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The Captain

The Captain
By Sarah Tenor

The “starport” barely deserved the name, any more. The vast hangars and loading bays stood silent and empty. Broken casings and strewn cables told of crude and hurried looting of anything easy to carry. Vermin scuttled in the dark corners of crumbling buildings.

A sudden gust of wind dislodged the torn remnant of a HarCop League banner from a pile of refuse, sending it whirling and dancing across the once-pristine landing ground before catching in a straggly purple bush growing through the supposedly impervious black surface.

***

As he looked out of the dirty and distorted viewport, he wondered again what he was still doing here. The League had forgotten about this place even before the Final Collapse. The supplies that he could scavenge from the stores were getting scarcer and more difficult to find; he hadn’t seen another person in weeks, let alone a ship. Not surprising - there was little reason for anybody to come to this part of the city these days.


But, he reflected, he wasn’t even really sure why he was here in the first place. Not so long ago really, he’d been the proud Captain of one of HarCop’s newest and sleekest merchant starships, helping to push the frontiers of civilisation further and further across the systems.

In normal times, the misunderstanding (as he habitually thought of it now) would have been quietly forgotten about. As it was, with entire crews being abandoned on whatever planet the maintenance spares ran out, as route after route became suddenly worthless... as it was, he was lucky to get himself assigned to the post of Starport Officer in this dead end.

His thoughts were cut off by the familiar rumble of the thrust engines of a starship in landing mode.

Familiar... and yet, not. His experienced ear picked out the harmonics that didn’t belong to anything produced by the League’s fabrication plants. Moments later, the traffic control sensors finally caught up. His console beeped three times, made a peculiar fizzing noise, and went dark - he sighed in exasperation but then dismissed it from his mind as he caught sight of the ship itself making its descent.

Even here, they’d heard of the outsiders. This was the first to land here as far as he knew, but there had been whispers, rumours - tall tales of aliens of every shape and size, in starships almost as varied. This one at least was similar enough to League ships that the planet-tied might even have mistaken it for one. The Captain (he’d suddenly - unconsciously - started thinking of himself that way again, though if he’d realised it he would not have been able to say why) automatically began noting differences - some with interested approval, others suspicious disdain.

***

The four crew members forming the bridge team of the Aldous sat at their consoles as the ship made its steady progress towards the landing ground. Not one of them were familiar enough with the Terran classics to understand the name the dockyard had given their ship before this pioneering visit to the Coreward Arm. The advanced neurotech that had almost instantly made them into competent starship crew did not cover literary appreciation.

Benjamin cleared his throat as he peered doubtfully at the external optical feed. “Err. Are you sure about this, Dave? These guys don’t look like they have much to trade”. He paused before going on, “In fact... there don’t really seem to be many guys here at all”.

Dave glared resentfully. “Look. I didn’t ask to be in charge. What the f...” - deep breath, marginally more restrained tone - “What do I know about trading? How would I know where the... where the best places to land are?”

Caroline muttered,“Best? I’d settle for good. Hell, adequate.”

Dave rounded on her, all pretence of calm gone now, “Yeah? Yeah, Caroline? And who was on sensor duty when the asteroid hit? Maybe if somebody had been paying attention, the Captain would be selecting our destination.”

She flushed with rage, flinging herself out of her seat towards the Acting Captain - but before he could react, before she could cross the bridge, she stumbled as the ship lurched and settled.

Simon coughed guiltily when everybody turned to look at him. “Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Descent complete; all systems nominal. Three minutes to airlock cycle”

***

The bridge team shuffled down the ladder, landing heavily in the gravity a little stronger than shipboard standard. Uniform regulations had barely survived the Captain’s memorial service, and they were a mismatched and unkempt bunch.

He greeted them uncertainly. “Good morning; I’m the Starport Officer. Could you ask the Captain to come out? Or the crew?”

They looked at each other uncomfortably, straightening and tugging at their clothes in what they thought was a discreet fashion. They felt they should have been angry, resentful; but somehow nobody wanted to be the one to stand up to this Starport Officer.

He stared in disbelief as he realised the truth. “You’re the crew? How? What kind of Captain would allow... this?”

More silence.

“Explain yourselves!”, he bellowed.



Dave finally began the story, but was interrupted before he’d really got started. The crew fell to bickering again among themselves - arguments that had become such a familiar pattern they were automatic, almost a comfort. Much less disconcerting than the Officer, certainly.

“If you had...”. “All the way back in Discordia...” “But...”. “I wasn’t even...”. “Harlong...” “Yeah, and what about...” “The Captain would have....”. “Well, why didn’t you...” “Court martial...” “I’ll give you a pis...”

“Enough!”, he snapped finally, losing patience. The crew looked at him, a little shocked, slightly sheepish; the sharper ones wondering a little why they obeyed so readily, the others oblivious but obedient nonetheless. “Who owns this ship? And... how well do they pay their officers?”

***

The new Captain settled back in his seat. It was less well cushioned than the command chairs he was used to, and significantly less grand and imposing - not to mention shaped for a completely different anatomy. And yet, for all that, it was somehow undeniably familiar.

He smiled.

“So. Tell me about this Republic we’re part of”




 
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******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the new version of ESNN (formally CSNN), giving the news and views from the former CSNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe,

And so with the news,
 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

A Detinus expeditionary force is being assembled to liberate slaves in the Twilight Periphery. Stung by the wit of the Wimble Dinash, Admiral Bridge is leading a personal and sizeable force against the newly constituted Flagritz Republic.

The Wimble Bake Off has new competition with the Dominion instituting a Master Chef competition in the Orion Spur. This is all said to be a cover for further land grabs and in preparation for a move against the Hive and Dewiek, tipping the balance further in the Stellar Empire’s favour.

Meanwhile, the Wimbles struck off a number of hapless Wimbles under their new rules. To cement their plan to align themselves with the Stellar Empire, they have offered the services of their new masters to the Emperor.

Several hundred thousand slaves have been released by the Flagritz Republic but the terms of their manumission are unclear. Millions more await their emancipation. Many have refused to accept freedom without transit home, especially those brought in from outside peripheries. Many reportedly were captured by the Stellar Empire from the Detinus Republic and then sold on to the Flagritz.

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

The ship PRV HarCop Omega has been reported both in Orion and Corewards. This was the flagship of the former League Chairman, sacked from the role when the League went into administration and quietly disappearing beyond the edge of known space. It is thought that his return may have been for a clandestine meeting with his former contacts in Harlong and Coptuv. If so then he clearly has an agenda.

Unconfirmed stories that the Pirate King of The Pirate Holes and Million Islands is near completing research on the various larger ships his pirates have successfully captured over the past few years (big thanks to all the affiliations that participated in 'donating' ships). If the rumours are true it is likely a new armada of pirate ships using more advanced technology will be found in Corewards in the near future.

An supernova has been detected originating from just beyond the Transpiral Periphery. The rare event has created ripples in the subspace of the nearby stars. Nobody has reported any tangible ramifications but this is the first supernova in the current age of the Peripheries so esoteric scientists are excited by the prospect of grants to study the relatively nearby phenomena.
 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Wimbles Crisis Solved ***

The Wimble Crisis of 217 has come to an end with the human Baron making way to the wimble Grandfather Paden Mastaak. Celebrations were held in Wimbledon upon the news with crack teams of Wimble security staff guarding all the pies.

It’s unclear how long the Wimbles will enjoy this new era of peace and self-determination.

Vocal Wimble Dinasha, one of Paden’s early backers, has chosen this precarious moment to bait Dewiek, Flagritz and humans who were initially disposed to be friendly to the new administration. Whilst the Wimbles' history with the former-slave-loving Flagritz could be understood, their animosity towards the Dewiek and humans was more mysterious. One insider alluded to a rise in the number of cases of foot-and-mouth across the herd as being a likely cause.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Storm in a Teacup *** Yahn Bares All * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door ***

The stargates are closed! Reports from multiple sources indicate at least three of the stargates, all within Dewiek controlled systems, have been closed.

Two different sources have indicated that the TCA have been spotted recently in a number of systems and may be behind this turn of events. A scan sent to the SSS indicated eight TCA ships were recently spotted first in the Faery system and later near the Kasmer stargate.

Another source, suspiciously put the blame on the ARC, suggesting the ARC and DEN were working together because they “need to trap [the TCA] and try and finish them off after the DEN bodged their operation to protect the ARC while they incinerated the MEK homeworld, which ended up with several ARC ships being destroyed and the job only being half done."

However, with no public statement from the Dewiek themselves, its hard to know whether these rumours are reliable.

Lord Igor of the Dominion and Erasmus Andersen of the Garcia Family both offered public apologies at the delay in meeting their trade commitments because of the recent closures. The not-so-subtle subtext being that someone will pay with blood for this interference in their business. Or at least with a stealthy price rise.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Wimble Civil Strife * Who Sniffs the Sniffers? * Largin’ It * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Videtis quantum scelus contra rem publicam vobis nuntiatum sit? ***

The Flagritz Empire is no more! The Flagritz Republic is reborn! Quick on the heel of the collapse of the Empire, the Fessin caste declared a new era of foreign and economic policy with a rapid withdrawal behind the Black Gate.

The new ecologically-friendly Prime Minister Kayxaer, asked for patience as “economic” reforms were undertaken. It remains to be seen whether there will be any price to pay for the dramatic changes being made by the reclusive Flagritzi or whether it will all be sunshine and rainbows going forward.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Large at Large * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Bravo for Freedom ***

Naplian Forces have attacked three human pirate outposts in the Morroglyph system. A spokesperson for Naplia HQ told the press that the plucky duct-tape loving free people would continue their war against slavers and pirates in their home periphery.

One salty Naplian libertarian told the SSS, “The people of the Naplian Home Periphery are sick and tired of human criminals coming here just because their homeworld is an overcrowded hell. It’s time for them to go back home.”

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Igor of Fang and Horns * Admiral Loves Dick Turpin * &etc

 

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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