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Death of Diaz

Death of Diaz

It was evening, but still in the high thirties outside and cash, like the cheap spirits in my glass had long since evaporated. It was stifling and damp, though opening the window would bring no relief. The lights were off along with the cooler. I had been disconnected, literally. Somebody had got wise to my blackmarket override code and removed the coupling. I was weighing up my options not liking any of them when she walked in.

'So, you’re in, maybe you should leave a light on or something.'

My shoes, parked on the table had hid her entrance while the whirring of my thoughts had drowned out the noise of the door opening. Her voice was soft with a slight lilt that would be worth waking up to, well, just a couple of times anyway. I moved my feet, returning the chair to as close to the upright position as it would go and tried to pierce the Stygian gloom to the speaker. If she was half as good as her silhouette I was in trouble.


She took two languid steps forward and leaned down a little to place both hands on my desk, staring long and cool in the eyes. My mind told my eyes to meet hers, they however had their own agenda.

Trouble.

'What do you know about Diaz?' she asked, not blinking and defying me to.
'Only that she retired from public service some time back and that she died a few days ago after an illness.' Diaz, her interest in heels aside the dame had been healthy, some would say vigorous, personally I don't listen to gossip unless it is relevant to the case.
'You buy the stories it was some form of rare alien virus?'
'That depends who's selling.'
'Fifty a week with three hundred expenses says you find out.'
'Sounds above my pay grade sweets. Tell me, if the pols aren't interested, what's it to you? Have a lot of shares in footwear?' Yeah, I knew baiting her could cost me a packet, but something didn't add up.
'Take a week to think about it and poke around.' With that she left, casually dropping a dime chip on the desk. I waited, drinking in the view; all the way down to her heels. Trouble.

It was sometime before I picked up the chip. A hundred was indicated on the reader. That would go a long way to getting me ahead for once. I was already at the door, my body having decided before my head had finished the debate.
It was a busy few days putting feelers out. Word got around that I was on a case so the monkeys were paying their respects, I was just paying. I still had enough to put some sharp lines on my body. If I was going to be brushing shoulders with the movers and shakers I had to scrub up with a new suit. First though, there was a captain just heading out that wanted a quick word about his recent trip to Straddle. Yeah, I had to look it up. Some backwater system. Seems the imperials and republic have been having a punch-up over it. Started in the time Diaz was calling the shots.

I was being tailed on the way to the dock. I had picked him up at the starport gates. The fashion was right, though the stooge was working it too hard. He clocked me and backed off. Time to have a chat. That's when it hit me, the right hook to the gut. Suckered by the old obvious distraction. While I was still reeling a second splintered my sight and I was looking up at a squat face. The guy must have been a gravity junkie. What they lose in height they more than make up for in power. A stubby finger was pointed down at me. 'Stay of the Diaz case, else!'
When I finally had reopened my eyes he was gone. Starport security, never around when you're getting the stuffing knocked out of you but try dripping blood across the concourse as you stagger to the conveniences. Bastards.

By the time security was finished with me my contact was off-world. A dead end. I decided to hit my local. After covering my tab and being hustled into covering the leaner times ahead I worked through what I knew. Those in authority were officially mourning the passing of the great lady. Some cutie was hiring a low-life, yours truly, to poke around and somebody really didn't want me talking to the captain. I took this to mean that she wanted somebody below the political arena, somebody not already on a payroll. I also suspected that she was simply a pawn of a bigger fish, somebody that wanted the truth exposed without the light shining on them at the same time.

I ghosted the scenes for the next couple of nights, looking the part without standing out. Diaz cropped up a few times in conversation, though it was clear that those talking about her were definitely not in the know. Sometimes it's what people don't say that you have to pay close attention to.

It took all my powers of persuasion and a large chunk of the expenses to dig out the name of the doctor who treated Diaz at the end. What was the connection between Diaz, a university toxicologist and a captain from Straddle?
I was told under no uncertain terms to leave the university campus before I even made it to reception. Attempts to reach the Dr were in vain. The guy was being shielded and I was at the end of the first week. I left, returned to the office and climbed into a bottle of the hard stuff.

My office had been given the once over. I also suspected that my data-vault had been mined. I only ever keep the old stuff there. Figure someday I will write my memoirs. The good stuff I commit to memory. Good ol' fashioned organic, nothing cyber. Paint me paranoid but I have seen how soldiers react as though somebody is pushing their buttons.
A few hours later I dropped the empty bottle into the basket. That's when I saw it. The office may have been turned over but nobody thought to look in the trash. Amateurs or maybe they thought I was in the habit of chucking away cash chips. Clearly they didn't know me very well.

The dame had been round, it had her scent, something I had not noticed first time, distracted as I was by her eyes, at least that's what I intended to write in my memoirs. I slotted it. More money but also schedule for a doctor, a schedule that put him attending a private seminar outside the university.

My cover as waste disposal maintenance was flimsy though security at the seminar was poor. I had also taken the time to openly fail to get into the university before going to the bar. This allowed me to shake off the tails I had once again picked up. I was ignoring them while watching out for hammer hands just to be on the safe side.
The seminar was dull. Yeah, so a lot of planets mean a lot of life and by extension, a lot of poisons. So some guy has spent a lifetime looking at them. While most are simple chemicals that wreck biology and are obvious, some have evolved for native fauna and are mostly harmless against non-native biology. That was it. I waited for questions and was awarded my opportunity.



'You say evolved poisons are mostly harmless against non-native species? Can you give an example where this isn't the case?'
'In most cases the toxin is an enzyme. Normally they are denatured when removed from their natural environment or do not have the correct active site to bind with non-native biochemistry such as cell walls. That said there was a case I dealt with recently in which an enzyme was biologically close to human enzymes. It caused the breakdown of neural cells resulting in dementia then brain death. It took weeks to take effect, though I only dealt with the post mortem toxicology report.'
'Was this from Straddle?'
He started to nod, paused then looked at me more closely before turning to somebody out of sight. I had the information I needed and was out of there as fast as I could.

Poisoned from a toxin that came from a world that was being fought over with the imperials. That was what they didn't want me finding out. This just left two questions. Who poisoned Diaz but more importantly, at least to my mind, who was hiring me? Either way the outlook was pretty grim. From the sounds of it, Diaz had been poisoned while still in office. Was this the real reason she stepped down. Was the House of Lords covering-up that their best security was not good enough to protect the Speaker from the imperials or was there a conspiracy to replace her? If they latter, then who was leading it?




 
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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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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.


 

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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