For previous columns in this Let’s Play series, click here.

In our last column, an interstellar war had consumed much of the galaxy. Greg had fought Janelle to a stalemate along their opposing borders, with neither side gaining a clear advantage, while Paul assaulted Josh’s territory and set him back several rounds with the temporary occupation of Josh’s homeworld. Meanwhile, Jon had lost much of his empire to the vast military might of Justin, and was left struggling to rebuild what few ships he could while Justin brought out the deadliest unit in the game – the gigantic War Sun – and poised himself within reach of Mecatol Rex, the throne of the galaxy.

With the possibility that Justin could seize control of the galaxy through pure force of arms, here’s what our players did during the next few rounds of the game:

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Commodore Josh Vanderwall of the Federation of Sol says: Recent times have been immensely troubling for the Sons of Sol. With our neighbor’s aggression, we’ve lost Everra, and, despite easily destroying the fleet guarding our planet and bringing every available ground force to bear, the mechanized infantry of the Xxcha repelled our attempt to reclaim our lost world, and every man perished in the effort. We did at the least blockade the planet, isolating them from any possible reinforcement.

Shortly after the crushing defeat on Everra, our grand schemes for Mecatol Rex were also laid low, as the L1z1x Mindnet brought an armada down upon our defensive fleet so large that it nearly dwarfed the massive planet itself. Two War Suns and five Dreadnoughts, accompanied by a handful of lesser ships, all swarmed into our new system unexpectedly. Our fleet was ordered to retreat from the battle, but was destroyed to the last ship in its attempt to evacuate the area. Our troops on the ground were easily overwhelmed, and Mecatol’s new Space Dock was lost when the planet was taken. The Sons of Sol will never forget this massacre, and the Mindnet will pay for its wanton aggression.

Mecatol Rex, retaken by the Federation - but for how long?

After losing Mecatol, the Sons of Sol at long last made a tentative peace agreement with the Xxcha. The Xxcha have agreed to relinquish their grasp on Everra in exchange for a ceasefire between our races. With Mecatol in the hands of our newly-sworn enemy, we have amicably agreed.

The entire human race was shocked when we learned that the Mindnet had abandoned Mecatol and brought its fleet down upon the Sardokk N’orr. They are the first total casualty of this galactic war. With Mecatol undefended, we jumped at the opportunity to reclaim it and did so at virtually no cost in lives. The Universities of Jol-Nar struck back at the Mindnet for its recent genocide, wiping out its flagship and positioning itself for an assault on the Mindnet’s homeworld of Null. We collectively pray that this is enough to distract the Mindnet fleet, and allow us to retain control of Mecatol Rex until our grand plans come to fruition.

King Paul of the Xxcha says: With the rise of the Mindnet and their assault on Mecatol Rex, our priorities have shifted. The Federation of Sol’s fleet at Mecatol has been completely wiped out, and reports from the handful of survivors fleeing the system report giant vessels of unimaginable power at the fore front – War Suns, massive battleships that we thought were nothing more than rumors, but now are a terror made manifest. Within a short time of the attack on Mecatol, these abominations of war have were also reported floating in the skies over the last few bastions of the Sardokk N’orr, and through an encrypted communication with the N’orr’s Hive Alpha, the worst has been confirmed… the Mindnet have all but destroyed the proud warrior race. Asides from a few scattered refugee flotillas fleeing towards neutral space, the Sardokk N’orr are no more.

This near complete destruction of a sentient, star-faring species has caused a ripple of terror, fear and anger throughout the galaxy; we have all accepted that war is sometimes a necessary evil on the stage of galactic politics but outright xenocide is intolerable. Through a flurry of communiques with the other galactic races, it has been determined that the Mindnet is a clear and present danger and must be stopped.

The Xxcha prepare to withdraw from Everra

An immediate armistice has been signed with the Federation, as both of our nations must rebuild our respective military to weather the oncoming storm. We have agreed to concede Everra – for now – back to the Federation, and have begun to withdraw our troops from the nebula-encased planet. We are focusing our efforts on acquiring new technologies with the help of our friends the Jol-Nar, as well as organizing a rapid response fleet of fighter-filled carriers and nimble cruisers. We do not know for sure if we will be able to engage the Mindnet along its front lines, but we must be prepared to take that action if the opportunity arises. The Yin and the Jol-Nar have also turned their attentions to the larger threat; the Jol-Nar main battle fleet, led by their impressive Flagship, struck deep into the very heart of the Mindnet and may occupy their homeworld before the end of the cycle. It remains to be seen if the Jol-Nar and the Yin will be able to survive the inevitable counterattack, but we will put our trust in their admirals that they will see this through.

The Jol-Nar's attack on Wellon.

Chancellor Greg of the Jol-Nar Says: The silent howl of war blows across the galaxy.

The Mindnet created the largest conglomeration of ships the University’s scholars have ever recorded. Two massive spheres, bedecked with weaponry and bays of fighters, flanked by five enormous dreadnoughts and several cruiser class ships – the other leaders have taken to calling it the Fleet of Death or, more simply, the Death Fleet. It lay in orbit around Mechatol Rex, within striking distance of a huge swath of space, giving the Mindnet a vast array of tactical options in their continued domination of the galaxy. Something had to be done.

Our strategists hatched a daring plan. We called a ceasefire with the fanatics of the Yin Brotherhood in exchange for their cooperation in the assault. They agreed to abandon our front and attack the Death Fleet in the center of our galaxy, and we agreed to follow up with our own attack directly afterwards. With the War Sun’s ability to absorb damage, it was believed this was the only way to destroy such a powerful assortment of firepower. In order to accomplish this plan, however, the scientists of Jol-Nar needed to complete the installation of gravity drives on our ships in Lesab. The researchers and engineers assured me it would only delay the execution of this plan briefly, and I agreed it was necessary for the success of the attack.

Unfortunately, the Mindnet ruined everything. The Death Fleet moved to eliminate the Sardakk Norr’s last space dock and measly fleet. I castigated the University’s spymaster for failing to protect the secrecy of our plan, but he assured me that no virus or hack attempt was even made on our servers. Perhaps the Mindnet was able to glean information from our allies, or perhaps it was unintelligent luck. Wittingly or no, the Mindnet moved its Death Fleet beyond our grasp.

It is not something my practiced, careful mind is accustomed to, but I needed to improvise. The Death Fleet was the farthest from the Mindnet home world of Null it had yet been, and I seized this opportunity to strike. A small force of a carrier and the algorithm’s flagship was on the border of our sector. I moved our own War Sun fleet there, bringing a large number of cruisers, improved fighters, ground forces and destroyers to bear. We took the planet of Wellon easily.

The Mindnet was unhappy that we broke both our non-aggression and trade agreements, but I gauged the risk was warranted. The Yin Brotherhood moved into the wormhole with a massive group of dreadnoughts, and put pressure on the Death Fleet’s flank. The fanatics are also preparing to disrupt the communications of the Mindnet’s fleet in order to prevent them from receiving any commands from their home systems. If they are successful, we will be free to assault Null without fear of a retaliation.

Now, we wait.

The Yin's battlefleet, awaiting the chance to strike.

High Priestess Janelle Bonnano of the Yin Brotherhood says:

War traverses the galaxy like tumbleweeds in the Hectorian dessert. It touches everyone, near or far.

To our west, the Federation and Xxcha have been embroiled in a war of necessity. Locked into their homeworld by supernovas and deadly ion storms, the Xxcha took a gamble, hoping to wretch planets away from the Federation in an attempt to grow their civilization. To our east, the greed of the Jol-Nar was not enough, locking us into an interstellar stalemate. A planet was lost to us, but that has been the worst of it. We look east and west only to see our own borders, in need of more ships yet currently defended.

But, something far more sinister grows in the north.

The Mindnet has amassed a war fleet of such size that we have yet to witness like power in all our recorded history. With it, they obliterated a Federation stronghold on Mecatol Rex. The Federation barely had time to formulate a retreat, vaporized upon first contact. The Mindnet remained on the move, destroying their neighboring civilization of the Sardok N’orr, wiping them from existence. Their new “Death Fleet,” as we call it, is a threat to us all. If the lives of the Sardok N’orr held no value to the Mindnet, why should our own?

We abhor the idea of war, yet how does one dismantle a fleet built for destruction through peace? One does not. At least not with the Death Fleet. With a common enemy to unite us, we were able to convince the Federation and Xxcha to halt their tactics of aggression against one another whilst we met with the Jol-Nar to talk terms of a ceasefire to meet our new threat. The Jol-Nar had only one road to peace in mind, and it was the creation of a united front against the Mindnet. We agreed with this plan. Not one among us has the resources to rival the Mindnet and only a joint effort would see them put to rest.

We agreed to be the vanguard of the assault, attacking the Death Fleet in hopes we would cripple it enough for a second wave to take it out. The Jol-Nar would be that second wave. Taking the bulk of our forces, we hopped the wormhole in our territory in preperation to attack the Death Fleet at its core, while the Jol-Nar moved east and claimed a world close to the Mindnet’s home system in a surgical strike.

As our fleet sits at the edge of space, a warp away from either our home or a Mindnet held planetary system across the galaxy, we bide our time as others make their moves. Will the Jol-Nar be able to take the Mindnet’s home system, or will they redirect their efforts to attack us again while our fleet is away? Will the Federation head into the former territories of the Sardok N’orr, or see an opportunity at our borders? Time will tell.

For now we wait.

The L1z1x Mindnet.

Turing Host Protocol “Justin Clouse” of the L1z1x Mindnet Says:

Galactic Standardized Unit Of Temporal Measurement 001000 to 001001

Command: Access 001000, 001001

Status: Retrieving directory

Status: Offsets: Server: 0. Local system: -100001. Galactic Variance: +100001

Response: Connected to Galactic.Mindnet.Advancement

Status: Bureaucratic algorithms calculate that control of Mecatol Rex to be required for Mindnet Advancement. Overwhelming firepower determined as highest probability of success. Dispatch primary fleet 0001 with entire capitol ship contingent. Fleet orders as follows. Decimate the Federation of Sol defense fleet. Transited to Mecatol Rex sector. Federation of Sol fleet attempted retreat maneuvers. Maneuvered to use Mecatol Rex gravity shadow to delay Federation of Sol warp out. Scans indicate that no Federation of Sol vessels survived the initial salvos. Terran escape pods caught in crossfire of targeted planetary bombardment of military assets. Mecatol Rex pacified.

Warring: Virus detected. Origin Xxcha empire. Determining damage. Dreadnaught production offline. Ground forces assault pods compromised. Dreadnaught targeting efficiency below current specifications. Attempting to flush system memory.

Reboot successful.

Deep space signal analyses indicate regrouping of Sardakk N’orr forces at Saudor. Tactical and strategic computation engaged. Saudor threatens critical systems to Mindnet.Advancement this cycle. Authorized use of experimental Fleet_Logistic.mk2 to maximize efficiency of Sardakk N’orr pacification. All remaining Sardakk N’orr production facilities eliminated.

Warning: The Universities of Jol-Nar fleet detected in Mindnet space planetary sector Wellon. Movement in violation of the “accord”. Expeditionary fleet not responding.

Pending: All fleet actions terminated. Commence transit to [0.0.0].

Command: Access 001000, 001001

Log out: Integrated Turning Host Protocol “Justin” Subserver Galactic Mindnet Advancement Algorithm

The destruction of the last Sardokk Fleet.

Excerpt from the personal log of Hive Alpha Jon Bolding of the Sardokk N’orr – Final Entry:

The Mindnet’s vessels have been bombarding the last remaining bunkers of our ground troops from the sky for what feels like days now, as their gigantic War Suns block out the sun of our final colony on Saudor. Every unsecured comms channel is filled with the emotionless face of their leader, broadcasting messages that urge our helpless civilians to accept subjugation. Meanwhile, Mindnet ground forces drive anyone they can find from their home clusters into refugee camps for “processing”, and ruthlessly execute any who resist. Our last ships and our last warriors fell bravely in battle as the Mindnet moved in with its largest war fleet to darken the skies of our remaining production facilities, shelling the very land into glass with their munitions.

There is no more resistance to offer. I have ordered what few soldiers remain to escort any civilian ship still space worthy and not impounded by the Mindnet’s patrols to flee into hiding, and to seek shelter and mercy within the borders of the other galactic races. As much as they wish to assist, none of the other galactic races have the capacity to come to our aid, but at least the annihilation of our empire has driven them to recognize that true threat will not be found in each other, but in the L1x1x. The Jol-Nor and Yin have signed a ceasefire and have turned on the Mindnet, maneuvering their substantial fleets into striking position in the hopes of forcing the Mindnet to spread out their significant forces across multiple fronts. The Xxcha and The Federation have also ended their war, the latter even going so far as to retake Mecatol, but I know not how long they will hold it, nor will I ever know.

I have accepted that this is my end. But I am not afraid.

I hear the whine of their dropships approaching, and I imagine it will not be long before they breach the doors to this command center, this last bastion of Sardokk N’orr might. They will not find anything of value – I have personally destroyed all materials relating to our technologies, the locations of our refugee fleets and any remaining outposts still under Sardokk control. Instead, they will find but one lone N’orr, covered in the markings of war and my lineage. I will not make it easy for them. Even if I only slay but a few of their cybernetic soldiers, I will allow them to see how a true warrior dies – on his feet with his claws covered in the blood of his enemies.

Long live the Sardokk.

The Wrap Up

In an unexpected move, Justin completely slaughtered Jon’s already weakened empire in one round, and with no capability to rebuild a stardock or retake any of his lost worlds he was eliminated from the game. Meanwhile, the other players have all opted to a ceasefire to focus their efforts on Justin, with Greg making a furious push towards Justin’s homeworld and Janelle hoping to use wormholes in a flanking maneuver. Meanwhile, Josh and Paul work to build up their fleets in the hopes that if they too need to enter the fight, they’ll stand a chance in taking out Justin’s significant forces.

At the end of round 8, Justin still holds the lead with 7 victory points, with Janelle close behind with 6. Greg takes third with 4 points, while Paul and Josh find themselves tied for fourth place with 3 victory points each.

With an uneasy peace between most of the warring factions and Justin’s massive War Suns still on the board, can the other players put aside their differences long enough to force Justin into surrender? Tune in next week to find out!

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