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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”




 
News
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  Star Date: 221.22.5

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RAGNAROK BECKONS

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Assault on End Game

The ancient Architects have declared war on the Dewiek Elder Nation. The first sign of the conflict was subspace transmissions in a remote system in the Pocket Periphery. This followed reports that the ancient Ragnarok shipyards on Beacon were malfunctioning. In response, the Wolf Mother sent urgent orders to several Dewiek scout ships to patrol the End Game system.

The Konungr Smidamadr was the first to encounter the gigantic, “Planet Killer” class ARC ships. Measuring in at thirty-two hundred heavy hulls and armed with a hundred ARC plasma weapons, the ship was more like a mobile armed platform. It is certainly the largest vessel ever recorded. The scout ship was vaporised instantly.

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ARC Planet Killer dwarves largest DEN warships

 
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  Star Date: 221.11.4

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Caste Apart

The Flagritz Republic is (very nearly) no more. In its place, a single Hexamon and Flagritz power has arisen. The new Collective has absorbed much of the Flagritz holdings with only a handful of Clique-caste Flagritz systems choosing instead to align with the other Elder species, the Dewiek.

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Flagritz and Hexamon Hybrids - A hope for the Future?

 
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  Star Date: 221.3.3

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Meklanmania

Meklan scout ships continue to be seen around the Orion Spur periphery. These cyborg creatures in service of hidden ancient masters appear to be terrorising the Wimble Nation in particular. Despite public lamentations against the hardship of defending themselves, the Wimble leadership have not yet responded to our request for comment.

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Artist's impression of a Meklanised Wimble

However, Xavier Fox, CEO of Galactic Transport and Trade, did give us the following statement:

“We have engaged several Meklan ships, although currently the source has not been identified. GTT Directors have been running patrols and have engaged and destroyed numerous ships that have attacked outlying outposts belonging to different affiliations. The pattern of ships encountered leads us to believe there is a central source, but until that is found we would suggest any affiliation with assets in the area provide adequate defences.”

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Doomsday On Pause

At the site of the Thete anomaly, the Dewiek Nation has sent media sensation Sharon Aleman to the scene. Aleman, whose cybernetic enhancements allow her to directly interface with her ship’s sensor array, led her hardened crew into a dive of the outermost “edge” of the anomaly. After spending several days collecting and analysing data (mere minutes to the rest of us outside the anomaly), Aleman reported her shocking discoveries.

 
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  Star Date: 220.50.5

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Veil Lifted on Flagritz Home Space

As the Hellcadium ISR field continues to fluctuate, one of the newly exposed systems is Junista inside the previously hidden and inaccessible home periphery of the Flagritz Republic.

Over the past few weeks Flagritz Republic patrols and platforms have dealt with a number of scout ships from the Human Empire as the IMP wasted no time in exploiting this opportunity to poke around in their old enemy’s backyard. It is understood that at least one of these unarmed scouts was destroyed with no one willing to estimate how many more might be buzzing around.

Coincidentally, suspected IMP lackey, SSL TOAD, has also been overheard showing an obsessive interest in the Flagritz periphery. However, we have received no reports of this being anything other than his usual drug-fueled, barely decipherable mutterings at this stage.

Either way, this sudden, uninvited interest in the Flagritz Periphery has left the FLZ leadership muttering darkly about appropriate measures being taken. Defensive fleets and supporting structures are being deployed in the Junista system and beyond in expectation of further uninvited guests.

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When You stare into the Flagritz Periphery...

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Thete's Timey-Wimey Tease

Investigation into the Thete anomaly continued in the Dewiek Pocket Periphery. The anomaly was scanned from all angles by a number of the Dewiek Nation’s best sensor ships and officers. The data, collected over several weeks, was sent to one of the DEN’s most advanced scientific laboratories for analysis.

What they found will shock you!

 
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  Star Date: 220.45.1

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Perfidion Reached

Long speculated by theoretical Stellar Cartographers, Perfidion Reach finally opened in the last few weeks. Immediately, the Detinus Republic boldly staked a claim on the first accessible system, Hellcadium. Only time will tell the true value of this strategic move but their much-taunted bureaucracy may have finally proved its worth.

Early reports from scans of the system reveal a wildly fluctuating ISR field. Rumours suggest that at least one ship was destroyed as it was forced into an asteroid belt chasing a stable jump field attempting to exit the system. Casual travellers are warned away from the system at this time for their own safety. Leave it to skilled explorers and navigation officers.

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Mathematical model of Hellcadium ISR Field.

We spoke to Captain Zakiyah Ummahi via subspace link. Zakiyah led the first DEN expedition into the Perfidion Reach. "Spirits remain high but this is largely down to the extended R&R we were all forced to take immediately prior to jumping into this hole. Initial scouting reports show at least one planet with plenty of forests and grasslands which might help if we're going to be stuck here for Folkvar knows how long waiting for this damned ISR field to stabilise."

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Valhalla Stargate Reopens

Dewiek engineers and scientists have finally managed to re-enable Stargate Valgrind this week and the protective Exclusion Zone is to be lifted. If DEN investigators discovered who caused the gate to malfunction, or why, they were not willing to share it with us. Military sources, however, have announced a project to provide a significant boost to the already formidable defence platform in the stargate’s orbit.

 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

Empire - DEN action grinds to a halt

After months of tension relations between the Empire and the Dewiek Nation, which rose to several large scale fleet actions ending in the DEN losing over 60 Direwolf warships in Solo, things appear to have moved from antagonistic to unfriendly. With the Solo system being a particular issue an agreement has been reached between the Wolf Mother of the DEN and Xavier Fox of the GTT. Since this things have become very quiet, not just because the shooting has stopped, but also because my reporters have been on their summer holidays.
 
News For Discerning Naplians!
---- Special Galactic Edition ----



(The Host sits at his desk as the studio lights dim, and a single spotlight bathes him in light. He looks straight into the camera and begins to speak: )

Host: Naambta!
Good Greetings, and welcome to the show.

This is News for Discerning Naplians, and i’m sure you are all showing much impatience to see this week’s Panel Discussion. We will be discussing religion with the Lady Ghadir of the Temple of Ya Zoon, renowned neo-naplian spiritualist Chairman TonTon, and a very special guest from our imperial neighbours, Bishop Samantha Porteus of the Brotherhood. But before we get to that...

(Looks demonstratively at his digital wrist watch. )

... it is time for a word from our sponsor.
 
******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe from our new home in the Heartland,

And so with the news from the last few weeks,
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***
  • DEN assault FEL base and get wiped out
  • CIA Trade fleet caught and destroyed by the DEN
  • Krell denounce worship of the True One

  •  
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Huge fleet skirmish at the London/Crossley wormhole

    A large fleet of over 700 DEN warships responded to the EMP action in Crossley, where a 4000 hull DEN platform was destroyed. Reports show the DEN ships caught a group of CIA ships napping and inflicted significant losses on the humans. IMP and GTT fleets moved to assist the CIA, matching DEN fleet numbers, but the arrival of over 1200 Hexamon ships seems to have tipped the battle in favour of the DEN-HEX alliance.

    The combined DEN-HEX force pushed through the wormhole into the Heartland area of human space and retaliated, attacking several CIA platforms in response. The outnumbered Empire fleets abandoned the area and fled, they are currently waiting for the larger alien force to make their next move from their hiding places.
     

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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