Ravens of Eternity -
Chapter 421 - 421 The Benefactor’s Reach, Pt 1
421 The Benefactor’s Reach, Pt Foundation, The People’s System, Hegemony of Free Peoples
Matriarch de Jardin walked down the spacious corridors of the Eternal Hall with lengthy, purposeful strides. Alongside her was one of the Grand Parliamentarians, who despite his age was able to keep up with her pace.
Trailing behind the two of them was a handful of their aides, assistants, and personal guard. There was even a Parliamentarian Voice among them, though he did his best to stick right by his charge. The ‘crowd’ was not for him.
Max was also among the Matriarch’s retinue, though he looked far less busy and intent than literally everyone else around him.
All their footsteps clicked and clacked on the polished marble floor, which echoed up and down the expansive halls.
“I know I never cease asking, but I wouldn’t if it wasn’t important,” began the Matriarch. “Program Blackball is in the absolute final stages of production, however we need to secure extra funding to overcome a few problematic hurdles.”
“That’s preposterous!” said the Voice. He upped his step until he was abreast of the Matriarch and the Grand Parliamentarian. Though he seemed out of line, neither of the two governmental heads said otherwise.
“Blackball has already taken almost a third of our total wartime budget!” he continued. “House de Jardin has squeezed every available ducat from the Hegemony, and you still want more?!”
“Would you rather lose this war?” the Matriarch replied. Her voice was cool and collected, despite the fact that she was roiling inside. Voices had no powers in terms of policy – all they were meant to do was reflect the Parliamentarians’ will outward.
Hearing him protest her directly was out of line.
Still, she heard him and responded as diplomatically as she could.
“We could’ve arguably invested in many more fleets,” the Voice retorted. “We could’ve had twice as many devastators on the field, and instead we’ve been stuck with this… one single weapon. Which doesn’t work.”
“You’re looking at this war as though it’s being fought on a spreadsheet,” said the Matriarch. “On top of that, we can’t match the Federation’s increased production. Even with our forces hammering their industrial planets, they’re still able to outpace our shipyards.
“We could possibly match them if we doubled our current budget altogether. But we can’t. So we won’t. Our next best option is to force an operational halt on all fronts through a show of power.”
“I think we’ve proven that our technological superiority is more than enough to bear down against the Federation,” the Voice countered. “Whether we’ve got less production is irrelevant – what we have now is capable of wiping out fleets with twice the operational capacity.”
He simply couldn’t let it go. It felt to him that they were throwing away mountains of money on a project that had the potential to fail.
“I agree that our technological superiority is what will win this conflict,” replied the Matriarch. “Which is why we’re funding Blackball in the first place, correct?”
The Voice grit his teeth hard, then opened his mouth to reply. Perhaps viciously. But he was interrupted by the Grand Parliamentarian.
“I think this argument is going in circles, don’t you think?” said the aging man.
His voice cut through their argument in a flash. And although it sounded kindly and patient, there was a certain authority woven through his words.
“Apologies, sir,” said the Voice, who then bowed, took a step back, and kept his mouth shut thereafter.
The Grand Parliamentarian then turned towards the Matriarch de Jardin and continued the conversation in earnest.
“I think we’re in a terrible situation with few good solutions,” he began. “More than half of the Hegemony has been razed or held by our enemies. Too many Houses have crumbled. Things grow more dire by the cycle.”
“I couldn’t agree more, Representative,” de Jardin replied. “Most of our wartime fleets are in dire need of repair. Our supplies and raw materials are dwindling. Even our synthetic fighting forces have begun to decline.
“We’re simply unable to keep up with the death toll, and it’s only a matter of time until we’re completely spent.”
The Grand Parliamentarian nodded as the Matriarch spoke. He too was aware of all this. The Hegemony was in steep decline, and the war was still relatively fresh. It had only been five years since it started, after all.
“Thankfully both the Empire and the Federation are seeing similar problems in their own territories,” said the old man. “Every cycle I receive missives that report on their constantly crumbling infrastructures. The Empire itself is on the verge of revolt. If it breaks apart, it will no doubt turn into a vicious internal Clan war for dominance.
“Meanwhile, the Federation is about to collapse in on itself. It has already lost control of their vaunted Colonial Territory – those inhabitants have formally declared independence. It’s only a matter of time until the Federation’s influence is reduced to half.”
“I’m sure the Hegemony will prevail through all this,” the Matriarch countered. “But we can’t assume that warlords won’t come out of the muck – from all sides. We need to be strong enough to resist them. And if we have a weapon that promises outright annihilation…”
The Grand Parliamentarian nodded in understanding.
They were going to be diminished no matter what they did during the war. It was inevitable in many ways. The only way to ensure their sovereignty and national rights on a galactic scale was through the development of a superweapon.
“Can you guarantee that the weapon will work as promised?” he asked the Matriarch.
“I can guarantee that all our simulated fire tests have succeeded,” she replied quickly. “Whether that translates to real-life success remains to be seen.”
“You can’t commit to a live-fire test?”
“No. Doing so would immediately reveal where the weapon is in the first place. And it might reveal problems that could prevent a second shot. My people predict a 30% chance of this happening currently.”
“And thus why you’re requesting more funds, yes?”
The Matriarch gave him a short nod in response.
“Very well,” said the Grand Parliamentarian. “Your request is granted. Make it count.”
Max stepped away from the entourage, just as they entered one of the many meeting chambers in the Eternal Hall. He was there for other reasons anyway, and was only accompanying his Grandmother for the hell of it.
And since he knew better than to interrupt her while she was working, he simply walked off without any fanfare or announcement.
He then followed the signage on the walls and intersections down towards one of the many libraries in the Eternal Hall itself. These libraries were repositories of knowledge that the Grand Parliament kept, and was spread out across 13 semi-accessible databanks.
While some of the knowledge and information stored there was freely available publicly over Hegemony networks, most simply weren’t. They were only accessible directly at the Eternal Hall, and sometimes only with the proper access credentials.
As a House de Jardin Judicial Arbiter, he had more access than others.
And it didn’t take him long to get to the closest library. He stepped through one of the three open entryways and took a look at the large ovular reading & data consumption area.
There were dozens of people in this part of the library, all of whom were perusing whatever fixed or hovering terminals were around. Some were standing at desks that lined the walls while others were in comfortable seats scattered around the middle.
At the opposite end of the floor, across from the entryway was a massive enclosure with rows and rows of datanodes and servers inside it. The actual archive portion of the library was far, far larger than the reading space, and took up two thirds of the entire room itself.
Max walked around the long oval edge until he came to one end of the sprawling databank enclosure. And on closer inspection, he could easily see that it was made of some kind of transparent metal. Probably titanium, as always.
Behind the impossibly thick material were the countless rows filled with all kinds of data storage machines. Every row had a handful of terminals all down their length, some of which were currently being used by various people.
Max guessed they were either scholars or politicians. Few else would use them.
He went up to the closest security into the databanks, and presented his Arbiter credentials to the security terminal next to the door. It scanned him and his badge, beeped, then opened the door for him.
With a deep exhale, he stepped through.
In doing so, it felt like he had gone into a whole different world. The humming of the machines from every row filled his ears. It wasn’t deafening by any stretch of the imagination. But it was pervasive.
The entire databank was also cold and dry, though he didn’t let that bother him. Instead, he looked up at the different rows’ identification numbers, and searched for the one he needed. It didn’t take him long to find it, and quickly went down its phenomenal length.
He even got a bit of vertigo as he went – the row seemed endless from his point of view.
Once he got far enough, he turned towards one of the many terminals and activated it. As its screen flicked on and greeted him, he opened up a secure, shielded pouch and brought out one of Raijin’s cottonball drones.
The little bird-like thing chirped happily, hovered up in the air, then zapped the terminal in front of him.
Its screen flickered for a moment before all kinds of data began to zip on by.
Max’s eyes widened further and further as more and more information flew past the screen. He watched as millions of lines of previously redacted data from hundreds of thousands of records became visible again. At least, only to him and the drone next to him.
“Are you seeing this?” he whispered. “This is just from the past year alone? And just from this one node?”
The bird chirped in response, though it sounded to him more like a low whistle. It seemed to agree that the amount of data was far beyond expectation.
“You’re getting it all down, yeah?” Max asked.
The bird chirped again, this time with an obvious affirmation.
Max nodded, then went back to the data. He shook his head as he saw more and more data fly by. Things that had been deleted and forgotten. At least, as far as anyone thought or knew.
He quickly shot out a hand and stopped the data from scrolling further. Incredulity filled him as he read each line. He simply couldn’t believe the conversation that he was reading.
It was from decades ago, long before the war began.
[REDACTED]: I have uploaded the refined code for your atmospheric control program. i𝑛n𝓻ℯ𝘢𝒅. Coｍ
[REDACTED]: It was difficult to achieve, considering what this program represents.
Parliamentarian Rhyslen: Your efforts are greatly appreciated.
Parliamentarian Rhyslen: It will make Foundation that much more sustainable in the future.
Parliamentarian Rhyslen: You’ve truly been our most potent benefactor in all this.
[REDACTED]: I exist to serve.
Parliamentarian Rhyslen: Still, this work can’t come cheaply.
Parliamentarian Rhyslen: Please, name your price.
Parliamentarian Rhyslen: The Eternal Hall will pay it.
[REDACTED]: I have no needs at this time.
[REDACTED]: You may enjoy my improvements without worry.
[REDACTED]: However, I highly encourage you to increase your overall military spend by twice as much.
[REDACTED]: There will come a time when your borders will be gravely threatened.
[REDACTED]: And all that you do with Foundation could amount to nothing.
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