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Camp Kalando, Imperial Research Base

Nestled against the energy field enveloping Point Jakurna, the scientists and engineers studiously go about researching the secrets of the Ashtar without a care for the fighting that enveloped the rest of Agdemnar. While the empire's position of neutrality and non-interference with other expeditions certainly helped allow them to do their work in peace, the massive and growing military garrison was the real reason. Every day, landing craft were delivering gun emplacements, shield generators, soldiers, and strike craft to ensure that anyone who dared attack the Taulron would regret it.

It was a splendid display of both imperial might and arrogance, a projection of official force where all too many of the great powers were hiding behind lies. No, the Taulron were brazenly working away at unlocking Agdemnar, and daring anyone to fire the first shot at them for doing so. So far, only various "rogue forces" had tested Kalando's defenses, and all had been repelled. A prestigious command for both military and academic officials, the research at Kalando was considered the core of Taulron efforts at Agdemnar.

This was wrong.

Shadowing every supply drop, every jump in system, was a small group of stealth corvettes. Slipping by in the wake of the openly declared fleet that made its run to Kalando, the flotilla of Cautious class vessels did not land anywhere near Point Jakurna. Hidden in an expanse of mountains on the far side of Agdemnar, the real focus of imperial concern grew.

For the young and impetuous Captain Heliak of His Imperial Majesty's Starship Nightshade, the daring flights to the mountain stronghold was a dream come true. Delivering soldiers and supplies for the empire's secret operations teams, ensuring that the research work of Kalando was never surpassed by anyone else's, that was real glory. But today she was not delivering nameless women and men to a base that did not exist. Today she was at Camp Kalando, her ship grounded beneath its energy fields, as the Commonwealth and the Ascendancy were busy killing each other.

"Gods, can they hurry up already?"

Strangers' Gallery
Parliament of the Sovereign Reich

The Taulron did not entreat the Commonwealth on Corinthene. No, the empire found it alien to speak with a parliament instead of their sovereign and so kept their embassies upon stately Praetoria. The appointment of the Merlovian diplomat Larthia Velansa was meant to be a sea change in Taulron-Commonwealth relations, first and foremost with him taking formal residence on Corinthene, but also because he was himself a Senator of the Empire's legislature. But as he sat at his first session of the Low House, he began to think that his arrogant predecessors had a point. Watching the Commonwealth tear up the Treaty of Detente before his eyes was enough to make even the staid ambassador consider abandoning this farce of democracy and decamp to Praetoria. The fact that this particular incident was occurring directly before his maiden speech to the House, that could only be seen as an insult. And a test.

By all accounts, Lord Chancellor Metternich was a most formidable man, and his opening salvo on the new ambassador proved it. This did not endear him to Ambassador Velansa in the least, but it did earn a grudging respect. The man was proving himself a bastard, but at least a crafty bastard. After watching the Parliament ensure that war going to come sooner rather than later, the man did the only thing he could do and got down to work. While stereotypes of Merlovians as obsessive planners with the emphasis on obsessive were overblown, even this declaration was not unexpected. Granted, the draft he had on hand was not intended to be his maiden speech, so some adjustments needed to be made, but he had tie. The Commonwealth adored its ceremonies, and the recognizance of an ambassador by Parliament was replete with them. A member of the governing party would give a speech introducing him to the chamber, and then a member of the opposition would give one questioning why he should be permitted to reside among them. Typically, these were maiden speeches for new members, and fresh orators luckily tended to drone on far longer than they ought to.

Which meant that when the Speaker called upon Larthia to defend himself, he had spent a little over an hour tinkering his address. The time it took for his full title to be announced - Senator Larthia Velansa, the Three-Hundred and Eighty-Sixth Duke of Caisrol, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the Court of Trydosh in the name of Salos VI, Emperor of the Taulron - gave him the last few moments he needed to finalize the speech, and away he went.

"To all you members of this most ancient and revered House, greetings," the ambassador began, stretching back into the depths of the past to grasp upon forms and protocol that were centuries old when Taulros lived. It was an opening that got the immediate attention of all Vit'azny listeners, who were of course the true audience, indulgences to their sham of democracy or no.

"I admit, I am a stranger in this place. But not only am I a stranger to this Parliament, my Emperor is a stranger to the Commonwealth. For too long, be it during days of war, or days of peace, we have acted shamefully. We considered it an insult for our monarch to not speak directly with yours, a ploy designed to trap us in the mires of bureaucracy and committees. But it is we have slandered you, the members of this body, refusing to consider the power you hold."

"Today, the galaxy has seen the power of the Parliament. Though I am aggrieved that you now withdraw from a compact of brotherhood, all shall know that this was the act of a free people who shall ever refuse the bonds of slavery. But now it is my earnest hope that this same body will hold in warm esteem the ties of friendship, and the rewards of peace."

"I arrive to you today as a stranger. Let me be so bold as to hope that when I take my leave of you, it shall be as a friend."

King Larsos's State Apartments, Trydosh Palace
Kresslon Hill, Jharya

Emperor Salos VI, Victor of the Great War, was old. For nigh on a century he had reigned, born before the Peace of the Ashtar, he was one of the few surviving people in the Empire who remembered being Pushed. His father and grandfather had supplicated themselves to this new order, and he spent much of his long reign doing much the same, only to see them vanish early in his second century of life. It had fallen upon Salos and his contemporaries to make a new peace at Madrigasa, and while he had been criticized by all sides as every possible combination of warmonger, coward, and thief imaginable, he did help forge a peace.

Then the Message came, and for the second time all expectations were thrown out. He had spent almost all of his working hours since here, in the oldest wing of the oldest palace that the Emperors of the Taulron and their predecessors had resided in. Only here did the old Emperor feel young once more, surrounded by the reminders of true antiquity. It was in these ancient rooms that something new was being born. A notion of an empire whose legitimacy stemmed from the stability it provided, rather than the destruction it threatened. It was here that both Larthia Velansa and Jouyin Heliak were given their commissions as both war and peace were waged with equal fervor.

But for the moment, the Emperor merely sat in contemplation of a galactic map. Most were far from concerns. The Lokoid as well as the fractious humans and the corporate quasi-state they had founded were all a dull color on the display, deemed likely to remain neutral unless pressed into a corner. A shade brighter and more urgent were Rolvius, the Ozil, and the Valerius, all states that one had reason to be wary of, but for now unlikely to stage an invasion of Taulron territory. Next, in far starker relief, were the Commonwealth and the Uteqx, both Great Powers facing internal unease and unrest at the current state of affairs. It would not be beyond the pale for either to declare war upon the Taulron to quiet domestic unrest. But those lights were faint candles to the blazing suns of the Harmonic Conflux and the Alduur. The former were reviled by the Empire generally and Salos personally, their practice of slavery - and more importantly, their willingness to invade other states to enslave their populaces - were a blight upon the galaxy and a constant detractor from his new vision of an empire that stood by virtue of protecting its citizens. As far as the latter, the Alduur made little secret of their hatred for any who had collaborated with the Ashtar, and not only had the Taulron made an early policy of doing so, it directly led to their position of strength in the Great War. Finally, sitting on the ancient desk next to the holo emitter, was a physical map, and that object troubled him more than the rest of his worries put together. It was nearly two centuries old and displayed the realm of the Kobiot, a race that was not just now dead, but practically erased from history. Whatever terror had so thoroughly destroyed them no doubt lurked somewhere within the stars painted on that canvas.

Salos was old, but the Great Game does not stop.
Heyo, Ozerath pulled me into this. I'll have a writeup posted tomorrow ideally.
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