Disaster Planning, part 1

    "This morning's deep Erf scouting report has something unusual, Charlie.”


    One of Charlie’s long-term projects was mapping the entirety of Erf. It was slow going to systematically scout every single hex, particularly the vast ocean spaces. It required using Archons with Thinkamancy to effectively coordinate the search pattern, Foolamancy to avoid unwanted encounters, Leadership to avoid conflicts when possible, and Shockamancy so hostiles foolish enough to start conflicts briefly regretted it. He had some worries that they might eventually discover an upkeep penalty for units when working so far and so long away from Charliescomm’s (only) city, but so far that hadn’t cropped up.


    Instead, nine trios of Archons scouted a third of their range each turn, flying veiled from hex to hex at high altitude. Mostly they encountered a lot of terrain types. Sometimes they would find cities of a new side, and stop long enough for a standard sales pitch; it had brought in enough additional Thinkagram relay services to begin justifying the expense in upkeep. Sometimes they would find ruins, and the occasional randomly-popped artifact worth the trouble of sending home. Rarely, they discovered unclaimed city locations or even capital sites; valuable intel if the right customer could be found. Five times they had discovered hazards dire enough that the scouting plan had required at least temporary adjusting to avoid them, of which two had cost Charlie members of a scouting group.


    But this morning... Delta projected via Foolscast a map section of ocean and group of islands. “This appears to be well into deep ocean. Scout group four has been over water for more than three hundred hexes, now, and it’s been eighty since we last saw an island. But now, there’s two island capital sites, with only five water hexes between them.”


    Charlie’s interest piqued. “Very unusual,” he sent. “Those two are more than twice as close together as any other two sites we’ve encountered. Are they held by the same side?”


    “Scouting indicates different liveries, and signs of a naval battle between the islands.”


    Charlie hesitated for a long moment. “There’s been a notion I’ve been considering trying. While it would be expensive and risky, this might be the ideal location for the experiment to minimize the risks.”


    “And the expense?”


    “Will be nearly as low as possible. But let’s get more information before I make up my mind. Have group four divert to a local search pattern.”

 

    Three dozen turns allowed a more comprehensive report to come back. The two sides fought over a cluster of nine islands, none covering more than four hexes. Hiring a Lookamancer (under a non-disclosure agreement with additional non-compete clauses, and an option for at least five more projects) enabled discovering that the uninhabitable island they had encountered before was the only other land within a hundred hexes. One side had a level 3 capital, the other a level 2; three level ones and some farm territories passed back and forth regularly between the combatants. While neither of the two were Royal, apparently both were nonetheless without predecessors. The whims of the titans had apparently resulted in two warlords popping feral in amazingly proximate capital hexes within a mere dozen turns of each other.


    Charlie didn’t like it. It reeked of a Titanic set-up. On the other hand, some opportunities too good to be true were nonetheless too promising to turn up. He sent a message to one of his more seldom-used hiring agents in the Magic Kingdom to identify suitable elements for the needed support team.


    It was time to meet an opportunity too good to be true with an offer not to be refused.