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Lightspire — An Interactive Adventure — Part 3

November 6, 2021
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Part 3 — Lightspire

Money, Valentina found, opened doors better than any key.

Smuggling called for a lot of that. Greasing the right palms. Buying the right codes. Making sure the right people were looking the wrong way.

It was a delicate process, but that was okay. Valentina knew the dance, and she wasn’t afraid to spend a little money to make a lot more.

Lightspire was a monument to the great financial machine that powered the galaxy. Like The Sovereign Protectorate, the grand center of Commerce was built for beauty and to leave a lasting impression. There was something about the massive building that looked rather like a handful of gold coins, caught in midair and suspended that way for eternity. Golden lights shone off the walls and made the whole building look like it was covered in gemstones. The illusion was aided by the many stained-glass windows that added to the impression of jewels.

Valentina remembered Lightspire before the Arbeiters, the agents of Commerce in the galaxy, broke off from the Monarchy to form their own powerful faction. It had been quieter, for sure, with better processes and more dedication to doing every bit of paperwork the right way. Back before the split, she avoided Lightspire when she could. There just wasn’t much room for a smuggler when there were so many people who cared about checking the numbers to perfection. Now that they and the Garrison had split from the Monarchy, it was much easier to get around.

Besides, everyone liked to make a little money on the side.

Her destination was actually one of the nearby moons of Lightspire. Her HUD map told her this used to be one of the great Academic Centers. They were usually named after whatever Noble House paid for them, and Valentina didn’t bother keeping track of them, all things considered. The security here was much easier to get around, so Valentina landed, locked her ship down, and headed inside to find her contact.

“I got a delivery here for a Dame Sophie Anja,” she said blandly when she found the right office. The title was a courtesy that Valentina would usually ignore, but as always, her first job was to stay beneath the notice of anyone who might give her trouble. That meant using all the right titles for the right people. “Where do you want it?”

Valentina had the real privilege of watching the Dame’s eyes go round as she scrambled to her feet. Amateur. Must be her first special delivery.

“Oh, yes, thank you,” Dame Sophie said. She was a younger woman with a shiftiness in her eyes that spoke of inexperience. “You- oh, uh. What do I call you?”

“You don’t. You forget my face and pretend I was never here,” Valentina said dryly, and beckoned her towards the landing strip. “You need someone like me again, you do it the same way you got this delivery put through. Where do you want your stuff?”

“Ah, this way. Thank you.”

At least the Dame was polite, but it was probably because she was scared. Everyone got a little shaky on their first big delivery, and Valentina had peaked in the crates. She didn’t know what was so special about the piles of binders full of indecipherable records, but the Arbeiters must want them pretty bad. They certainly paid enough for Valentina to load them up and get them past the Monarchy blockades and into Commerce space.

Valentina had figured this might be a rocky delivery, so she had the crates loaded up on her power-sled and ready to go before she stepped off the Asterias’s ramp.

The actual delivery ended up going into a warehouse full of mismatched crates. Valentina carefully kept her eyes to herself, but she recognized more than one of those crates, or more specifically, she recognized the marks of other smugglers. Some were friends, some were enemies, but many of them marked their carries. Valentina didn’t, and neither did many of the other higher-end professionals. After all, she didn’t like to leave any trackable mark when she was gone.

“Do I… do I pay you?” Dame Sophia asked when the crates were settled, and she had opened them to check that everything was there. It was, of course. Valentina never stole from clients. It was bad for business. “I don’t exactly know how this works.”

Valentina heaved a sigh and stifled her own inclination to take advantage where she could. That was bad for business too.

“No, you don’t pay me. You paid the person who hired me, and they already gave me my cut,” she explained with more patience than the Dame really deserved. “You want to tip me, I’ll take it, but the job is already paid for. Now, I have work to do, so if you don’t need anything else, I’ll be going.”

“With that she turned on her heel, jumped back up on her power-sled, and headed for her ship.

With any luck, the next delivery wouldn’t want to talk.

Echoes of Empire is a 4X strategy game in the grand tradition. Players will begin their journey in Kepler’s Remnant, a zone within protected House Space. Follow along with Valentina as she traverses a galaxy rife with intrigue and danger.

And don’t forget to join GALA Games Discord so you can provide Valentina council in times of dire need! The first vote will be held this weekend, followed by a big release next week!

Learn more at the Echoes of Empire Website, and sign up for the Celestial Claim Land Presale that begins on November 10th!