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You better watch out. You better not cry.

You better watch out. You better not cry.

The howling had stopped some time ago though Fellise still held her breath anxiously. Then the door opened and Dakran stepped through surrounded by scattering of blown snowflakes. He placed his rifle into the rack next to the door, looked over at his wife and smiled. ‘Go on back to the kids. I don’t think we are going to have any more issues with vorse tonight. I’ll fix us a drink.’
As she entered the bedroom she found all three children in the one bed with the blanket pulled up to their chins. Little Enna’s toy blaster was poking over the top at the ready.
‘Shush,’ she cooed at them, ‘nothing to be afraid of, just a few vorse trying to get over the fence. Your father scared them away.’
‘What’s a vorse?’ asked Enna, always the bravest and most curious of the sibling despite being both the youngest and small for his age.
‘Well, they look a bit like reindeer and are just as bad tempered, howling all the time. Santa could probably use one of them pulling his sleigh.’
‘Santa? Reindeer?’ they all chorused.
‘It’s a story from when I was a girl. My mother told us tales from her childhood and about what it was like back on Earth, that’s the place we all came from.’
‘But I thought we came from Capella,’ said Jacey.
‘I mean everyone a long time ago, your great grandparents, yes and mine,’ she added, stalling the next obvious question. ‘Anyway, do you want to hear about Santa and the reindeer or are you going to keep talking?’ The vorse forgotten, they now clambered forwards on the bed. ‘It all started a very long time ago when people burnt trees for heat and used animals instead of shuttles and if they wanted to tell someone about something, they even had to go and see them and of course pretty much everybody was very poor. But there was one man, something like a viceroy who was not only very rich like all viceroys but also very generous.’
‘So, this isn’t a true story?’ Souki was only twelve years old but already cynical. Then again, she was born on Stork while the family were waiting for seemingly years, stuck in a starport three-by-three poly-prefab for passage to one of the verdant frontier worlds.


‘It’s a nice story, Souki, so please. Anyway, this generous viceroy seeing that there were many people with not enough things to burn and not enough food to eat, went about over the cold winter giving them things that they needed. He also gave little toys to the children. Everyone then looked forward to winter because even though it was cold, they knew that Santa Viceroy would turn up and hand them presents.
‘But then one really cold and dark winter the weather was so bad that his normal sleigh, that’s like a sledge the size of a cart, pulled by small furry creatures could not get through the snow. As he knew the people depended on his gifts he went out into the wild and harnessed big monsters, standing taller than your daddy and with huge twisting horns.’ She made a ferocious face and used her hands as horns and leaned over the children till they giggled. ‘He wrestled the reindeer to ground and tied them to his cart. These wild beasts were then able to pull him through the horrible storm and reach the people. But when they saw the monsters charging down their streets they were scared and bolted their doors and turned out their lights and refused to come out. Santa couldn’t deliver the presents.’
‘So what did Santa do?’ asked Jacey, looking very concerned.
‘Well, guess what, he climbed from the back of the sledge onto the roofs of the houses and he got in through their chimneys and left the gifts where they would find them when they came out of hiding.’
‘But that doesn’t even make sense.’ Souki scrunched her face up.
‘Well, it was a long time ago and people did odd things back then, but the point is, Santa delivered all to goodies to all the parents and all the children all got their toys. And every year after that Santa would use reindeer to pull his cart and people would pretend to hide while Santa delivered all the gifts and so the tradition of giving gifts at the coldest and darkest part of the winter was created. Isn’t that a beautiful story?’
At least two of the children agreed.

It was three days later when Enna went missing along with his toy blaster and his electric truck. They found his tracks in the snow a few hundred metres along the road, though how he had got through the gate could not be explained. Jacey said that they had been playing Santa and by the time she had come back with some toys to pretend pull the truck she could not find him so had gone to watch cartoons.

Dakran contacted the neighbours a few kilometres along the valley and soon there were four crawlers and a flyer combing the area. His truck was soon found turned over at the bottom of a bank a short distance from the river. By this point Fellise was stifling tears and Souki was shouting hysterically about stupid stories.

Ionic radiation made the sensors almost useless while thick vegetation cover of the slopes hampered visuals. By nightfall they were tense and weary but beyond a lot of vorse hoof prints, they found nothing.

A service was held a few days later. Souki moved out and now lived with a neighbour. Felisse spent the nights crying and Dakran spent from sun up to after dark out in the fields, throwing himself into physical labour. Life ticked on.
Cutbacks meant that the garrison was closed. The system defaulted to darkspace and talk amongst many of the farmers turned to abandoning their steads and buying passage back to Stork or possibly even Capella, though attracting the attention of a reputable megacorp to do the transporting was proving to be difficult.

It was the darkest winter night when the pirates struck. They arrived along with the storm and had already turned over the steads further down the valley. It was Souki that got the word out. Seemed one of the pirates wanted a bit of private time with her and underestimated the capability of a frontier girl that spent more than few years hanging round with ground-pounder brats.




Flares were fired and a militia was formed and took up positions where the valley narrowed between the river and a cliff. The pirates however had dealt with colonists before and were confident to the point of being cocky. They split from the path, seeking to get to the high ground and pick off the defenders.

That was when the vorse hit them. The huge elk analogues appeared from the lower tree line and stampeded along the narrow gap, leaping surefooted across the rocks despite the storm and the darkness. Horns swept out, disemboweling pirates while those fleeing were either trampled into the snow or hoisted over the edges of cliffs to descend into the dark churning rapids of the river below. Of the few pirates that survived the vorse onslaught none made it back to their ship; shot down by the militia.
As the militia disbanded and swapped stories of the event some cautiously suggested that somebody was riding one of the vorse.
‘Dressed in red clothing,’ suggested one, while another corrected him.
‘I reckon it was more likely uncured hide. Gotta be someone gone native.’
‘Anyway, he was laughing, “Ho, Ho, Ho”, all the way down the hill and across the river,’ added another.
‘Nah, probably just a groaning pirate caught up in the antlers of one of them vicious animals. I reckon the flares must have spooked them.’ The rest nodded agreement though unconvincingly.

Many hours later upon returning to the homes they had fled, they found small bundles of berries left by their doors, each neatly wrapped in scented leaves. To this nobody had any explanation.

Though she never saw Enna again, Felisse stopped crying. On the coldest, stormy nights she would listen for the howls of the vorse and on the next day look for small bundles of berries. Occasionally she would swear she heard laughter along with the howls. Now she tells the story of the night Santa came to town to her new born baby.





 
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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.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

”Necessity hath no law”

Lord Cromwell of the DOM slapped a fleet of privateers, on charges of "knavery", "bad manners" and "poor sportsmanship." Such offences carry the death sentence in the Dominion, a nebulous territory neither part of the Empire nor apart from it. At least thirteen Armadillo class ships, typically sold by the DOM, were destroyed at a location Cromwell was unwilling to disclose publicly. Bloodthirsty Dewiek as well as "prince of peace" Yahn Wodenzoon were quick to congratulate the DOM for their merciless carnage. It seems the consensus in the galaxy’s ruling class is that not presenting valid identification is a crime worthy of the murder of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of unfortunate crewmen. This is all just another indicator that the political elite are far removed from the lives of ordinary people who are seen as little more than meat inventory. It is telling so-called “man of the people and the downtrodden” Wodenzoon so readily aligns himself with this grisly concord. Meanwhile, the archaic elocutionist Cromwell further establishes the recent trend of mild exertions of power by the cold-blooded DOM.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Return of the Fox

The galaxy is still digesting news of the return of Xavier Fox to the boardroom of the GTT. The ailing corporation's share price began a sharp rally after a six month downward spiral under Ike Krieger, credited with being the worst CEO in the megacorporation's history. The only surviving board member from Fox's initial tenure as CEO, and perhaps across the entire GTT board, is Antt Tilton the Research Director. The reclusive Tilton is the brains behind the ascension of GTT technology, particularly in the field of antimatter weapons and super-heavy dreadnought size ships, Tilton offers a small measure of continuity during this tumultuous time. Mr. Fox has therefore resorted to a broad appeal for new blood to join the ailing firm. So far, the result has been a number of two-dimensional "Yes" persons being promoted to the C-suite. Still, key stakeholders were upbeat with one commenting, "Fox is the man to turn this bloody disaster around. He knows how to put a great team together and where to bury the bodies of the non-performers."


 

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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