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.

Veret and The Aspiration conduct truce talks

-10X22952038- Virtue is Bond. I/We must impart the truth of a mistruth, a falsehood lurking within the glittering shadows of history. I/We commission the puppet HM to unburden Me/Us of this sinful weight.

I went in knowing damn well what Neptune’s Pride could do to a person, but I believed myself above it, beyond it, superior to it. When Kent Sutherland cajoled me into a game, I was expecting to drop out of the game early. But Neptune’s Pride became this malignant mental tumour, an unstoppable growth that threatened ordinary cognitive function. For four weeks, I became the game.

Even though I set out to be honest about the experience, Electron Dance’s series The Aspiration omitted one key event. Its very absence from the story is revisionist.

This incident is important because it demonstrates how easily emotion forges a personal, pocket reality. A fantasy reality.

The Truth

On day ten of our Neptune’s Pride game, two vicious carnivores – The Spiritual Domain of The Aspiration and Emperor Veret of Ankaa – ceased scrapping over the bloody carcass of Facewizard’s empire. The Aspiration called for a truce and Veret responded with “it is well that you have come to your senses.”

Veret then proceeded to lay down terms, explaining that The Aspiration was in the wrong. I have added emphasis to the key line.

Recent reports from the expeditionary fleet Jennifer Hale recount a trend of most undiplomatic behavior on the part of your warriors, despite attempts by the fleet captain to open communications. We were not at war with you, and yet Captain Albara describes an “unprovoked and highly opportunistic attack” on our colony at Taygeta. Only a heroic effort by the colonial militia prevented the French Kiss from overtaking the system, and even after being turned back your local forces persisted in threatening the region. It is our opinion that your presence in the former Facewizard’s empire represents an unacceptable tactical liability, and we must diplomatically request that you withdraw. Ankaa will no longer recognize your claim to the systems of Chort, Etamin, and Algieba; these terms are not negotiable.

I didn’t know what the Hell he was talking about. I didn’t know what he was smoking. I didn’t know where he found the cojones to tell me that I was the aggressor. Veret had invaded Facewizard before The Aspiration had a chance to launch its own carefully planned assault – wrecking my plans to expand The Aspiration’s galactic reach. If you do not keep your empire’s growth in step with the game’s front-runners, you are lost. With Veret “stealing” Facewizard’s space I had thrown The Aspiration’s forces into the fray in a desperate attempt to seize what I could. To Hell with the softly-softly approach.

Within Facewizard’s borders, Veret and The Aspiration had come to blows, squabbling over stars of value. I found Veret’s characterisation of an “unprovoked” attack offensive. If anyone was being shitty here, it was Veret. An “opportunistic attack”? Oh really? Veret was the one who’d crossed the line and then some, opening the door to bloodshed.

Messages from The Aspiration were proceeded with a transmission code which was either wrapped in minus signs to indicate neutrality, plus signs to indicate concern and asterisks if downright angry. On day eleven, The Aspiration replied and, boy, were they pissed:

*2359853194* The Spiritual Domain of The Aspiration is redeploying its forces.

While the Codex parliament is entertained by tales of heroism and valor, the truth of the French Kiss incident is that it was a debacle and would not succeed in taking Taygeta. Moments after departure, our species’ tacticians realised the error. Some self-euthanised to rejoin with the Virtuous Rapture. The Aspiration’s view of this period of time was both parties had interests in Facewizard space and small exchanges of this ilk were not representative of a larger theatre of war, merely desire for local exploration and cultural exchange.

And while The Spiritual Domain is equally entertained by reports of the distress that our fleets on an obviously doomed mission must have caused the Ankaa Empire, The Spiritual Domain had put aside a number of violations instigated against The Aspiration, and this action of putting aside grievances almost resulted in major political revolution at the Codex parliament.

  • Taking advantage of The Aspiration’s three day build-up to explore Facewizard Imperial Space – that resulted in a shift of Facewizard forces, exposing the northern border to attack – thus depriving our people of their Divine right to locate our original Spawnsground as described in Religious Membrane
  • Sending forces to Meissa and expecting The Aspiration to redeploy forces with minimal notice; if the Codex had not been in session at this time, the consequences would have been somewhat different. As with the Chort incident, this chills us with concern.
  • Taking Etamin when our forces departed there briefly two days ago, forcing us to retake it
  • “Reclaiming” Chort which was never in Ankaa hands, without discussion in advance
  • Asserting power over Chort will lead to the deaths of hundreds. Strategy against Crossheart empire expects a new spearbeam weapons technology to be available at the time enemy makes contact at Sterope II, where Crossheart’s eventual fate is decided. Spearbeam upgrades will not be available due to the loss of Chort Aspiring & Virtuous Science Institute components. More of our people will die. The Aspiration would have been satisfied with a buffer of some more hours before having to hand over Chort. This is the most serious offence against The Spiritual Domain.

We are peace-amenable and wish only for cultural exchange, the spread of Virtue. Your species speaks with aggrieved tones, not with the voice of a self-sure confident power. Concern chills us.

On day twelve, there was a response from Veret that contained the following paragraph. Again, I’ve added emphasis to the key portion.

Curious. I am certain my pilots’ reports are not in error; it was your ships who attacked ours first, and all of my fleets in the region were instructed to attack only Facewizard craft except in self defense. But I am not ignorant of your political situation. It is sometimes necessary for a less-than-absolute monarch to embellish the truth so as to retain political support among squabbling factions, so I will not publicly challenge your propaganda. But as one ruler to another, may I recommend you discreetly execute your political rivals, so as to consolidate your power and avoid future situations like this one? It certainly did wonders for my own position.

Wait a second… wait a second… just wait a dog damn second…

I reviewed the detailed game journal I had been maintaining minute by minute, hour by hour. There was no mention of how The Aspiration had progressed from securing Facewizard space into outright war with Veret.

Veret seemed to be under the impression that The Aspiration had started the war. I had no memory of this. Veret’s slow obliteration of The Aspiration’s future prospects had created a rage so powerful that it had distorted memory. In my version of reality, he’d been the bastard fucker responsible for everything that was wrong. Third World famine? Veret. Eurozone collapse? Veret.

In fact, this was even more revisionist than it appears. It whitewashed Veret’s most awesome tactical move of the entire game: the Taygeta incident.

You see, it turned out some time later, that I hadn’t made a mistake in sending insufficient fleets to snatch Taygeta from Veret. Veret had saved Taygeta with the most ridiculous tactic – he shunted the industry level of Taygeta up to 7 so it would generate just enough ships to repel The Aspiration’s attack. This was an insanely expensive move and it would’ve been an appalling loss for Veret if it had failed.

The Aspiration moves against Veret-controlled Taygeta
Genius Tactic: As The Aspiration (green) approaches Taygeta, Veret (red) pumps up industry by 5 levels - thus building enough ships just in time to block the attack

Bold and amazing. It was a move that reportedly made Kent tell Veret: “You’re too good at this game.” And I’d dismissed it as a simple miscalculation on my part.

I couldn’t admit making such a stupid mistake, misremembering who’d started the fighting. So the next communication to Ankaa was smothered in bad comms static to bury the embarrassment and shame.

*3253261000* This is a communication to Ankaa.

Our species does not dispute that the first cultXXXXXXted by The Aspiration itself.

DnoXXXXXXXXolved within 24 hours. Hold please. The Aspiration will withXXXXXXXXthreat is nullified by the compassion and understanding of The Aspiration.

*3253261001* This is a communication to Ankaa. Resubmit.

OuXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXlk of Procyon fleet once Dnoces threat is nullified by the compXXXXXXXXXXXding of The Aspiration.

*3253261002* This is a communication to Ankaa. Resubmit.

Our species does not dispute that the first cultural exchange between Ankaa and The Aspiration was initiated by The Aspiration itself.

Dnoces problem to be resolved within 24 hours. Hold please. The Aspiration will withdraw bulk of Procyon fleet once Dnoces threat is nullified by the compassion and understanding of The Aspiration.

I glossed over the Taygeta incident during The Aspiration series because it simply didn’t make any sense to me. Memory and evidence conflicted and I still couldn’t believe I was responsible for the small war in Facewizard space.

And looking back at this, perhaps The Aspiration deserved what happened to them.

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14 thoughts on “The Xmaspiration: Rashomon’s Rage

  1. I never knew this happened. I give Veret a much-delayed title of Pimp Daddy of Neptune’s Pride.

    P.S. The Crossheart faction was low on ships because we had insufficient people to crew them; many brave soldiers jumped at the chance to test their mettle against the spearbeam.

  2. Ooh, classy HM! But don’t be too hard on yourself; everything I did to Facewizard before and everything I did to you afterward was straight-up, unapologetically evil (which basically describes my entire game plan). This was the one point in which I legitimately wasn’t the villain, so naturally I took the opportunity to make some completely unreasonable demands. And then invaded you anyway.

    Oh hey, that reminds me! Some aliens hacked my computer the other day and demanded that I pass this along:

    To the reigning despot or equivalent leader of planet Earth:

    Diplomatically appropriate salutations to you, from the Ankaa Navy of Righteous Expansion-in-Exile. Your galactic neighbors have complained that your backwards civilization is spewing radio transmissions into space, with no consideration of local noise control regulations. Such trivial matters are not ordinarily my concern, but intercepted broadwave transmissions from the operator “Electron Dance” suggest that you are harboring a known fugitive. A fleet has been redirected to your location. Turn over the entity known as “The Aspiration” at once or face total planetary annihilation.

    I am coming for you, squidface.

    Doman Albara zen Minelava
    Captain, Jennifer Hale Revenant Fleet
    Navy of Righteous Expansion-in-Exile

    Aliens, huh? Always “squidface” this and “planetary annihilation” that. Anyway, I’m really glad you’re doing this series; I bet everyone else has a story like mine that they desperately wanted you to tell. Looking forward to it!

    Heheh…Pimp Daddy.

  3. I wish I’d been involved in this game so I could get involved with all of this metafic fun. My writerbrain is tingling.

    On the other hand, given my past it is probably best that I don’t post fan fiction on Arcadian Rhythms. 😀

  4. @BeamSplashX: I’d like to think there are many missing stories out there in the galaxy. I’m just plugging a few gaps while I have a chance. I know next to nothing about relations between the eastern powers.

    @Veret: It’s more about the fact that I had no knowledge of firing first and it’s taken me a good year to parse that information. I’d worked myself up into a frenzy over the fact that you were invading “my territory” – I perceived myself to have been attacked and responding defensively. It was an ill omen that my judgement could go so awry. Plus, not every player will make an appearance during this series – Abacus Master, Switchbreak and Starspackle will barely get a look-in this time.

    @ShaunCG: Yeah, you could get called a puppet by an alien race, too. What, er, is wrong with your fan fiction past? Is there something I’ve forgotten?

  5. @HM: nothing forgotten, it’s just one of those things that you don’t really talk about. Fanfic writers don’t seem to be far up the ladder from furries and the like, after all, especially videogame fanfic writers. 😉

    It did of course help me cut my writing teeth as a teen but the bulk of what I produced is best forgotten.

    (On the other hand I occasionally bust out excerpts to amuse friends, so you know. Hypocrisy is fun!)

  6. Wow, that Industry rush on Taygeta was a really gutsy move on Veret’s part, considering he must have spent nearly all his cash in the process. I’m a bit surprised that it paid off, to be honest! In any event, it’s really fun to hear about all the skirmishes and diplomatic exchanges that occurred over on the other side of the galaxy.

  7. @Prettiest Boy: Veret worked out the numbers with Kent in advance – calculating just enough ships would be present to absorb the attack. Still, if I’d upgraded weapons or similar in the intervening time it might have been a different story; I don’t have the exact numerical details to check.

  8. I actually got the idea for that move during the first game. When Prettiest was busy invading my brains out, I was making sure to learn everything I possibly could from him–including the exact formula for ship production, and how to be a lying bastard who invades his allies. When the next game rolled around and I actually had the opportunity to pull this off, I ran the idea by Kent and had him triple-check my math, because the whole time I was thinking there was no possible way it could work.

    As for the cost: I think I had the biggest empire in the galaxy at that time, and every one of my worlds was dedicated to churning out money. Taygeta still cost me two-thirds of my GNP…and it was completely worth it. But yeah, don’t try this at home.

  9. @HM: Right, I understand that there’s no way Veret would’ve pulled such a maneuver without doing the math on that particular skirmish in advance, I just thought it was interesting that no one used his inefficient distribution of funds to their advantage in the few days that followed. I guess Kent was off doing other stuff at the time, and I’m presuming Laura had already checked out by this point.

    As far as your mistaken recollection of who shot first goes, I think that kind of thing is fairly common in Nep’s Pride. When you first get a look at the galaxy map at the start of the game, it’s almost impossible not to begin thinking of nearby unclaimed stars as part of your own territory, and it’s similarly difficult not to take offense when other players shatter those imaginary borders. I know that I certainly wasn’t very happy when Kent started snatching up all the stars on my western front, in any case.

  10. @Prettiest Boy: Kent was off contending with you and working with Veret rather than against at this point. I was the unlucky victim of Veret’s tactic. And Laura, indeed, had gone. Not that I wish to put Veret’s performance down, but he’d had a large expanse in the corner of the map to expand into without any interference from others which would have afforded him stellar resources. It made me very nervous that batteries of new ships could come sailing down at any minute. I had asked both Laura and Kent if they wanted to keep Veret in check on day one or two – I saw that danger straight away – but neither responded on this front. It might’ve been a very different game if we’d talked that one out.

    You’re probably right that this is a common occurrence, to see a first shot action being defensive in nature. What’s interesting is that I, the injured party, was so angry at Veret for being the aggressor – yet to some extent this was a self-indulgent fantasy. I think Veret was probably shocked that I just threw my ships at him without warning like that – I’ve never spoken to him about that moment outside the game.

  11. Gah, looking back I feel that my comments on this post come across as somewhat bitter, so allow me to briefly overreact and clarify that I think Veret played a brilliant game, just like he always does. With the Taygeta incident, he took a strategy that I would have dismissed out of hand and employed it to great success, which is totally awesome.

  12. I don’t think you came across that way although we could put it up for a vote.

    Does the Prettiest Boy sound bitter? [YES / YE–MAYBE]

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