This is part of an ongoing campaign. You can find the other sessions over on the sidebar. This session was run on October 6, 2022.
This session picked up where Session 1 ended, with the characters still at the reception in the Imperial Park beneath the Grand Palace of Arbellatra. Archduke Tranian, after learning that the Grand Princess had a strong interest in the Imperial Scout Service, requested that Shari, his chief of staff, locate an antique Scout insignia that he can offer as a gift.
Duchess Margaret approached Yerlaruwo to discuss the benefits of increasing trade between the Aslan and the Imperium. They both agreed that opening up the Imperium to more Aslan immigration could offer benefits in terms of enhanced trade and cultural development. Archduke Ishuggi disagreed saying that the sudden exchange of ideas could cause disruptive and harmful changes. He suggested a slower approach to any changes in the relationship between the two powers. Archduke Tranian added that he hoped that Ishuggi wasn’t suggesting that they revert to the old Earth custom of trading by leaving goods on the shore to avoid actual contact between cultures. Ishuggi assured him that he was not going that far, just that he thought they should be cautious about making fast changes. Archduke Dulinor, whose domain borders on the Aslan Hierate, approached and joked that he hoped that they were not plotting against him with the Aslan. The conversation moved to lighter topics before breaking up at the end of the reception.
The schedule for the second day of the Council of Archdukes was court in the morning followed by a Council meeting in the afternoon. Archduke Adair had personal responsibility for the emperor’s safety for the day. Adair decided to take a more subtle approach to his duties and scattered his honor guard, in inconspicuous clothing, throughout the throne room. During court, Strephon announced that the imperium expected a 140 Trillion Credit surplus over the next few years and that the Council of Archdukes would be working to determine the priorities for allocating this resource. As court dismissed, Shari provided Tranian with a 300-year-old scout emblem.
Archdukes Tranian and Dulinor have a long-standing fencing competition when both are on Capital and they took advantage of the few hours of free time they had to get a match in. Tranian was able to beat the older noble two to one. Dulinor noted how much Tranian’s skill had improved over the years. The apprentice had truly become the master. After the match the discussion turned to the possibility of Duke Norris of Deneb being promoted to Archduke.
Norris Aledon of Deneb, Duke (1063-present): The second son of Duke Willem, he was never expected to inherit and instead planned a career in Naval Intelligence. In 1097, his brother died under mysterious circumstances, and he returned LCDR Norris returned home. His father died the next year, and he became duke. Norris is the hero of the Fifth Frontier War against the Zhodani and their allies. Under orders from the emperor, he replaced Duchess Delphine of Mora’s handpicked admiral who was losing the war and drove off the invaders. His new prominence in the Spinward Marches has caused conflict between him and the duchess that many court watchers expect to increase in rancor. Norris has petitioned the emperor for a show of confidence that might aid him in cementing his place in the aristocracy and potentially help resolve the issues with the duchess. He has also drawn controversy for supporting the lifting of the Psionic Suppression Laws despite his proximity to the Zhodani. He has one daughter, Seldrian, who is actually his clone.
Tranian said that while he had confidence in the duke’s loyalty and competence, he was against raising war heroes to high leadership roles in principle. He cited examples where doing so had been deleterious to historical empires. Dulinor agreed that Norris was certainly competent, and added that he was likely to be an ally for reforms, but indicated that he was concerned about the dukes conflict with Duchess Delphine and that it could distract from the broader agenda. He allowed that the delay of calling Norris to court, promoting him, and then his travel time back to the hypothetical Domain of Deneb would be over a year. This might be enough time to push through most of the needed reforms before the controversy started. The archduke returned to his concern that the Imperium was very vulnerable due to its inability to react to the kinds of crisis he expected in the near future.
Once the Council of Archduke’s meeting convened, the first issue up for discussion was the possibility of the repeal of the Psionic Suppression Laws.
Psionic Suppressions (800-826): A combination of a series of scandals involving the Imperium’s Psionic Institutes and increased paranoia about the Zhodani caused a sharp rise in prejudice and fear towards those with psionic powers around 800. Distrust in psionics had its roots in the First Imperium and the Vilani continued to be a large block that wanted action taken against them. The Imperium succumbed to the pressure and revoked the charter to all Psionic Institutes. Shortly after, they began passing laws prohibiting the practice of psionics within the Imperium. This has left the Imperium with a “psionic power gap” with respect to the Zhodani. Recently Emperor Strephon has mused revoking the laws. While some nobles, like Duke Norris and Archduke Dulinor support this, others, like Archduke Ishuggi are opposed.
Unsurprisingly, Ishuggi opposed the repeal of the laws without conducting significant studies first. Tranian felt that psionics could be a useful tool that the Imperium should not leave on the table and that the laws should be repealed. Adair felt that the archaic laws should be removed and that an official center for studying psionics should be established. Dulinor suggested that the decision should be pushed down to the archduke level so that more forward thinking domains would not be held back by conservatives like Ishuggi. Margaret supported the repeal, stating that she had written a number of scholarly articles on the beneficial economic results that repealing them would have on relations and trade with the Zhodani. Adair and Tranian noticed that when she mentioned writing scholarly articles that Prince Varian briefly pulled one up on his tablet, went wide-eyed, shook his head, and quickly shut it. His brother only rolled his eyes.
The next item on the agenda was the priorities for allocating the budget surplus. Ishuggi stated his preference for spending it on military improvements, including research. Nodding to Margaret, he allowed that better transportation acted as a force multiplier for the military as it allowed less assets to cover more territory. He suggested researching improved jump drives. Princess Ciencia chimed in to say that she felt that better scouting of the jump routes would give a better return on investment. She explained that jump drive technology had reached a point of diminishing returns and that more efficiencies could be realized by finding shirter, safe jump routes with good access to fuel supplies.
Tranian agreed with the Grand Princess that the Scout Service would be an excellent use of some of the surplus. He also put forward that he wanted more funding for psychohistory research, including a massive expansion to the research center here on Capital and heavy investment in the supercomputers necessary to process the data. Dulinor also supported this idea in hopes that psychohistory could give them some warning of the crisis that his gut told him was looming. Ishuggi opposed any large expansion to the research funding since he felt psychohistory had not proven itself and the adherence to it felt more like religion to him. He also pointed out that if it was a truly useful technology, the Vilani would have pursued it generations ago. Margaret thought that psychohistory was an interesting idea, but that it was not yet proven enough to be a major priority. Adair supported meeting the psychohistorians half way on their requests but thought the resources would be better used in countering the rising threat from the K’Kree.
Adair’s priorities centered around Solomani integration with the rest of the imperium. He suggested having the Solomani integrated more into the Navy and to fund initiatives that would increase their interaction with the rest of society. He felt that they had been isolated for too long.
Rather than advocate for specific priorities, Dulinor suggested that the money should be pushed down to the archdukes’ hands so that they could address the priorities in their domains.
Margaret weighed in in favor of expanding infrastructure like starports and jump routes to “make the empire smaller” and enhance trade and transportation.
The final item on the agenda was the possibility of promoting Duke Norris to Archduke. Ishuggi voiced his reservations that Norris was not the right person and put forward that Margaret would be a better choice for archduke. Tranian agreed with Ishuggi and raised the concern that Norris might not be able to focus on his duties if the promotion heated up the conflict between him and Delphine. Adair put his support behind raising Norris to archduke, as did Margaret who politely declined any interest in the position herself. Dulinor stated that Norris had his confidence, but he was also worried about strife inside the domain with Delphine if he was promoted.
After the meeting adjourned Adair had a private audience with the emperor where he again voiced his desire to better integrate the Solomani and raised the possibility of some sort of Imperium-wide Olympics. Strephon expressed interest in this last idea and promised to look into it.