If you're not familiar with The Aspiration, check out the supershort summary of this most epic of Neptune's Pride diaries - The Aspiration Retold In Nine Pictures.
-6BAA6CODE6- Virtue is Bond. HM will continue to speak for Me/Us. Today he exposes the only law that the galactic empires agreed on: In Paranoia We Trust.
For the public record, I confirm the real villain of our Neptune’s Pride game was Kent Sutherland.
As the game’s sponsor, he had a bright gold star beside his empire’s name, Starspackle, like he’d won a prize for being the nicest person in the galaxy. We all knew Kent was Starspackle and Starspackle was Kent. Although we applied a respectful level of distrust – this was Neptune’s Pride after all – we tended to be fairly accepting of his “facts” because Kent is a nice guy. Yes, not just facts but “facts”. If Kent said my cat was worshipping Satan, I’d have expected there to be some truth to the tale of the Satanic tail. Even though I didn’t have a cat.
So the grand Machiavellian strategy that Kent employed was “being Kent”. His rare advantage, then, was to be given a pass on player paranoia. This allowed him to employ the paranoia of noob players as his tools of war.
He told The Aspiration many things.
Starspackle was always suspicious when discussing the Veret of Ankaa, a blood-red empire in the corner of the map… and one of Starspackle’s neighbours. I could never convince myself to make a serious attempt to partner with Veret because Kent was a nice guy and Starspackle would not approve. He would not approve because Starspackle and Veret were happily trading at it like bunnies for most of the game.
Starspackle also revealed that the orange empire in the east, Abacus Master, was mad, bad and dangerous to know. The Aspiration was always squeamish about trading with Abacus Master and kept transactions to a minimum.
Starspackle expressed concern that the Crossheart empire (Sid Menon) was building a war engine devoted entirely to weapons. With The Aspiration’s paranoia stoked, I laid waste to Crossheart’s empire, expecting it to be only a matter of time before Sid launched his own fleets towards me.
Starspackle made one mistake. He demanded The Aspiration attack central empire Baron Copernicus (Miles Newton) because the Baron was being obstructive. That one didn’t work and I worried that Kent was being a manipulative bastard. But, you know, Kent is a nice guy. I put my concerns to one side and swallowed the rest of the tripe he fed me.
Kent, of course, was just defending himself in the only way he knew how. His opening position was vulnerable as five different empires sat on his border. Kent did his best to manipulate players out of a need to survive, not to destroy. This is how Kent won the game. It was with the pen and not the mighty sword.
But even without a guiding hand, paranoia can spark conflict.
On Day Twelve of the campaign, the screws were tightening. I was focused on clearing out the infestation known as Crossheart from the southern part of the map and was firing a series of fleets through the narrow umbilicus of stars between our two spaces.
Then I suddenly had to write the following message to Baron.
*0123596532* Virtue is Bond, Baron Copernicus.
The Aspiration notes that a fleet is inbound from Mimosa to Furud. As this fleet will not damage to our star infrastructure we assume this is an error of the Baron's systems.
Further, there are additional fleet deployments which appear aggressive in nature to The Aspiration even though the Spiritual Domain has only spoken of peace and shared culture with the autocracy of Copernicus.
Please confirm these movements are in error.
Together we Aspire.
It is important to note that I was in a very special mental place. Some might have described it as “unhinged”. The Aspiration was in trouble. I was embroiled in two conflicts – a standoff with Veret to the north, open warfare with Crossheart to the south – and had no tolerance for fucking about. What was I to make of Baron poking a fleet at me?
I can't remember how long I waited for a response from Baron. I think it might have been a whole five minutes.
Furious at Baron’s unwelcome intervention, I made up my mind to destroy him. The Aspiration would visit waves of peaceable cultural exchanges upon his head until he was dead. Don’t fucking fuck with me, because you’ll get fucking fucked to death. Fuck.
I pitched a fleet at him and explained he wasn’t the only one experiencing sector-wide "piloting errors" that cause death. Oh my genocidal sarcasm knew no motherfucking bounds.
*0123596533* Virtue is Bond, Baron Copernicus.
The Aspiration is also experiencing similar piloting system errors. We have an explanation.
Over the last few days, we applied peaceful communical exchange to nullify and devour the infrastructure of the Crossheart empire. Their fleets screamed with ecstasy as we swallowed them with the weaponised love of the Virtuous Rapture. It is possible in their orgasmic cry, they released a hyperwave networking virus across the region.
In advance, we can only apologise for any fleets we inadvertently nullify.
Celebrate their ascension.
It was as suicidal as it was cathartic. Destroying Baron would be a pyrrhic victory, putting a break in my attempts to clear the map of Crossheart and earn me a brand new border in the galactic centre which was virtually impossible to defend. But I didn’t give a shit. I was probably doomed anyway.
Baron Copernicus, who lived on Australian time, eventually replied.
Mesarthim was deemed neutral ground, and my advances to Furud where out of my initial response to your movements. Thank you for clarifying your intentions, you must know that space can make a man mad with power and terror in equal measure.
As explained in the series The Aspiration this was a profound moment of facepalmness. Baron was trying to say, “My fleets are attacking you because I'm a paranoid asshole.” And my response had been, “Hey buddy, I'm a paranoid asshole too! How about that?”
I felt bad. Especially as I’d set up an attack on Baron that I couldn't get out of.
The Codex parliament was most intrigued to hear of your tale.
Movements to Furud were aiming to complete the assault on weapons hoarder Crossheart and many of our peacefaring fleets were heading towards Pollux. A review of the minimap may have clairifed that Crossheart and The Aspiration have been exchanging fleets across Furud, Nash and Algedi on a regular basis.
We feel remiss in not discussing all our plans for the region with you, but the die is cast, so to speak.
The hyperwave virus has control of the fleets of the central sector, stalling our advance on Pollux to pursue pointless conflict in the center of the galactic spiral.
The Aspiration is dismayed that things have come to this, particularly as we stalled a request to execute your fleets at Kajam one week ago.
The Spiritual Domain believed your fleets were still required at the war front to the east.
Together we Aspire. Divided we ascend.
Yeah. Amen to that brother. I followed up to make it super-duper clear that super nothing was super happening.
+1224223123+ Virtue is Bond, Baron.
We do not desire war with your solid autocracy. The Aspiration is turning back our fleet Holding Hands after the inevitable scuffle at Sceptrum.
Please reclaim your peripheral star system as you wish.
Together we Aspire.
Baron was forgiving.
Nor do we intend a breach our peaceful balance. The Aspiration has been an altruistic and kind ally, and we have no wish to break this bond.
This whole incident was pointless, serving only to squander resources and waste time. The galaxy of Neptune’s Pride is doused in paranoia petrol – and all it takes is one bright spark to start a fire.
I took a close look at the map and forecast a win for The Aspiration at Sceptrum; Baron’s forces would be eliminated. But Baron had sent a fleet from Mesarthim back to Sceptrum already. I realised he was going to lose this return fleet. He hadn’t factored in the industry which means one of my ships could appear at Sceptrum even if I vacated the star. Shit.
I then begged Baron to stop his fleets. They hadn’t made the jump yet which meant there was thirty minutes to avert disaster.
But Baron didn’t acknowledge the response. His fleet were destined to be toast. Bugger.
However it turned out that I’d miscalculated. I lost the engagement at Sceptrum and none of Baron’s fleets suffered further harm.
Baron's eventual response was brief, although The Aspiration had no bloody idea what he was talking about:
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