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But Everyone Calls their Planet Dirt!

"We'll want to minimize the amount of our tech they can get their hands on before full capitulation," Intelligence Officer Rouel noted. "To go from undetectable from a distance to an orbital communications relay network in only five hundred years suggests a remarkably high innovation score."

Admiral Crassock flicked an ear tuft and nodded. "The less we give them to reverse engineer, the less we'll bleed. Are there any other warning flags?"

"No, sir," Rouel answered. "They launch their satellites with chemical rockets. Even first generation counter-grav is more cost effective, so we can reasonably assume they don't have it. Since you can't do FTL R&D on a planet's surface without destroying it, no counter-grav means no FTL, which means no reinforcements. A separatist colony would have retained enough tech for an outward facing system defense network; a penal colony would have an inward facing one. Since this system has neither, this must be this species's homeworld."

"Has there been any change in the habitability report since the original survey?" the admiral asked. CRX-4 sat right in the sweet spot of the habitability assessment, with most of its landmass in the subtropical zones, but enough temperate and arctic real estate to ensure that over 90% of galactic species could live there with only adornment grade protective clothing. Only a handful of the most extreme outlier species would need more than class three environmental gear to survive somewhere on the planet. The only reason no one had snapped it up when it was first discovered was that its location was simply too remote to be practical. But borders had expanded in the intervening centuries, and now the Wingover Heromancy was close enough to claim the planet and defend that claim against any contenders.

"Surprisingly little," the intelligence officer answered. "They must have had their industrial revolution at an atypically low population benchmark, and learned how to clean up after themselves fairly quickly. Another indication that they have an abnormally high innovation score."

"What about their physiology?" Admiral Crassock asked. "It won't constrain their combat effectiveness as much as it would for a less innovative species, but it must still influence their tactics."

Intelligence Officer Rouel nodded. "Here, we have visuals on them." He flicked a command to the display, but then began reading off the data anyway. "Mammalian bipeds, hair sparse except on the top of the head and a few other locations that vary by individual. Moderate sexual dimorphism--subtle but enough to render co-ed sports competitions impractical for any but strictly recreational purposes. Very conflicting reports on strength and stamina, suggesting that they have a use-it-or-lose-it physiology. Atypically high resting metabolic rates, even for endotherms."

"Meaning that a middle of the sleep cycle surprise attack will have to be perfectly executed in order to retain the advantages of a surprise attack?" the admiral interjected.

"Precisely," Rouel answered. "Viviparous with a gestational period of nearly a year and roughly two decades to maturity. Birthrate appears to inversely correlate with wealth, which suggests a lack of innate control over their reproduction. It's difficult to determine their typical lifespan--hereditary and environmental factors apparently can alter it by as much as 50%; the current primary suppression of their life expectancy appears to come from a tendency toward extreme recklessness in their adolescent males."

"That will make ground combat...interesting..." Admiral Crossack said. "I think i'll tell the training officers to put their most creative minds on designing the practice scenarios for the ground units."

"With a combination of innovative and reckless, i'd suggest putting the truly diabolical minds on the air unit training scenarios," Captain Hussend said, his reptilian muzzle parting in a grin of malicious glee.

"Looking for an excuse to pull out that black box scenario?" Admiral Crossack asked the captain of his fleet's contingent of planetary troops. Returning his attention to the intelligence officer he asked, "Do we have to worry about attempted MAD?"

"FTL research is noisy enough that we'd detect it long before they managed to weaponize it." Rouel answered. "As much easier as that is than using it for travel, it's still far from easy. They do have fission reactors providing some of their power. There's no evidence that they ever tried to weaponize that technology, however; we'd see fallout scars if they'd done any testing. I'd still recommend seizing those nuclear power plants and any fuel processing facilities as quickly as possible."

Admiral Crossack nodded. "Unless you find something else before we arrive within targeting range of the planet, i think we'll remain in stealth mode until we're in position to take out all of their satellites simultaneously. Their ground based sensors should be sufficient for them to realize we have orbital superiority. If that isn't enough to make them surrender, it will be Captain Hussend's turn to call the shots. Do we know what they call themselves? If we're going to demand that they surrender sovereignty of their home planet, we can at least do them the courtesy of using their name for it."

"They call themselves 'humans'," Intelligence Officer Rouel answered. "The planet they call Ferrari. Oddly, it's the same in all twelve of their languages; perhaps it was inherited from some archaic language that is no longer used."

---------------------------------------

The initial attack went off perfectly. All of the satellites around Ferrari disintegrated within a few seconds of one another, with no wasted shots from the WHN ships. Almost as soon as they realized that all of their satellite communications were down, the humans began evacuating their civilians toward a series of massive underground bunkers.

"I can't tell if that's an overpowered communications laser, or a weapons test modulated to carry data to give them plausible deniability if it fails," the Communications Officer reported when the humans finally replied to the Wingover Heromancy's surrender demands.

"Retaliation will make them assume their weapons are strong enough to damage our ships," Captain Hussend predicted.

Intelligence Officer Rouel concurred. "My recommendation would be to politely ask them to dial back the power on that laser as it's clearly intended for communication over much longer distances. Imply that it's merely signal degradation due to overexposure, not anything that threatens to actually damage our receiver."

Admiral Crossack considered the suggestion for a few moments and then told the communications officer, "Do it."

After some negotiation with the humans over optimal signal strength, the transmission settled on the image of a human in what appeared to be their civilian formal wear. "President Chen, of the Faction Arbitration Council," the human identified himself. "Since you're asking for our surrender rather than simply glassing the planet, you must want it intact, which means you're going to have to come down here and take it. It would be easier to negotiate a land for tech swap--except that none of us has the authority to order everyone else to stand down. You'd have to negotiate with each faction separately if you want the whole planet. And since you opened with an attack, even if it was just on infrastructure and not personnel, rather than a diplomatic contact, half of them are going to insist that you're nothing but thieves and bullies, no matter how big an empire you might happen to have behind you.

"The short version," President Chen continued. "If you want this planet, you're going to have to come down here and take it."

"If we refrain from firing on your evacuating civilians, will you refrain from salting the Ferrari?" Admiral Crossack asked.

"Salting the--?" the human President's forehead wrinkled as he tried to puzzle out the phrase. "You mean, 'salting the earth'?"

"Isn't that what i said?" Admiral Crossack asked. "I understand that the connotations of synonymous words can vary, but the denotation should be similar enough for understanding. And every terrestrial species calls their planet some cognate of Fertile Soil or Solid Ground. It requires relatively advanced astronomical knowledge to realize that the planet beneath one's feet has anything in common with the wandering stars in the night sky, after all."

The human's eyes widened, and then his face went curiously blank. He just figured something out, and he's weighing the tactical considerations against the strategic ones, Rouel guessed silently.

"We won't start an atrocity contest as long as you don't," President Chen said. "Not all of our cultures agree on what does and what does not constitute war crimes, but as long as you refrain from targeting civilians and don't use biological or chemical weapons, they should all remain within the parameters of what most warriors consider an acceptable level of occupational hazard."

"What's the most common opinion on eating your kills?" Captain Hussend asked, displaying his mouthful of large reptilian teeth.

"In extremis only," President Chen answered. "There are a few superstitions that hold that eating hearts or certain other organs can be a way to appropriate your enemy's virtues, but far more of us regard it as a way of declaring your enemy to be an animal rather than a person. Cannibalism as a last ditch alternative to death by starvation will generally be overlooked, but ritual practice is not tolerated."

Captain Hussend nodded. "That is a common consensus among most polities and species as well. I suppose that any trophy taking would best be justifiable as preserving DNA samples to determine who is dead and who is missing once the war ends?"

"Oh, the nerds are going to love you," President Chen muttered. "Is there anything else we need to discuss, or is it time for you to either reconsider your invasion or else 'bring it on'?"

"My troops are already dropping," Captain Hussend answered with another toothy grin.

---------------------------------

"Woah, hey, there's no need to get nasty," Pedro said as his eyes locked onto the tray of surgical implements. "I'm a civilian. I've got no reason not to spill the beans."

"Civilian," the mantis looking interrogator scoffed. "You killed at least forty of our soldiers, and crippled over a dozen more."

"I'm just a guy trying to defend his home. If your people had just obeyed the 'no trespassing' signs, nobody would have died," Pedro responded.

"In any case, it's your medical condition that's responsible for any nastiness," the interrogator informed the human captive. "The squad that dug you out from under that landslide thought they were recovering a corpse for autopsy. Growing replacement organs for your ruptured ones was straightforward enough, but your species is violently allergic to all of our existing bone glue formulations, so your broken bones are going to have to heal the slow way. I'm told that broken ribs are even more painful than a fractured thoracic plate."

"Convenient," Pedro said. "You get to dose me with enough painkillers to keep me from guarding my tongue and still claim you're just trying to help me."

"Quite convenient," the interrogator agreed. "Also a useful argument against those who claim that compassion is nothing but a waste of resources. May i have your full name for the next exchange of survival records?"

"Pedro Fook. I'm seriously tempted to give you the correct spelling instead of the one English speakers will pronounce correctly, but i'm too tired for that game."

The interrogator paused to listen to what the linguist was telling him through his earpiece and then clacked in amusement. "Very droll. I can accept that a civilian would have sufficient motive for attacking our troops, but i find your effectiveness implausible."

Pedro answered, "Why? Hunting the free-range livestock gets us kill training. Paintball games give us tactical training against opponents as smart and creative as we are. Wilderness hiking and camping gets us survival training. And VR lets us familiarize ourselves with the stuff that would be too dangerous to do for real."

"But how are you coordinating your attacks?" the interrogator asked.

"We aren't," Pedro answered. "We're spread out enough that we aren't likely to get in each other's ways; and we all grew up reading the same books, watching the same movies, and playing the same games, so we all have fairly similar ideas as to what tactics are likely to work in what situations. We don't need to win, we just have to keep harassing your people enough to prove we haven't abandoned our claim until the military gets here. If you had a prior claim, you should have planted a flag or left a beacon in orbit or something, so we'd have known we needed to negotiate instead of just moving in."

"Habitable planets are far to precious to be left in the hands of those who can't defend them," the interrogator replied. "There are a few interstellar species so xenophobic that they will glass a planet that someone else beat them to. If you can't keep us from taking it when we want to preserve it, you'd have no hope of keeping them from destroying it."

"You still could have tried negotiating first and attacking second," Pedro replied angrily. "Counter-gravity tech would be well worth sharing a planet over. Possibly even giving one up if we could have come to an arrangement regarding the people who have put down roots too deep to be willing to move to a different one. Too late for that now, though."

"You have no FTL," the interrogator said. "How would you leave, and how could you have come here from somewhere else."

"Why do you think we--ohhhhhh..." Pedro suddenly realized, "You never did solve the energy discharge from getting it almost right problem. You had counter-grav, you could just do your research and development in deep space where failures wouldn't destroy your planet. We had to focus on miniaturization instead, so the energy release was small enough to contain, until we could consistently get it right. Then we scaled back up until we had something suitable for a mass transit system. By the way, the emergency evacuation portals can be weaponized, so i'd advise against backing us into any corners. And our home planet isn't on this network, so even if you manage to capture a control unit intact, you can't get all of us!"

"Do you know where it is, in spatial terms?" the interrogator asked.

Pedro started to shrug and them stopped when his ribs objected. "Galaxy cluster on the other side of the Great Attractor from here, if i remember correctly. We've got at least a hundred planets scattered across a dozen different galaxies, as best the astronomers can tell. There's one that's suspected of not even being in the same universe."

"What does Ferrari translate as," the interrogator asked.

"Did anyone notice that paved track with the freestanding garage near my house?" Pedro responded. "That car in there, that's a Ferrari."

The translator listened to something on his earpiece and then said, "Four-wheeled ground vehicle, internal combustion engine--used for recreational racing?" Getting a nod from Pedro he went on, "The car is named after the planet?"

"No," Pedro answered. "The planet was named after the car; the car is named after the guy who founded the company that originally manufactured it. No clue what the etymology on his family name is."

"I see," the interrogator said. His insect-like anatomy and stridulatory vocal apparatus didn't prevent him from being noticeably disturbed by what he'd learned.

-------------------------------------

"But everyone calls their planet 'Dirt'," Admiral Crossack objected once he finished watching the recording of the interview.

"But they're not from here," Captain Hussend said. "It would have been obvious, except their method of getting here flies in the face of everything we know about FTL tech. We've got enough seismic surveys now to know those bunkers are nowhere near big enough to hold everyone who went into them. Not even with true stasis tech or physiology that would allow for adult cryofreeze. Can't swear on the former, but we know they don't have the latter."

"A pity this Pedro never studied enough physics to explain how their portals work. He can tell us what they do, but not why," Intelligence Officer Rouel said. "They probably sent anyone who did have that knowledge home in the first wave of evacuations. A pity we didn't know to stop them."

Captain Hussend disagreed. "Just as well we didn't. If that portal tech really does have the same energy discharge problem as conventional FTL, they have at least planetary, and possibly system scale, MAD. Firing on evacuees would have been a disaster."

"And Pedro thinks they've sent enough shuttle parts through that portal for them to reverse engineer the counter-gravity tech," Admiral Crossack said glumly. "Doesn't know enough to guess how long that will take, or which direction they'll try to hit us from once they have it. I suppose i can't really blame him for not bothering to study astrography with the way their portal network ignores physical distance, but it's blasted inconvenient for us."

"And President Chen still insists that negotiation is impossible until their military arrives in force--no one currently on planet has the authority or the firepower to force all factions to abide by any agreement," Rouel noted, equally glum. "We need to crack one of those bunkers open, see what's in there."

"Already in planning," Captain Hussend said. "And i just ordered it moved to the top of the priority list."

That was when the bunkers in question exploded. A number of blunt conical projectiles erupted from each site, propelled by an unholy mixture of chemical rockets and conter-grav.

"Those missiles have shields," one of the point defense sensor techs reported.

Captain Hussend's pupils went to full dilation and he lunged for the fleet wide communication toggle. "All personnel, stand by to repel boarders. Projectile loadout, not concussion."

Admiral Crossack stared at the captain in consternation. "That firefight is going to be a nightmare for damage control."

"If they can survive that kind of acceleration," Hussend waved a hand at the display that was tracking the missiles' progress, "and be able to fight afterwards, then while concussion injuries may still be a nightmare for the survivors' nearest and dearest to deal with, they won't do us any good."

"Notify me as soon as all of these presumed boarding missiles have either docked or been destroyed," Admiral Crossack told the sensor officer sorrowfully. Then he turned to the main console and began reciting a lengthy series of authorization codes, concluding with, "Assimilator boarding protocol to standby."

"You think they're that dangerous, sir?" one of the other ship commanders asked on a private channel.

"MAD only works if it truly is mutual," Admiral Crossack explained. "We don't know how many planets these humans have or where they are; we cannot allow them to have that information about ours. A species that scores as high as this one for both aggression and innovation is not something we want to have to fight a defensive war against."

Even with the deranged acceleration produced by the hybrid drive systems, it was several long minutes before the boarding missiles began impacting against the orbiting ships. The smaller, faster ships had been sent racing away from Ferrari. Half of them immediately headed to various WHN stations to relay the information acquired so far; half of them loitered on the fringes of the system to see how events played out. The larger ships, however, needed too much time to bring their main engines up to full thrust to escape the attack via distance.

The human soldiers from the last of the boarding missiles to arrive were greeted by an automated sounding, "Assimilation boarding protocol activated. Detection of any breaching charge will activate the self-destruct on all WHN ships within one astronomical unit."

"What did we do that spooked them that bad?" a human from a different boarding party wondered.

"If that translated correctly," the squads senior member answered, "they're using a protocol intended for somebody else. Still, we must have spooked them at least a little to go with one that all-or-nothing."

"I'm getting painted with a sensor laser," a third man reported. "Can they eavesdrop on us without cracking the radio encryption?"

Admiral Crossack figured it was time to offer his proposal. "If you refrain from penetrating any further into our ships, we will withdraw to the fringes of this system until we can negotiate terms for retrieving our planet-side personnel as well as your own return. We will also order our ground troops to return to and remain in the currently existing fortified positions for so long as there are no attacks on those positions. Is this cease fire acceptable?"

"You will refrain from attacking the positions we currently hold?" one of the human boarders asked.

"We will," Admiral Crossack answered.

"Terms accepted."

-----------------------------------

Negotiations went as well as could be expected when the humans were reluctant to allow enough Heromancy shuttles near the planet to lift all of their personnel at once and the WHN officers were reluctant to leave a contingent of the size they could lift at one time on the planet alone. The boarding parties, in contrast, had been returned as soon as the humans could satisfy themselves that the shuttle was not booby trapped--neither they nor the WHN was happy about the active self-destruct contingency.

Eventually a compromise was reached in which the last of the Heromancy bases on Ferrari was to be converted into an embassy. It wouldn't actually attain that status under Heromancy law until the Council of Winglords formally recognized at least one of the human governments, and required a Winglord's presence to attain at least consulate status--but nothing prevented the humans from granting it formal diplomatic recognition in the meanwhile.

President Chen and Admiral Crossack sat facing each other in one of the lounges of the future embassy. "Exactly how much authority do you have to negotiate?" President Chen asked.

"Officially, none," Crossack answered. "Treaties must be ratified by the council and negotiated by a Winglord. Unofficially, i should be able to give you reliable guidance as to what terms will be acceptable and what will not. How much of a courtship dance will be required to get those terms accepted, i can't guess until i know which Winglord will be conducting the official negotiations."

"Seems strange to give you the authority to start a war, but not to finish it," Chen observed.

"Ordinarily," Crossack explained, "a Winglord would have been dispatched as soon as we realized the situation was anomalous. However, they happen to be in the middle of the once a decade Grand Conclave, the one time when Winglords whose disputes cannot be reconciled by legal means are permitted to seek normally illegal forms of redress. Any Winglord not participating still wants to be there to keep an eye on those who are."

"Normally illegal...such as dueling?" Chen guessed.

"Precisely. I was able to attend the last Conclave, and the preparation rituals, intended to preclude cheating, are so humiliating that it can be safely assumed that the participants were not going to be satisfied by anything less than blood." Crossack added, "Technically it's not limited to Winglords, but the requirements for ordinary citizens to challenge anyone are much more stringent. The conventional wisdom is that the less one has to lose, the less likely one is to be deterred by death and dishonor."

"Hmm, i suppose i can see the logic in that." A communication device pinged, and President Chen looked at the display. "What is a Voice, among your people?"

Admiral Crossack's ear tufts straightened. Finally, for good or for ill, he would know what was to be. "Both a courier and a seal of authentication. They make no decisions, but they speak with the authority of the full Council of Winglords. They are generally superlative specimens of species that have powers of persuasion or coercion, which is another reason they are so rigorously trained to be bearers of law only and never lawgivers."

"I see," Chen said slowly. "If she's coming with an arrest warrant, like you were speculating about a few days ago, we're willing to offer you asylum."

"I find exile more unpalatable than death and dishonor combined, but i am honored by your willingness to have me," Admiral Crossack said. "I am a bit puzzled by it, however. I was the one who ordered the attack on your world, after all."

President Chen shrugged. "You only fought with those who wanted to fight, and the conter-grav tech we captured is more than adequate compensation for the infrastructure damage. And the special ops teams that boarded your ships were flattered by the fact that you felt you had to pull out your worst case scenario contingency to stop them. The penultimate contingency apparently wasn't good enough. Er, i hope that was your worst case contingency."

"Worst case for contingency triggers," Crossack agreed. "There's self-destruct every ship in the system now, and trigger a system sterilizing solar flare, but those are direct triggers, and the latter is for scenarios that so far remain purely hypothetical. And the problem was that your people only needed to capture one ship, while i had to keep every single one out of their hands."

"Your people haven't figured out that the counter to a gray goo scenario is to build nannites that eat nannites?" Chen asked rhetorically. "What are the Assimilators, anyway?"

"The reason we don't do implanted technology unless there's no viable alternative medically and keep augmented reality to the absolute minimum needed for non-lethal training," Crossack said. "As best anyone has been able to tell, the Assimilators started as a faction in a VR role playing game. Somewhere along the line the species that originally created the game switched from external device full immersion VR to cyborg tech augmented reality and the players started LARPing. Sometime after that, they stopped their practice of only cyborg modding volunteers who wanted to join their club and started modding anyone they could catch."

Crossack grimaced and continued, "As long as they needed a full surgical suite to perform the modifications, they were strictly a law enforcement problem. Unfortunately, before the last of them could be hunted down, they got their hands on some kind of replicant nano-tech that lets them infiltrate a neural link into a person without that person's knowledge."

"There's no such thing as a person with a direct brain-computer interface who isn't one of these Assimilators," Chen asked for clarification.

"No," Crossack sighed. "Any network they manage to link into, any person directly connected to that network immediately gets converted. How they do it, we're not sure; the leading hypothesis is that they've managed to create a computer-based intelligence with persuasive or coercive powers of a type and power that require a person to either take the Voice's Oath or else accept lifetime quarantine. But we just don't know. The good news is that as long as you keep your tech at arms length, it's perfectly safe, or at least they can't do anything that a conventional hacker couldn't. But it does mean that we can't infiltrate their network to figure out what in the seven blue perditions is going on with them. There are some aspects of a neural link that an external interface just can't mimic."

"That could be a problem," President Chen said. "Thankfully, we can't run cable through a portal--it gets cut anytime there's a power blip--but we've got way too many people with medical implants. Your people don't happen to know how to repair spinal cord injuries, do they?"

"Some species yes, others no," Crossack answered. "In our efforts to provide medical care to POWs of your species, we found that the treatment had to be provided immediately to be effective, and that which treatment protocol would work varied by both the cause of the damage and idiosyncratic factors. We had to guess right on the first try for treatment to work."

"Figures," Chen said. "Any vaccine for their nannite infiltrators?"

"A vaccine...for nannites?" Crossack asked in surprise.

"Why not?" Chen asked. "Any sufficiently advanced nano-tech is indistinguishable from biology; so why not borrow a page from the bio-control handbook?"

"I don't believe there's any such thing," Crossack answered slowly. "Many species can induce sufficient sensitivity to trigger a lethal allergic reaction, but that means walking around with a lethal allergy to many common structural and medical materials."

"That would be problematic," Chen agreed. "I need to pass this information about the Assimilators along as quickly as possible. Excuse me for a few minutes."

"Of course," Admiral Crossack said. Once President Chen had left the room he stood and began pacing. Curiously, knowing that a Voice was en route and that he would not have to wait much longer to have his hopes and fears regarding his future resolved was making the delay harder rather than easier to endure. After a few laps of failed attempts to resign himself to further waiting, he went to the door and asked the officer guarding it to find out how soon the Voice was expected to arrive.

"The Voice's shuttle has landed and the humans are trying to figure out what size and type of escort is appropriate to her rank," the officer reported. Then he blinked and flicked his tail in confusion. "Sir, a Voice is her own escort, isn't she?"

"The humans don't know that. A Voice speaks with the authority of the full Council of Winglords, but the humans have no official relationship to the Wingover Hegemony until the Voice delivers her words--assuming she has been given words to that effect."

"Precisely, Winglord Crossack."

Crossack turned to face the new arrival. The female was tall and so ethereally slender that she was nearly translucent. "Voice Laurelliana," Admiral Winglord Crossack said, having met this particular Voice before. He started to bow, but then the implications of her greeting caught up to him and his ear tufts straightened so hard they nearly snapped. "Wait, what--?"

"For recognizing that the impossible was possible in time to avert disaster, for valuing the welfare of the Heromancy above your own pride, for a lifetime of exemplary service, you have been granted the title of Winglord and a seat on the counsel."

Admiral Winglord Crossack needed some time to reply as he first had to persuade his throat to stop trying to swallow itself. At last he said, "I am well aware of how badly things could have gone if i had been any slower to admit that the humans must have some other, unknown means of bridging the distance between worlds--but i would have thought that barely enough to buy me an honorable retirement, given that i lost a war i chose to initiate. Then too, i would never have arrived at that understanding so quickly without Captain Hessend and Intelligence Officer Rouel, and their many subordinates who had the wisdom to recognize which reports required immediate attention."

"You followed standard procedure to the letter until it was made clear that you were not dealing with the kind of situation which that procedure was intended to cover. You therefore cannot be faulted for initiating the conflict. You were also able to admit that the inconceivable had occurred. To not only be able to stretch your thinking to accommodate what was previously unknown and unimagined, but to do so in time to keep defeat from becoming disaster--this is a capacity much needed in a Winglord, and rarest to find. Many prepare for the impossible; but how can anyone prepare for what he cannot imagine?"

Crossack nodded, conceding the point, and the Voice continued, "Many admirals find it almost physically painful to yield overall command to the captain of their ground forces and be relegated to providing fire support. Many of those who have no difficulty yielding command are reluctant to reclaim it when the priority returns to space-side operations, preferring to avoid responsibility. But you have never shown any hesitation in either direction, preferring to let the responsibility rest where it can best be fulfilled."

Crossacck shifted and flicked an ear tuft and said, "It helps that i trust Captain Hessend's judgement."

"And you never once have tried to claim the credit for your subordinate's efforts," Voice Laurelliana smiled at Crossack.

"Eh, stolen honor is not," Crossack replied.

"Many say it," the Voice said. "Few live it. The appropriate commendations for those you cited credited with identifying the anomalies here have already been issued. The Vaerins claim to have solved the regeneration resistance problem in draeliks; if Hero Hessend chooses to risk the as yet inadequately tested treatment, the Council will cover his expenses."

Hero fits a lot better on him than Winglord sits on me, Crossack thought. "I can't predict whether Hero Hessend will take that offer. He keeps his own counsel when it comes to his injuries."

"Is something wrong?" Voice Laurelliana asked President Chen, who'd returned partway through her conversation with Crossack and had been staring at her ever since.

"You look much like the description of some of our more insidious legends," Chen told her bluntly. "As unlikely as it is to be anything other than coincidence, it is still difficult to keep the resemblance from inducing significant levels of paranoia."

"At least you prefer to lance the boil at once rather than dance around the issue while it festers ever deeper," Laurelliana said, dropping her gaze to indicate that she was speaking as herself and not as a Voice. "Long and long ago, or so it is said, while we were still planet-bound, mine and certain of the other will-bending species dealt with those who abused their powers by exiling them to another world. Your portal network suggests that this is not so impossible as we had thought. If your species has suffered from predation by one of our outcasts, i wouldn't blame you for being paranoid where my kind is concerned."

"The conspiracy nuts are going to have fun when they hear that," Chen said with a sigh.

Voice Laurelliana lifted her head again. "The council wishes to extend formal diplomatic recognition to your people, but we are suffering from some confusion as to which entity we should be extending that recognition to. Some clarification as to your political structure is needed."

"Ah," President Chen said. "I can see how it might. Each of the factions on this planet is considered a sovereign nation, although they're a bit more easy-going about their borders than was, or for that matter still is, customary back on earth. The Faction Arbitration Council is precisely what the name says, a neutral forum in which the factions can hash out their differences and save face by accepting a compromise suggested by a neutral party instead of their opponent. We have no real authority, but we do provide a place where you can address all of the factions at once."

"It sounds as though you have all of the responsibility of a Winglord, and none of the power," Voice Laurelliana said.

Chen shrugged. "I may only have the authority of a debate moderator, but most of the time that's all i need. As for the times when it is not sufficient, well, the prospect of imminent destruction tends to have a remarkably clarifying effect on everyone's priorities."

"I suppose it would," the Voice said. "Whose military did you call in?"

"The Liberation Hegemony doesn't claim sovereignty over any but it's native States, but they do provide military protection and economic assistance to anyone who abides by what they regard as the minimum standard of human rights. Which usually works out in practice to 'you can have whatever laws you want as long as you make it easy for people who don't like your laws to leave'. Which is why you never see a planet on the Hegemony network with fewer than seven factions--easy to leave requires that there be a compatible place for you to go."

"So we can treat with your Faction Arbitration Counsel as a planetary power, and this Liberation Hegemony as a regional one?" Voice Laurelliana asked, and then added "--to the extent that that's a coherent concept with the way your portal network allegedly ignores distance."

"Yes," President Chen said. "There's also the Golden Bureaucracy Bloc. Don't buy anything from them without reading the fine print, and never take out a loan from them. The only reason they aren't ruling us all is that the Hegemony is perfectly willing to apply Alexander's solution to Gordian red tape."

"Cultural reference," the Voice said. "Not clear from context."

"Sorry," President Chen replied. "Gordias was some guy who tied a really complicated knot and said that the man who untied it would rule the world. Alexander came by a while later, looked it over, and used his sword to cut it apart. After he went on to conquer a larger chunk of the world in less time than anyone before him, the locals where Grodias left the knot decided that this counted as 'untying' it."

"So keep it simple, and in good faith, when dealing with the Hegemony, because you never know what they might decide is underhanded enough to void the contract?" Crossack guessed.

"This system of yours...works?" the Voice asked uncertainly.

"As well as anything else we've tried," Chen answered. "Mostly due to the fact that most of us have gotten too lazy to want to bother proving that we could run other people's lives better than they can. MAD helps keep the peace, too, of course. Although, the fact that exile is always an option does tend to leave people favoring lethal forms of self-defense."

"Now that would explain a lot," Winglord Crossack said. "I should go mention that detail to Hero Hessend--he's a bit sore over the fact that it was your civilians bleeding his men so hard."
submitted by Petrified_Lioness to HFY

7

2021 in Preview - a look at the upcoming year on the NA Server

Around this time last year around I wrote a preview for 2020 and while it did have some issues I only realized lateron, many people found it to be helpful. So here we go again. We're nearing the end of 2020 and while that year has been... interesting to say the least, it's time for another preview nontheless. This is all based on our Clairvoyance EX, that is, based on how NA pretty much follows JP just two years behind.
There's a few caveats to go here and before I go to a month-by-month rundown of next year. I feel like I should point out what to expect, in general, from our Clairvoyance - and what not to. As a baseline, you can expect all major events, servant releases, welfares and so on that JP had in 2019 in 2021 on NA in roughly the same order and timeframe. As in, if a major event happened on JP in April 2019, it will, with a high amount of certainty, happen in April 2021 on NA.
However, we do not follow JP to the letter on NA. For one, there's Commemoration Campaigns. Commemoration Campaigns, as the name implies, commemorate things. That means, they're tied to real-life happenings. Things like Expos, Anime releases or similar things. That, of course, means, that they cannot happen in the same way, just two years later. Things like Anime releases are usually held on NA when the anime releases there. KYOMAFS or FGO THE STAGE Campaigns don't apply to NA in the first place. Things like this.
So, as a baseline, whenever a Campaign or Event commemorates something, do necessarily not expect it on NA two years later. Sometimes we get these campaigns repackaged as another thing. Sometimes we get them way earlier, like with the Babylonia release campaigns that happened late 2019 and early 2020, near-simultaneously with JP on NA. Sometimes we don't see them at all. Our Clairvoyance doesn't apply here.
Finally, as a warning, sometimes events happen in slightly different timeslots. The most prominent example of this would be NAs anniversary, which is a month earlier than JPs. So the anniversary events are also a month earlier. This has ramifications during that time for other events as well, which I will try to predict, but take this with a hefty amount of salt. It's uncertain how DW will handle things. Moreover, sometimes DW also just likes to switch things around. Prominent examples of this during 2020 were the Murder at the KOGETSUKAN event, which happened later to sync up with real-life moonphases (yes, really) and the Interlude Campaign VII, which happened later than expected for no reason I know of. It just did.
So, with this out of the way, one last thing remains: What am I doing here? The following: I will not list every single rateup here, duh. Things like the event compendium, grandorder.wiki or this upcoming banner spreadsheet take care of that. What I will focus on os major events, welfares, new releases and "last rateups". With last rateups I refer to limited SSR servants that, as of right now, have not received another rateup on JP after their mentioned ones. This will, of course, change, over time. JP still progresses and many servants will see new banners throughout 2021 as well, including some that might have had their "last rateup". But I will point point out last rateups of limited servants as known of at the time of writing.
So. Let's go.

January

NA will start the year with the New Years Campaign and GSSR and the Enma-Tei Event, together with the release of the delightful Tongue-Cut Sparrow Benienma and with the SSR Assassin Version of Li-Shuwen. Be aware, thie event will require you to have cleared S I N, the third Lostbelt, to participate. So if you haven't done so until then, you really should get going.
Traditionally, the New Years Banner has lots of widely liked servants and this year is no exception. Besides Mainstays like Gilgamesh, Tamamo and Scathach, this is also the last known rateup so far (see above) for all of Hokusai and Caster Nero. While the latter is part of a 2022 Campaign, that one has an unreasonable amount of rateups so your chances to get CasNero there are marginal at best. If you want the Foreigner or Umu in a swimsuit, you better get them now, otherwise your chances look grim until JP puts them on rateup again.
January will also see the Rerun of the Prisma Codes Event and your last chance of getting Chloe (or delicious free 5 RP). The event also releases another Magical Girl (as if we didn't have a ton already) in Miyu Edelfelt, a support Caster that, to this date, hasn't seen another rateup banner, despite being limited. Much like Asagami Fujino had her one and only rateup in 2020, you need to be sure to get Miyu now if you want her, otherwise you run out of options immediatly.
Besides that, January had a lot of Campaigns that we likely won't see on NA - see my caveat about commemoration campaigns above. We might see some of them, if only to fill the time, but the past has shown that often we will not. This includes an FGO THE STAGE banner, the WinFes Campaign and the Heavens Feel Banner that already happened on NA in the past.

February

February will start traditionally with the Valentines Event, this time featuring Murasaki Shikibou and her storyline of cursed books. The banner features a hefty amount of female servants, all on rateup together with Shikibou herself, with Semiramis being the only exception, being granted a rateup banner just for herself. This year, the Valentines scenes will be voiced, so rejoice, masters, for you can hear your servants presenting you with their gifts for the first time! Interestingly enough, the only other rateup Murasaki had outside of her release campaign during the upcoming Valentines was a KYOMAF campaign in September 2019 on JP. As elaborated above, there's a good chance we don't see that on NA. It might happen, in fact, it recently has happened, but that was the first time and we cannot be sure about this one way or another. That said: If you want Murasaki, better get her now, if only for peace of mind.
Later down the month NA will see a new set of Strengthenings in the Part X Campaign, including Strengthenings for Semiramis, Passionlip, Edison, Beowulf, Lancer Li, Kiara and Hans Christian Andersen. Shorty following that will be CCC SE.RA.PH Rerun and our second meeting with the delightful devilish Kouhai BB! SE.RA.PH is, canonically, a main story chapter - it's part of Epic of Remnant and as such, a major part of the games storyline.
It's a bit weird how they implemented it as an event, but they've since rectified that and established it as a Main Interlude on JP. Still, until that happens on NA, more than another year will pass, so better get BB now and, honestly, read through the quite entertaining story. Besides a rateup of Meltlilith, the event also features another Sakuraface in the release of Kingprotea, the most gigantic part of the Sakura Five. Honestly, her battle sprite is ridiculously big and puts even Ivan to shame. And she's sitting down.

March

Early in March Moriarty will get his very own event!. Contrary to Murder at the KOGETSUKAN, this one is a full-fledged event, so Moriarty will be delighted to one-up his eternal nemesis, no doubt. Together with the event, the annual Chaldea Boys Collection Banner should happen. So in case you tend to collect Husbandos moreso than Waifus, this is for you to look forward to! It's also Moriartys last known rateup so far.
Worth mentioning, while this isn't a banner, the Main Quest Clear Aid Campaign should also happen in March. If you ever wondered why the fandom wiki has guaranteed rewards for story missions that you never got on NA, this is the reason: It's a system not implemented yet. It will be. Every story mission will from the on provide you with a guaranteed material drop. Since this is applied retroactively, Masters who have cleared all the story chapters so far will receive a huge amount of materials for free at once, so that's nice.
Edit: Turns out, that came early for NA a few days after writing this post. This goes to show our imprecise clairvoyance to a degree. For QoL updates, this is even more true than otherwise.
March will also see another set of interludes, with the 8th Interlude Campaign, including new stories for Semiramis, Ngihtingale, Hijikata Toshizo, Yagyu Munenori, Consort Yu and Hessian Lobo.
And, as a final treat in a pretty filled up month, the Kokugawa Kaiten Meikyu - Ooku Event should come at the end of March and with it, the long awaited Kama. Besides being possibly the best singletarget Assassin in the game besides maybe Jack, she's also the games prime Alter Ego killer. An all around strong servant and gameplaywise, one of the strongest choices of the year. The event is also a relevant story chapter, much like CCC SE.RA.PH, and it's dubbed "Lostbelt 3.5". So since the next main story chapter is quite far out, this one's there to bridge the gap.

April

The Ooku event will most likely last well into April, yet the month itself also has a lot to offer. Early in April, the 16M Downloads Campaign together with MHXA as a featured servant should take place. Besides the usual amount of goodies and a 1/4 AP Main Quest Campaign up until LB2, Masters will receive 10 SQ per 10 completed Interludes as permanent extra Master Missions in the same vein that we already have the 10 SQ per 10 Strengthenings.
After the freebies (or alongside them, possibly), we will see the GUDAGUDA Rerun. If you haven't gotten the lovely pair of Ryouma and Oryou already, here's your chance! A solid singletarget Rider that, while not rivaling Kintoki, isn't a bad choice at all. The banner features Okita Alter, Hijikata Toshiza and the limited 3* Okada Izou.
And if that wasn't enough for you already or you're desperate for more welfares, rejoice, since there's more to come! Lady Reines Case Files will happen shortly after and with it, we'll be getting one of the most anticipated welfares of the year: Gray. Not only is she an interesting variant of the Saberface, she's also extremely competent at what she does. Decent AoE Assassins are few and far between and between her being NP5 for free and having a 20% battery to boot, she'll be the go-to Assassin Waveclearer for many masters. Look forward to her, she's really strong.
Oh and if Grey isn't enough for you, there's a Waver rateup right before the event and tehe event Summoning Campaign comes with the releases of Reines herself and Astraea. Now that's a great month if I've ever seen one. Keep in mind: Reines will only really begin to shine once she receives her Strengthening in 2022, which also features a rateup shortly after, so it's up to you if you want her now already.

May

With all the action packed into the previous months, May will offer some respite for masters on the brink of burning out and a well-deserved rest before summer will be upon us. If you still need to clear things, there's a 1/4 AP Campaign for the Epic of Remnant Chapters and a 1/2 AP event for all Free Quests during May, but if you've done everything already, you're looking forward for some slow burn for the month.
Besides the (usually) annual Class Based Summoning early in the month and Hunting Quests late in it, the only actual event in the fifth month of the year will be "A Study in the Dubious Meiho-sou" and that mirros Murder at the KOGETSUKAN, so it's a story-focused event without much farming going on. The summoning Campaign features JAlter, Tristant and Salieri.
If you've never played on JP but have listened about JP players talking about "things slowing down", this is part of what they refer to. May will be very calm and you should mentally prepare for that to not be surprised when it happens.

June

June is when things get interesting from a scheduling point of view. As I've mentioned before, NAs anniversary is a month earlier than JPs, so we should see it at the end of June or early July instead of at the end of July into early August. So we might need to accomodate for it in this month and that might see anothe
As such, it might very well be that the 9th Interlude Campaign, featuring Arthur, Osakabehime, Assassin Li, MHXA, Raikou, Emiya Alter and Wu, might or might not happen in early June. Lots of Skill upgrades in it, so it would be kind of sad.
Because, also in June, the 4th Lostbelt will drop. And that definitely will happen before anniversary. It's been a while since LB3 at that point, hasn't it. About time the main story continues, eh? Thinking, as of me writing this, shortly before the arrival of S I N on NA, this is like 8 months out? That's quite a long time, even if Kamas event is kinda like LB 3.5. In any case, together with LB4, Arjuna Alter will appear and boy will he be fun. He's like Spartacus on steroids and if you want to roll for just one servant based on gameplay alone, Godjuna is probably the one you want. He's amazingly strong in both his farming performance, as in his singletarget Buster Crits and while he comes with the usual caveats of being a Berserker, he's just extremely potent. Oh and this is, so far, his first and final rateup. If you want him, plan ahead and get him then.
But Junao isn't the only new servant. LB4 comes with a plethora of new servants and while he might be the most popular one, the others most definitely deserve mentioning: Ganesha, the only Non-BB Mooncancer so far E: I forgot about Summer Kiara!, Lakshmibai, the unluckiest Jeanneface in existence and William Tell a new 3*, are all unlimited, but Ashwatthama and the quite powerful Arts Support Asclepius are both storylocked, so your best chance of getting them is probably now. And since the latter two are on the same banner as Arjuna Alter... I mean you're not going to be disappointed in your rolls here, right?
JP also had the 17M DL Campaign in June though that's another clear candidate to be moved around to later for anniversary. In any case it features Nero Bride for the first - and the last - time in ages. She'll get a Strengthening, possibly together with the Anniversary, which makes her a prime Arts Looping support until Castoria shows up in 2022 and, as mentioned, it's her last known rateup, so if you want her, you have to get her now.
And, as mentioned, either in late June or in early July, the 4th anniversary event will take place and, as usual, bring a huge lot of goodies with it. Besids tons of free quartz for various reasons it comes with the Release of Rider Da Vinci Lily and a plethora of new 1-2*s. Jason, Paris, Gareth, Bartholomew Roberts, Charlotte Corday, Salome and, most notably, Chen Gong, who will feature in lots of future farming setups, I'm sure. These new bronze servants will be availabe in the Friend Gacha and you will have no issue getting them soon. They're not even 3*s, so geting them to NP5 is trivial, no need to worry about it.
For many people, the most important feautre of the 4th anniversary campaigns will be the changes to the summoning system. From then on, Masters will get a free 11th roll for every 10 rolls on one banner. Regardless if you're doing the rolls one by one or in a batch of 10, the 10th roll will come with a free additional roll on top of it. Furthermore, the SSR single rateup chance will be changed from 0.7% to 0.8%. The overall SSR rate per roll remains at 1%, but the chance to get spooked during single rateup rolls is reduced from 0.3 to 0.2%, essentially making it more likely to get the servant you want instead of one from the general pool.
In JP, Strenghtening Quests Part IX happened in conjunction together with the anniversary, so expect that here as well. Besides the aforementioned Strengthening to Bride, it also includes Altera, adds a Battery to Romulus, further Strengthenings to Medusa Lily, Gorgon, Iskander and Alexander, Medea Lily and Kotarou and Boudica, Martha, Maid Alter and Gawain. I'm sure there's something for everyone here.

July

Depending on how our June went, we might see a few events and campaigns from then in July instead. As mentioned, the 9th Interlude Campaign and the 17M Downloads Campaign might happen early this month instead. But, depending on schedule, July will see 2 events: 2019s GUDAGUDA and the summer rerun.
GUDAGUDA Final Honnoji will be this years GUDA event and with it, an amazingly strong and fun welfare will be given to masters: Nagao Kagetora. Seriously, her animations and voice lines are some of the best in game and the way her seeming enthusiasm accompanies everything she does is very enjoyable, at least to me. She's an Arts Singletarget Lancer and a master in her role, I've enjoyed playing with her tremendously.
Besides Kagetora, the event also features the releases of Demon King Nobunaga and the limited 3* Berserker Mori Nagayoshi, together in a summoning campaign with Summer Nobu as the featured 4*. All these will feature again a year later in the events rerun, so if you're not in a hurry, you can roll for them then.
Also in July (or maybe in early August, depending on how the schedule might change around annversary), Summer Jeannes Summer Event Rerun will happen, with the usual rateups that we know from her original run. If you haven't gotten her with the original event, this is your last chance to get a very useful Berserker welfare and if you've gotten her and all the costumes already, this rerun has a whooping 11 RP for you, so that's definitely something to look forward to!
This is your last chance (bar the already mentioned Swimsuit Campaign, the biggest bait banner ever) to roll for Summer Jeanne, Summer Ushiwakamaru, Summer Medb and MHXX and has also, so far, been the last rateup for Edmont Dantes, so have an eye out for them then.

August

Since anniversary will have happened at late June / early July, August will, most likely, be a calmer month for NA again. While we might see the Summer rerun in early August instead of in July, there's not much else happening here, but the actual summer event, Las Vegas Official Bout, featuring the lovely and very capabale Saber Hokusai as welfare. Another strong addition to every Masters roster, this Arts Singletarget Servant comes with a plethora of string skills and is, for the most part, a straight upgrade to the other ST Saber welfare so far, Brave Liz. Sorry Eli. Newer Master should definitely get her, just as Kagetora is a strong ST Lancer, Hokusai is a just as strong ST Saber.
Besides that, Masters will see the first Merlin rateup in ages during the Summer Event and the newly released Ruler Artoria, Lancer Melt, the long awaited Swimsuit Okita, Berserker Musashi, Archer Okasabehime and Rider Carmilla. Gameplaywise, especially Lambda and Berserker Musashi are the standouts here, but we all know that nobody rolls on swimsuit servants for gameplay value, right?
Rolling aside, Las Vegas is an excellent opportunity to stack up on large amount of QP and just by playing the event, Masters will easily gain 300M QP or more, without special grind. Swimsuits, QP, Gambling, a strong welfare... what's not to love about this event?

September

Remember when I mentioned that 2020s schedule will be slower than you're used to? September will be another relatively slow month but, as is customary, the one event that does take place will be guaranteed to take up a lot of your attention, but first things first. JP started September with the 10th Interlude Campaign that includes Interludes for Ishtar, Tesla and Enkidu (who all get NP or Skill upgrades with them) and Jack, Amakusa Shirou and Parvati (for whom you'll just see SQ).
Also in September, another Class-based Summoning Campaign should hit Masters, so if you're moreso looking for a whole plethora of different options from one class than for a specific servant, consider giving that a try?
And, as promised, September will feature the recurring Autumn Lottery: Battle in New York Part II, also called IshtarFest because, well, you'll see. :) Obviously at this point you should have your setups ready for heavy grinding, as with every lottery. This years features Snake Jewels, Horeshoes, Proofs and Chains as Materials. Not quite Dust and Bones but eh, can't always have those, right? Obviously, Gilgamesh is on rateup there, because of course he is.
Finally, September did see a KYOMAF Campaign. Now, in the past, Kyomafs weren't a thing on NA because they're neither relevant, nor in the correct time, after all, the according exhibit had happened 2 years earlier. However, in 2020, we did see the Kyomaf campaign on NA rebranded as Shuten Douji Summoning Campaign. So... there's precedence. But who knows if it happens or not, we can't really give any proper prediciton here.

October

For October I need to start with a Disclaimer about the Babylonia Commemoration Campaigns. From October 2019 on, JP had a line of Commemoration Campaigns featuring the Babylonia Anime because that was when it first released. As I've already mentioned in the beginning, Commemoration Campaigns are difficult for NA to predict and these especially so, since they already happened. NA had them in 2019 and 2020 as well, just a very short time after JP had them and very out of schedule.
As such, I believe it's extremely unlikely that we see a repeat of them. However, we might see certain aspects of them transferred to a different event, to Thanksgiving or anything else. This is not really a thing to predict as we have no idea how DW might handle them. As such, I will list the Campaigns here, just for completeness sake, but just once and not refer to them again in the months after. Babylonia I, Babylonia II. The third and fourth Campaign were in early 2020 for JP.
In any case, the thing we'll definitely see is the Halloween Rerun, which, sadly, is the last Halloween Event so far. With no new Halloween themed event either in 2019 or in 2020 on JP, Halloween simply has ended in Chaldea with this rerun, so savor it while it lasts. It's the second and last chance to get Caster Shuten of course and also features the last rateup for Lancer Ibaraki so far.
As a second event during October (or possibly during very early November), Saber Wars II will happen. While not a Halloween Event, it stands very well on it's own two legs and comes with two new limited servants, Space Ishtar and Calamity Jane. Space Ishtar is another servant with three completely different forms for each of her ascensions, much lika Demon Nobu, and will be the Queen of Castoria Looping once she releases in 2022. On her own right, she's a bit like Jeanne just as an AoE Servant, in that, she's always useful with her 50% battery and her NP color-changing shenanigans, she will fit into any Masters roster well, but she'll rarely be the single best choice for anything. With Castoria however, she's a go-to servant for essentially anything the game throws at you and if you plan on going down the Castoria hole in 2022, gettins SIshtar here is most definitely your best bet.
As of the time of this writing, neither SIshtar nor Calamity Jane had another banner, but it's fully expected to see the Saber Wars II Rerun on JP in the near future, as it's still outstanding. Hard to predict, of course, as are all things JP, but it might very well happen. MHXA also has a Banner during SW2 and that has been her last rateup so far just the same. So if you're into Sith Lords with a thing for earthly sweets, better prepare your Quartz! And if you'd like her original Version, the Prerelease Campaign is so far the last time MHX herself is on rateup.

November

We're nearing the end of the year already and besides SW2 that will go well into November, Christmas will soon be upon us. But first, it's time for the 18M Downloads Campaign and Skadis second ever showing. If you missed her during 3rd anniversary, here's your next chance in getting the Queen of Snow and Ice and yes, you need to wait that long for her to come up again. It'll be interesting to see how many people will try to get their Skadi here on NA with our Clairvoyance telling us about Castoria the year after, guess we'll have to wait and see. Besides Skadi, November will also bring another iteration of Hunting Quests.
Now, famously, JP did skip the Christmas rerun in 2019. As such, it's likely that NA doesn't see a second iteration of Quetzmas either. Instead, Christmas itself comes early this year and the End of November will see Nightingales Christmas Carol featuring, of course, Santa Nightingale as a welfare. A pretty decent mixture of support, sustain and AoE Archer, she comes with an Arsenal of Carpet Bombs as NP and an Ishtar-like Crit-Charisma. Together with the Event, Saber Astolfo sees the light of day and if you've ever dreamed of Astolfo in a Bunny Costume wielding a chain-sword, well, here's your chance!
As usual, of course, the Christmas Event is the second lottery of the year and even if it's early for real Christmas, the presents in the FGO version are definitely worth grinding for. Lanterns, Octuplets, Pages and Fangs, together with a Ticket in each box that can be exchanged for either a Claw, a Phoenic Feather or a Ring of Giant means happy grinding indeed. As usual, prepare your setups well in advance and save up on your apples if you want to go hard.
Not to forget, around this time we should also see the NA-exclusive Thanksgiving Event and Banner. I'm not going to go into speculation about this right here as it's not really possible to predict this a year in advance, just keep it in mind: it should happen around here as well.

December

We're in December and Christmas is already out of the way. Weird, huh? Talk about a change in scheduling. 2019 was a strange year on JP and if we continue to follow that schedule in NA as we did in the past, it will be a weird year on NA as well. But things are as they are and DW moves in mysterious ways, as we all know.
In any case: While the early December will still feature the end of the Christmas Event and Masters grinding for presents, it will also feature andother Interlude Campaign with Interludes for Napoleon, Ivan, Anastasia, Lanling, Tomoe, Qin Liangyu and the Valks, with Napo, Ivan and Tomoe all receiving NP upgrages in the process.
And finally, didn't we forget something? Through all of the year, there was only one story Chapter with LB4, so... time for at least a second one, right? Right. Lostbelt 5.1 - Atlantis! We do, after all, get a second story chapter in 2021. The first act to the fifth Lostbelt finally arrives late in the year and concludes it all the same. Together with the chapter, Super Orion amd the unlimited Europa and Mandricardo release and that means, it's time for another powerhouse.
While you might know Orion only as a perverted bear from the hijacked Saint Graph where Artemis is really the Servant in question, this one is on a completely different level. A bear he might be, but he's an insanely strong singletarget Archer which, thanks to his selfbuff on NP, has a super easy time reaching absurd damage numbers with his facecards. I mean it, it's ridiculous how easy Super Orion is able to get to hundreds of thousands of damage per card. If you're into that and need a capable Archer, he's your man... well, maybe not exactly, Artemis wouldn't be happy if he was, but err... he's there for you? Maybe better that way.

Final words

So that's it for 2021 - or that's how 2019 was in JP. Overall it's a bit of a less exciting year than 2018/2020 was. Between just two story chapters, spaced out widely (assuming you don't count the Kama event), the lack of a Halloween Event and the missing Christmas Rerun, people started to feel like things didn't go quite as planned on JP anymore. Still, with several new powerhouses released, capable welfares and upgrades to servant we know and like, the game doesn't really get any worse than it was and there's lots to look forward to in 2021 as well. Even if the beat kind of slowed down a bit.
As with last year, I hope this helps you plan around the next year and maybe you are able to find one or two or five servants worth saving up for. There's potential there, most definitely. If you want to know how much SQ you will have at any given time, you can either use this spreadsheet with event rewards together with this calculator or you can make a copy of this spreadsheet that does the calculation for you. Both methods will give you a pretty decent idea about how things will be looking.
submitted by RuinousAmbition to grandorder