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Diary of an Explorer

Diary of an Explorer

My ship, Morovecs Dream, a survey cruiser design is perfect. She glides through turbulence of a gas giant as though we were in deepest space. She can pull 3.4g thanks to the hi-spec engines no mean feat for a fifty huller. When alone on the bridge during dark watch I sometimes find myself talking to her. Not crazy stuff, more sounding off about the mission and thinking aloud. Yeah, I may throw in the odd question but who doesnt ask questions inside their own head. Some of the crew think Im losing it, but Im not, aint that right?.... hum, maybe they have a point.

He rose from the captains chair not the original one that came with the ship, this was something that he had rigged himself. The seller called it an integrated, reinforced lazyboy. It was the recline option that sold him on it, that and flip open arm rests, chilled drinks and snacks on one side, a suite of controls on the other. With swivel settings, retinal projector and perfect acoustics he had the capability of being the eyes and ears of the ship. With vibro setting switched on it really felt like he was free-falling from space and while sipping a cold-one to boot.

The navy may have weapons that can punch a crater a hundred kloms across and the merchants may boast about being able to pack a fleet of survey cruisers in their bays, but for Captain Pickering, nothing was ever going to compare to this, though if pushed on the subject, it was probably the freedom he enjoyed most no tight delivery schedules or dying horribly with nobody to mourn you.


His latest task, if that is the most suitable word for the work, was to scope out one of the outer moons in the Corosin system. The affiliation were pumping quite a bit of stellars into the operation overall. Words like gold-rush and collidium grab were being thrown about. He had opted to go for one of the ice moons with an atmosphere consisting of the usual suspects, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. He could have opted for one of the pretty biospheres or even one of the active worlds fire and brimstone and all that, but this suited him fine.

The Dream reached the world and Pickering from the mid-recline position ordered the ship into a parking orbit and activation of Geological Probability Indicator (GPI) procedures. There was an audible groan from the crew generally pointless days changing the orbit, breaking the surface down to strips and determining its geology. It was as much fun as filing reports or sorting laundry neither of which he did very often. Occasionally such an operation resulted in the discovery of something valuable, but so what, it was not as though the discoverers ever got a share. There was nothing for the donkeys doing the work though no doubt a big fat bonus for the people at the top.

Captain Pickering seemed to share the crews enthusiasm for the whole GPIing shenanigans as he ordered only a basic planetary scan for uncommon and rare ores, pretty much the bare minimum to avoid a reprimand. He had been through this before some weasel hauling his ass into an office and ranting on about missed opportunities, maximising fiscal investment in outposts and some other bureaucratic crap. The captain told him straight nobody in their right mind is going to be lugging frozen methane from the back of beyond for a measly hundred stellars per k. Time spent bean-counting is time lost looking for the good stuff.

Following the GPIing came a surface scan. Nothing particularly exciting ice, mountains and a bit of open crust. Intriguing though was the discovery of tectonic activity. What could be causing this the gravitational interactions between the giant and the other moons? This raised the question about the mountains were they true mountains or simply the exposed regions of crust surrounded by ice? How deep was the ice? What sort of tectonic activity a hot molten core fuelled largely by radioactive decay or simply slush continuously squeezed by tidal forces?

Undertake an orbital scan, ordered Pickering. Check for a local magnetosphere and see if it lies with the magnetosphere of the giant. I want to know about ionisation in the upper atmosphere. What is keeping that atmosphere in place?

The data started to scroll across the main viewer while the primary image of the moon broke down into multiple segments, each with colour overlays around the limb of the world. A pulled back version revealed the interaction between the moon and its primary. Pickering hummed and stroked his chin, interesting, though nothing unusual. The data was stored for further analysis but for the nightwatch he ordered the active crew to continue with a low pass scan. Despite its size the world had a thick atmosphere no light elements though.

The next stage was pretty routine, the crew knew the drill and after a short choppy descent through the atmosphere, they were preparing in the cargo bay such as it was not much larger than the airlock, though substantially more reassuring for anybody not locked into their suit.

Pickerings instructions as always were simple check out the high ground, valleys and any generally scan anything that seems unusual or interesting. It was actually a bit more professional that the orders would imply. The group of nine quickly split into three teams of three. Teams of three was seen as the optimal number for dead worlds. One to do the testing, another to handle the equipment and generally give advice, solicited or otherwise and the third was on point. While the likelihood of something carnivorous appearing out of the dust on a toxic moon 200 degrees below freezing was less than slight, landslides, explosive outgassing, storms and even pirates were not unknown. It always paid to have someone watching the horizon. It was also their task to keep chatting to the others on point. Pickering encouraged chatting between points. He thought it better than scheduling in check times as by that time the entire team could have been knocked unconscious by some hazard with only minutes to save them. Better to have continuous feedback and communication between the teams and the ship especially when interfering ground rock meant that direct communication between a team and ship was intermittent. This explorations topic was socks and how despite hundreds of years of advancements, finding a pair when in a hurry was impossible and speculation as to who may be nicking them from the scrub room. This of course moved onto the grooming habits of Pickering though as he hadnt worn socks or in fact any footwear for years ruled him out as a suspect. Rumours that his last pair had to be air-locked were still doing the circuit.

By this point, having completed a basic exploration and moved onto specific investigations, the teams had spread out over a twenty-five kilometre baseline with the ship in the middle. It was therefore over the headsets that those on the opposite side of the ship heard the initial rumble, feeling it as a gentle shove underfoot less than a second later. Communication ceased for a moment then exploded in a burst of questions directed at those that encountered the quake first. That was when the dust struck moving at over two hundred kilometres per hour and due to the density of the atmosphere, hitting like a tidal wave.

One group down and the one close to the ship running back like they were being chased by Pirate Large and a tub of petroleum jelly this survey was definitely turning sour. With just over seven minutes before the storm reached the last team there was little time to find cover.

Point ran a short distance to an outcrop and scanned. On the horizon in the direction of the ship a wall of grey spread from horizon to horizon though the thick murky atmosphere meant that it was without detail. Shit, shit, shit. The other direction was downhill and terminated in a fault, the edge of a deep ravine which judging from the far side was about six kilometres across and over four down. There was also nothing to suggest that the near side was any less precipitous that the far side. In both other directions there was only dust and gritty ice. The other two were screaming, asking which direction. Less than two minutes till impact. A quick glance back over and point was pointing and moving towards the ravine. Gravity was low and maybe they would get lucky. The other two turned from looking at point and though slower to react already had considerable ground. The low gravity and dense atmosphere hampered them as each step sent them into a slow arc, wasting valuable seconds before they could get the next foot down. It wass like running in a nightmare. Point saw one dig their heels in close the edge, sliding towards it while staring back. The other, more panicked misjudged their last step, maybe hitting a frozen lump or rock rather than the gritty sand that compressed under each step. The unexpected boost sends him, arms cartwheeling, out over the void a good ten metres out before disappearing out of sight.

Point took a desperate gamble and veers slightly to the right, taking three steps up a large broken boulder and leapt, crossing the last fifteen or so metres to the edge. From this extra height the first one over the edge was be seen slowing disappearing into the fog below poor bastard. For point however the situation looked more promising, there were some outcrops and the descent, was only around thirty metres. Low gravity and a tough suit should do the job.

Thats when it hit. Point saw the storm front sweep overhead dust, snow, ice and clouds like a jet exhaust. Its was going to miss. Then it descended in front, heading down into the ravine but also eddying back on itself. Point stared down in horror as the dirty cloud suddenly came up from underneath.

They found one survivor wedged a few metres below the edge of the cliff, having found a narrow recess in the rock and used explosive pitons as an anchor while the storm blew itself out. Of the five missing members there was no trace. The landscape has also changed new dunes more than sixty metres existed were it was flat ground before.

Pickering formed the entire crew up in the cargo bay. The extra room in the normally cramped space was a reminder of the perils faced by explorers. He gave a few words of consolation trite even to his own ears. Nobody looked up or moved when he finishes. He felt he should say a little more, Fuck it, we can stay here for a few days and give them a send off we will never remember. Break out the Hanf Tequila. I call first dibs on their socks. It was as though the air returned to the bay, animating the crew. As they dispersed, the names of the lost were on peoples lips and laughter erupted as anecdotes got shared a temporary dressing for the pain they all felt. The anaesthetic would be soon be being applied.

It has its rough spots being an explorer, but like I said, no schedules and the occasional bloody good wake are reasonable compensation in a hostile universe.


Features of the Story  [Recruit]

Generally surveying a planet for the first time is broken down into three stages.

Stage One
A quick pass, looking at the map on Nexus and sending a ship there to perform the basic scans:
Scan Planet
GPI Planet
Scan Planetary Economy (if sentient life present)
Scan Planetary Population (if sentient life present)

Stage Two
If GPI'ing the world reveals anything interesting, it is worth GPI'ing small areas. There are a couple of ways of undertaking this. The first is a few overlapping squares using the GPI area order. This is handy for large worlds for narrowing down where rare ores may be present as rare ores tend to exist as only a few deposits.
If time is available, simply GPI'ing entire rows, essentially looking at the mineral composition of every single sector on the world. Make sure that the ship has as many sensors as possible.
If it is something of a dead-world or out of the way, it may not even be worth scanning for basic ores. At the end of the day, shipping metals, basic elements and hydrocarbons is often not worth it as they are relatively abundant throughout the Peripheries.
Deposits have a central maximum based in a specific sector, though they can often be exploited at lower yields from adjacent sectors. The higher the dispersion of the mineral deposit, the lower the yield degradation with distance from the central point.
Once you have narrowed down some sectors through the rise and fall of the yield across a world that have reasonable ores, the last stage is to land in sectors where the yields are high and prospect. This will give you the unique mineral resource ID which can be used by outposts and strip-mining vessels to tap the ore.

Stage Three
GPI'ing will only account for minerals that are associated with recognizable geology, in many cases minerals will form under anomalous conditions such as meteor strikes, hydrothermal intrusions, quakes and deep underground. In these cases, the GPI will not reveal them. This is where the player has to get hands on. This is also the stage where the player issued surface exploration and investigations (using the 'Surface Exploration' and 'Special Action' orders). These orders require the personal services of the Game Master. As such they have to be paid for per action (See Game Mastering in this issue if IGN).
Each sector type on a world will have a unique description this can be determined through the use of Surface Exploration order. Once you have this, you can then perform all manner or investigations. For example, on the world in the story above, having got the description of the thick atmosphere, gritty icy surface, orders are given to investigate the rock. This could be a simple instruction, send the crew out to sample the icy grit from numerous locations and report on its composition and whether there are any minerals worth exploiting.
Generally speaking, a player will perform the following actions using the :
Surface Exploration (while landed in each type of sector)
- this gives a basic description of the sector
Special Action (while landed in a type of sector) - Subsurface Scan
- reveals information about the geological history of the sector and may indicate the presence of anomalous minerals
Special Action (while landed in a type of sector) Investigate XXXX
- where XXXX is something that piqued the interest of the player from the surface exploration text.

More advanced are the use of special actions to look at the world as a whole before venturing down:
Special Action (while still in orbit) Orbital Scan
Special Action (while still in orbit) Low Pass Scan

These will give global information such as the interaction of a moon with its primary, the seasonal weather patterns of the world and maybe even revealing the occasional anomaly. Again, features revealed by these actions can be further explored. While theoretically a player can investigate forever on a single world, always finding something new, it is almost always the case that each level of investigate is less likely to reveal a new resource or if it does, the resource is likely to be either smaller or in some other way less valuable. Simply put, big resources stand out.

Dangers
Investigations do not always run smoothly. On hostile worlds, that are those with extreme environments (often with an orbital message indicating that bases on the world will be subject to damage on a regular basis), it is probable that the crew will be at risk during the course of the investigation. This is because investigations generally require members of the crew to leave the ship, possibly exploring tens or even hundreds of kilometres out from the vessel. Storms, quakes, hostile creatures are all dangers to be aware of. Many of these can easily be countered by the presence of an experienced exploration officer, though the more hostile the environment the better the officer should be.

 
News
Is open for business...
 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Meklan Unleashed on Mobile Bay

Mad Dewiek scientist Dr Kala released a number of Meklan on the busy world of Mobile Bay in the Yank system. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what is treated by DEN warlords as an amusing practical joke. Rather than take any responsibility for their affiliation’s reckless behaviour, a DEN lord rumoured to be half-meklan himself quipped he would nuke the planet whilst another merely saw it as an opportunity to test some of his greener troops in combat. Surprisingly, the KAS planetary defence force was up to the job of repelling the insidious incursion. Questions remain whether further meklan are stored elsewhere on the planet and whether anybody will challenge the Dewiek’s lack of care for the lives of innocents. Probably not, given how even the mighty IMP are now cowering from a fight with the DEN (see inside this edition).


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Who is behind the AFA?

Following the large scale holiday attack by the AFA against the FET the question of who is behind the attacks has been raised once again. What is clear is that the AFA is using ships that were transferred from the GTT to the IMP. The organisation and expertise of the operation also reduces the pool of potential candidates. Few can go from commanding a handful of broadswords to half a thousand warships and significant army logistics without a long stint in one of the more combative affiliations. With the DEN’s allies the HEX in close relations with the FET and no recent history of animosity between the aliens and FET, at least since the departure of former one-eye big-bun Norozov, it would be a bizarre turn of events if they were behind these attacks. Frankly, there’s no point dancing around it. The IMP are clearly behind the AFA. The question is what can anybody do about this move of significant Imperial resources to a black-flag agency?


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Fox Effects Fantastic Turnaround

With his feet barely under the table, Xavier Fox has managed to dramatically turn things around at the GTT. With year-on-year sales figures up by 23%, manufacturing up 42% and ship production increased by 36%, the megacorporation is running at full steam with noticeable impact on local economies across the Stellar Empire. Political analysts also note that after a period of retrenchment following the disastrous leadership of Ike Krieger, investment in defence is at a five-year high. After such bullish growth, the trick will be for Mr. Fox to recruit C-level executives fast enough to match his ambitions. It is notable in temperament, the current crop of GTT politicals do not exhibit the monomaniacal xenophobia of their predecessors and have resisted repeated provocations by the DEN to enter a pointless spar before they have re-established superiority against the foolhardy aliens.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Felini flounder in Winter against superior Dewiek forces

The FEL have managed to get their asses kicked by the DEN yet again after provoking the definitely “not cute or cuddly” Dewiek in the Crossley system. The furry punching bags had bought a civilian flagged outpost in the system, without permission or under certain conditions depending on who you ask, and then had the gall to reinforce this error by positioning warships in orbit. The famously patient warlord Halvor did not buy the story these heavy hull armed ships were merely transports and sent a pack to clear the orbit. The mouthy yet green Felini fleet commander Pr'prz fancied his chances against what looked like a light complement of DEN warships and ordered his own warships to engage in the neighbouring Winter system. The result was predictably a wipe out of the FEL forces consisting of forty-seven capital warships at no loss to the DEN. Once again, a series of calamitous decision making resulted in Felini lives being wasted by a leadership barely fit to clean a litter tray. The otherwise untested Halvor can now claim some victory ale although with his penchant for picking on creatures as weak as Gracians, it’s not exactly clear how much glory this new breed of Dewiek warrior can claim against the legends of old.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Dastardly Dewiek Disregard Yank Neutrality

The governor of a MRC outpost in the Yank system reports that a 400-hull DEN warship called Grey Hunter Axiom entered orbit of Spritzer and opened fire with weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) against a platform, outpost, ground party and ship. Reports indicate significant casualties to Kastorian personnel both in space and on the ground. The KAS Junta is gruffly warning, with a slightly indifferent air, that everybody better stay out of the sector of the outpost for their own health. It is unclear what measures the KAS have or will take against the DEN on this matter. Such a breach of Yank neutrality has in the past caused the Dewiek to froth at the bit against the Empire for their disregard of ‘civilised’ norms. Their current silence on this matter speaks volumes.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Yenni-bodies Pirates?

A PIR outpost was miraculously discovered by an IMP freighter, of all things, in the Yanni system with several Javelin class warships in orbit. After noticing the IMP freighter and seeing the public post by Jack Jones on subspace, the PIR decided to flee and leave a combined force of IMP and FET forces to capture the outpost. A brain damaged three-year old commentator who still believed in the goodness of people and Santa Claus was quick to commend the IMP on their good work, dismissing those who thought it no more than a convenient clearing up operation signifying* completion of operations in the nearby FET claimed systems of Graydown, Canth and Onissian by IMP puppet Edward Lowe. Meanwhile, the Wolf Lord Lyceum summed up the view of many when he screamed, “What is this amateur b*llshit?” into an uncaring universe.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 

Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic