbursts of "Dark Forest Nodes" how the clusters of sick patients became referred to, but it was not possible to restore Groaxians back to a healthy state. This still would have been enough to at least stop the spread and buy time, but all Tempestsaurs united weren't fast enough to prevent new cases from popping up.

The research was not wasted, though, as it became confirmed that Dark Forest Disease has been spreading like a pathogen and quarantine orders could be set in place. Pa'Voxihik and Chi'Shosujaj took the lead in this complex task. Unlike with typical infectious diseases, simply isolating the cases physically was nowhere near enough. Patients had to be cut off from the Transcendent Speech network. Quarantine this harsh was expected to severely impact all areas of work, not allowing teams to collaborate with each other, plunging Genesis further into chaos. Pa'Voxihik took a more radical approach, demanding a total lockdown of affected areas whatever the cost, meanwhile Chi'Shosujaj preferred a more "modular" approach. The plan of the latter was based on the advantage Groaxians had from the fact that Dark Forest Disease, being of purely mental origin, had no incubation period. Because of that, each group of Groaxians directly communicating with each other was assigned a Tempestsaur who would immediately get to untangling shall someone from the monitored group get sick while everyone was supposed to be quarantined unless confirmed there are no new cases and everyone is safe to get back to daily life. This plan had one significant drawback, though - there was not enough Tempestsaurs to handle entire population and thus groups needed to be prioritised based on their latest activity within the network and risk of coming into contact with someone already infected.

Having isolated himself from all the mess going around, Ghu'Zhasovix decided to study the monolith in peace and the history of the ancient civilisation who left it on Genesis. He understood it all happened before. Once upon a time Humanity faced a deadly plague. Not for the first time, and apparently not for the last (though the pace of progress in medicine afterwards made that particular one the last truly devastating pandemic), but that one was special. It spread across the Earth back when fancy biotechnologies were still a dream and science fiction for Humanity, turning most of them into horrible abominations devoid of what they once were. Most of the population was killed and a new government rose, taking the lead and uniting all survivors. Shortly afterwards a new era began. Humanity had no limits in experimenting with cybersoul-based body implants, genetic modifications and sophisticated mind-reading and mind-control. While for Groaxians feeling each other's thoughts was natural, for Humanity, emphasising the importance of a personal freedom (or rather an illusion of it), concept still widely misunderstood among Groaxian society and likely conflicting with balance, it wasn't something trivial.

Ghu'Zhasovix tried to understand the consequences it had for humans and later try to translate it to Groaxian society, attempting to predict how the crisis would impact it. Especially given the plan with growing synthetic brain parts and replacing the ones with tainted toughts with them looked somewhat similar to the side effect of human battle against COVID-19. He believed that so far nobody really tried to answer this question and because of that implementing any of the presented solutions was too risky without additional research. He came to unique conclusions: dawn of bioengineering and transhumanism on Earth was strictly correlated with Humanity coming close together and giving up on internal wars for a good while. As some remote association, it might be compared to the intended balance of Groaxian society in ideal state. Ironically, in case of humans, all the things many feared would threaten the balance even further, for humans seemed to have a different outcome, at least short term. Obviously it was not a solid argument given the fundamental differences on a biological and neural level, affecting everything from the simplest tasks to the thinking processes and perception of time, but it was still a hint of some sort.

Lhu'Zhothamum quickly picked up on Ghu'Zhasovix's work. COVID-19 on Earth was a kind of crisis that precisely took away the nature of infected humans, turning them into mindless, overaggressive even for human standards, restlessly-wandering, raw flesh-eating cannibals. Since the pathogen wasn't neccessairly killing, but instead often turning humans into monsters devoid of any values shared among this race, it was a good comparsion to be made with Dark Forest Disease, similarily affecting the nature of a patient in a negative way. And it was the change, the constant evolution that allowed Humanity to prevail. After the pandemic they evolved into something different, achieved a society never seen before on their homeworld. Implementing it on Genesis obviously sounded like a horrible idea, but at the same time one important detail was worth of noticing: human nature remained mostly intact. It was only later that it was changed in some cases, with abusing Transcendent Speech and ideas like Project Amazons. But Groaxians were rather safe from this particular threat, because with Transcendent Speech being natural the risk of doing something against the nature while tinkering with it was low.

Resurrected research on Yatune yielded first promising results. Grown brain tissue was devoid of any thoughts. It was possible to use Transcendent Speech to communicate with it, effectively using it as a remote-controlled device or data storage of some sort, but on its own it was worthless. Groaxians who connected with these artificial parts of brains reported no feelings of discomfort whatsoever and psychological evaluation didn't show any changes in personality. However, that was just the beginning, a mere proof of concept. Meanwhile Dark Forest Disease was spreading, Tempestsaurs were overwhelmed with new cases popping every solar watch and a hibernation cycle was about to end. And big trouble about to start. As the entire ecosystem on Genesis was falling asleep and coming to a halt, preparing to regenerate at the beginning of next cycle, ill Groaxians could not hibernate properly. They entered a werid state, on the one hand not being able to rest, on the other not being able to work anymore as their bodies were too worn out to carry them anymore. There was not enough medics to take care of these patients and help them overcome their difficulties. The period of rapid atmospheric pressure changes and methane level fluctuations was about to begin. Temperatures were falling down far beyond comfort zones.

Amid the panic caused by the first time in history a large portion of society faced trouble with hibernation, Cho'Shuvewus stepped in. Her survival expertise gained during countless hunting trips, sometimes really pushing at the edge of what was considered a safety deadline for hibernating to catch rare prey, was what made her feel she would be able to lead the restless masses through this troubled period on Genesis. She concentrated on building a set of heated encampments with regulated methane intake from outside air to survive the worst climate conditions, basically an improvised version of space habitats like the ones protecting from the toxic environment of Yatune. But simply surviving the brutal climate of the planet at this period was nowhere near enough to ensure affected Groaxians won't face severe health problems, lower productivity and shortened lifespan in the future.

Si'Gitithus, overseer of one of the encampments for the sick to survive the final act of a hibernation cycle, checking the methane concentration in the air

Simultaneously Wo'Bepexut (as always) turned her head towards the stars and decided to temporarily evacuate as many Groaxians as possible into space, to give them chance at well-prepared for hibernation-related troubles spaceships and space stations. Quarantine in such case was easy to do and very effective: load Groaxians on board, fly away far enough to prevent any Transcendent Speech communication and if nobody was sick at that point, another batch of Groaxians was considered successfully evacuated. The capacity of space infrastructures or evacuation to Yatune and Sodara was far from enough, but at least it allowed to face a problem already reduced in scope.

To further help the sleepless population, old Conglomerate agreed to increase the usage of cybersoul-based autonomous machines. So far it was hesitant of introducing too many of them into the industry as to not break the balance, but at that stage it was a necessity to compensate for the lowered productivity. It felt surrealistic: dead machines working solar and cosmic watch among deserted cities and factories while ice storms strike against them and with many Groaxians fighting in heated encampments to finally hibernate and sleep well till a new cycle begins. Despite everyone's best efforts and all the progress made, the pandemic of Dark Forest Disease was about to change Genesis forever. With balance completely thrown out of the window by the unfortunate chain of events, Groaxians overseeing the global battle knew the civilisation was taking a turn into the unknown. To adapt to the new reality while preserving the original values and eventually rebuild the balance was a huge task future Conglomerate was to undertake, regardless of who would end up becoming its member.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2021, 11:01:29 AM by Stormtrooper »
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Re: Time's End - The New Order
« Reply #38 on: June 10, 2021, 01:13:29 PM »
Frozen, lifeless wastes of Genesis, with eerie silence interrupted only by the sounds of ice cracking during extreme winds and steady march of precisely engineered machines smelting titanium, steel and plastics and shaping new vehicles, machines, weapons, tools out of them, looked different at the beginning of 3440 AM hibernation cycle. Not only because of the rise of machines on an unprecedenced scale, but also because too many Groaxians were left awake to witness it with their eyes, not only from orbit, but from the surface too. Aaccording to human history, this picture would combine several apocalyptic visions for them. Either cybersoul revolution or permanent winter caused by unleashing too much energy compacted into grains of matter, but the outcome was the same. Their scientists observing Groaxian homeworld from Yatune were amazed how such rich ecosystem can thrive under such violent and radically changing climate. It was not their fault - what for human beings was a definition of apocalypse, for every alive entity originating from Genesis meant a perfect equilibrium of life cycles, the one and only true model of existence.

With the technology at hands, surviving the storms and cold, winds and lack of food sources was no trouble in terms of keeping biological functions in check (at least to the extent Dark Forest Disease and its influences over digestive and breathing systems allowed), but to be awake through such time, too tired to work at the same time, did not treat the minds of the Watchers kindly. Survivors of the deadly conditions of a transition period between hibernation cycles formed their own societies over the course of extra solar watches they had at hands, even though nobody was able to see Qi from the surface through all the frozen clouds forming in the lower parts of atmosphere, later literally crashing down to the surface, raising dust and snow to further fuel the unceasing blizzard. Enough Groaxians became Watchers for a new concept to raise and circulate among them, something not possible to emerge with the amounts of Dark Forest Disease patients from before the pandemic. They were no longer centered around the idea of balance, but instead took the idea of adaptation as their main guiding light. Instead of trying to lay down for sleep, the need to be productive overriden the desire to hibernate. They proclaimed that from now on, they would no longer hibernate, living shorter, but getting more of each hibernation cycle, hoping to get roughly the same awake time as the rest of population. They would work and rest according to regular schedule no matter if it's Qi shining upon clear skies or icebergs raining from above. They would adapt to their lifestyle and eventually build a strong society capable of adapting to Dark Forest as well, ultimately leading the entire population light hibernation cycles away from the area possibly affected by Dark Forest Strike in some uncertain future.

The greatest irony about the entire situation expressed itself in the form of who took the lead of the Watchers. It was Ghu'Shositigh, the very Conglomerate advisor strongly opposing any form of change, let alone something no Groaxian had dreamed of before. Awakened from hibernation by the more skeptic Watchers requesting him to "do something", he faced little opposition when claiming the title of a Piercing Watcher. Interestingly, most Watchers expected the title being given to a female because of the great observation skills leaving males and middlemen far behind, but at the same time it was a clear symbol of adaptation: things were about to change and traditional societal model was no longer considered a valid approach. This symbol was just an additional advantage, as the deciding factor was obviously the enormous konwledge of sociology Ghu'Shositigh was representing.

Things weren't so simple. At his core, Piercing Watcher never rejected his older beliefs. He simply saw what other, more conservative (or rather, in that case, a bit less sick) Watchers did not: that opposing this radical change before things cool down was pointless, and there was a task of surviving till everyone else awakes at hand which was the best short-term goal to be had. Ghu'Shositigh hoped to have as many positive interactions with everybody as possible as to cool down the boiling minds of the Watchers in the long term, possibly allowing them to calmly fall asleep when 3440 AM hibernation cycle would come to an end.

Rest of the society, the healthy ones and the few sick who somehow hibernated for most of the time despite their condition, did not believe what it saw when the temperature rose again and all life returned to the surface from ice pockets. They expected to see their machines turning on all the facilities, preparing them for overtaking by Groaxians employed in them, but instead they saw a thriving society about to start another busy solar watch. The plans to have the patients hibernate all failed. They were quickly introduced to the idea of adaptation and the structure of Watchers, but these concepts were too much to understand. Pandemic was still raging, claiming more and more victims, and as if that wasn't enough, old Conglomerate and candidates for a new one had to face a total revolution happening. Nobody before could reliably predict hypothetical scenarios of a large chunk of population not hibernating, but now everyone had a possibility to directly study the results. Zu'Zhuchuziv requested to start experimenting with the Watchers to verify whether the experiments with brain replacement tissue would work with them too, meanwhile Xi'Watipath wanted to check if the ideals of a new group were something more than good, old, well-understood by her Mental Synergy. Unfortunately, that time it was not. Transcendent Speech had its contribution, but doctors and biologists could only conclude that the changes in psychology and views presented were simply a total mess originating from doing something no Groaxian should ever attempt to do, especially with a large group of other risk-takers.

A breakthrough on Yatune was announced shortly afterwards. Watchers not only were able to use the "spare brain parts" like evryone else, but it also turned out that after having genome sequence enriched with a tiny bit of small modifications to alleviate for missing hibernation, their mental condition was improving while doing so. Ironically, this was exactly what Watcher's ideals were about - as test subjects believed themselves, their adaptation allowed to pave the way towards ending the pandemic. Under the pressure of new cases constantly being detected, old Conglomerate approved moving onto the next stage of experiments. A brave middleman from Qusmont, pretty seriously ill by then, was selected as a first one to undergo the operation. During a complicated operation, every part of the brain showing parts of corruption or taint was cut out. Then the patient was brought to consciousness just to verify everything was fine, and except predicted difficulties with thinking or communicating via Transcendent Speech, everything was within norms, so doctors received the final clearance for the last, most delicate part. A set of new brain parts, carefully shaped to lay perfectly within patient's body, forming the structure as close to the one present before getting infected as possibly, were inserted into their slots and merged with the rest of organism.

And, without anything eventful, the patient woke up and stood up after the operation had been finished. Tension rose across the room and in front of every visualisation screen displaying the live transmission, but nothing seemed to be happening. Then the patient simply walked towards the window, watched Qi shining bright over clear horizon, breathed in fresh methane from the outside and expressed tranquility. "Could the universe really be a Dark Forest" were the first words every Groaxian saw forming around the middleman. The results... They were... too good. After so much time after the discovery of this theory, to have someone question its validity sounded strange at best and worrying survival-wise at worst. Groaxians, put on extinction timer, could not afford to waste it wondering whether the universe really operated the way it operated. But at the same time the outcome was hopeful: it served as a proof that a total reset of Groaxian society was doable. The "lost generation stragety" proposed by Pa'Voxihik was examined in a new light and gained more support than ever. And in the latest version nobody would technically have to end up "lost". Do what needs to be done, evacuate the race to a new home far from Qi and cure the society only after the imminent danger is avoided were the new points raised by many.

Many soulseekers noticed how important the event was - for the first time, Groaxians truly took control of their own nature. Like it had already been proposed from time to time, the best way to fight was to defeat enemy with its own weapon - in this case overcome the corruption of nature by purposefully overriding Groaxians via artificial techniques such as genetic modifications and body replacements, for example. But that gift was not only a gift - it was a dangerous weapon as well. It was possible to completely purge the Dark Forest influence and restore the balance, but it was just a matter of a few experiments to likely do the opposite. This had proven to be a significant existential issue, because the achieved consensus obligated Groaxians to return to their original state after all the population had been evacuated, but at the same time if too many Groaxians became bound by Dark Forest they might as well decide to override the remaining few and enter a dark, terrifying age of endless cosmic wars, with Project Ascension scrapped in favour of developing photonic missiles and black hole generators of own design. But a lot were also painfully aware about an opposite risk: restore society to how things were before, leave too little Groaxians recruiting themselves from Watchers or other supporters of adaptation strategy and more military approach and the society would lose all that was achieved in terms of understanding the default state of the universe and likely loose the merciless race against time.

After more thoughts thrown at the issue, all sides involved managed to negotiate a new compromise: exactly half of the population would be cured and focus on Project Ascension, meeting Humanity and other tasks relating to overcome Dark Forest, the other half would be reprogrammed to take responsibility of preparing and later fighting the battles that were yet to come, and on top of that, a new Conglomerate alongside with its closest collaborators would remain how they were, without any genetic modification or mental overrides. Their task would be to carefully oversee the new status quo and intervene whenever they'd see it being skewed towards either side. And finally, when the time comes and either Qi and Mimung are evacuated or Project Ascension completed, they shall be the ones to pull the final switch and restore peace and bring the society to how it was before the interstellar era had begun.

The final chocie made announced members of a new Conglomerate itself. It was supposed to have five members. In recogntion of their efforts during the pandemic and the overall posture represented and vision they followed, Chi'Shosujaj, Ghu'Zhasovix and Xi'Watipath were selected because of how strong they were mentally and how well they all understood the nature and society of the race they were about to guide and protect among the stars. The title of a Conglomerate member was also offered to Zu'Zhuchuziv who was to become main representant of the "Bound by Dark Forest" and Lhu'Zhothamum because the mind of an explorer, fairly open to new ideas, was deemed crucial in maintaining the new order. Pa'Voxihik, despite first coming up with the survival strategy that was, even though after undergoing significant overhaul, accepted, was not selected as the middleman focused too much on one aspect, but instead was given a chance to directly influence the shape of the future military forces.

By the end of 3441 AM hibernation cycle Groaxians have officially entered this new era. Things had ultimately changed, but from that moment these changes were structured and controlled rather than chaotic, allowing for a completely new balance and more mature, evolved society to emerge.

Groaxians still remembered Tempestsaurs Of Achernar saying that "Dark Forest is a force of balance". And as they looked upon what their race had become, they feared that this was the ultimate truth their civilisation was yet to learn.
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