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Story - Just a Backwater World

Just a Backwater World

A storm was rising; the sullen grey clouds to the south had started to churn becoming darker. This was going to be a bad one. I strained to see through the front shields as the craft skimmed along at ninety. There were no wavelets yet, so I was trying to make headway before it broke.
Not for the first and definitely not for the last I cursed myself for ever following him out here. A good job he said, a frontier world with excellent prospects, in my defence I was young and glad to be out of Hypso. Truth told, in the early days it was good. I trained as a shrimper while he worked at Archipelago. Then it all started to turn sour. The colony became controlled by the Flagritz and suddenly there were lock downs with fewer passes given out. Then all communication ceased with visitors turned away by flagritz troops at the gate. As to what happened to Jack I can only guess. With no other authorities to turn to, there was nothing I could do. Even after it changed to Kastorian control there was no improvement, no communications in or out. I hate kastorians. That was more than ten years ago and gravity has taken its toll. This is a harsh world.

Without thinking I turn the craft in a wide arc to bypass one of the darker lagoons. There are things in them that have been known to reach up and flip a skimmer. The shattered remains are found a few days later along with the pilot, at least what is left after the shrimps have had their fill. I hate shrimp.



It is probably being in these waters that make me think of Jack. I am a few hundred clicks north of Archipelago or whatever it is now called. I doubt I have been down here for a few years though the algae blooms were especially large over winter round here so I thought I would try my luck. Even I have to admit it has been good with a reasonable haul already capped off. I say luck, though with the extra ballast I may have to dump most of it if this storm continues to spread at its current rate. Now that would be my sort of luck and there is nothing like a bloody great storm for dispersing the algae blooms and sending the shrimp scattering.

There is a sudden magnetic lurch and the navigator cuts out. This is a new one, storms on Puddle, the whimsical local name for what is officially referred to Mktkl on astronomical charts, probably because nobody can actually pronounce Mktkl. A few other lights flash and the HUD comes to life, scrolling up a list of seemingly random faults. I glance upwards at the first dark tendrils of the storm overtaking the skimmer. I didn’t think I was pushing it too hard but it is only a civvy craft and due for maintenance. Decision made I throttle down for a reboot.

First I isolate the breather as a precaution and then deploy the anchor and full exterior sealant just in case I have to go bottomside to ride out the storm. I choose a modest depth lagoon deep enough to not be affected by the oncoming surges. I doubt I will be diving. A reboot and I will be long gone before even the rain comes down.

That’s when the second set of lights start flashing. The HUD is spewing out information then the skimmer drops the last metre like a rock hitting stone rather than water. Despite the extra padding in the seat all air is expelled from my lungs. Tractors are down as well and the full 2g of the world has hammered home. It’s a bit like falling off a wall with somebody on top of you.

Living in Puddle for a decade has given me sufficient time to get used to brief bouts of high-g. Despite what you might read in the colonisation adverts it ain’t all ‘check me out I am super strong, capable of throwing boulders hundreds of metres’. I will tell you what it is, tiring and long-term exposure destroys your bones and when all is said and done, the boulders also weigh twice as much. People going ‘native’ on Puddle die young.
I check the HUD and it is flashing various systems off-line though the core seems to be fine. I opt for a complete power down and even open the floor plate to look below. That’s when the whole inside of the skimmer is lit up in magnesium flare brightness even down here. Despite closing my eyes the brightness is intense enough to give me an instant headache.

I am blinded for a few seconds during which I process the events. Loss of navigation, probably due to interference. Random system failures, possibly due to an em-pulse. Then the big giveaway, a bloody bright light. Some bastards are having themselves an orbital battle and they have just decided to drop a few nukes my way. Had my head not been below decks it would have been a lot worse of that I am certain.
Huffing with exertion and no time to lose I get to the tool kit and pull out the welders gogs. The skills you pick up being a shrimper on Puddle. Fixing a drive shaft by yourself three days out from the nearest habitat makes you feel proud, doing it for the tenth or more time, not so much. Thankfully these skimmers are low tech and most of the systems can be bypassed.

I have sacrificed the tractors and used the plating to harden the main drive processors. It is going to be a gruelling ride back but as least the rig will survive any further pulses providing that they aren’t too near and if they are, well, I won’t be worrying any longer will I.



The storm is almost on top of me with the occasional lighting discharges. While these are bright enough to cause the gogs to react, they are as nothing compared to the nuclear blasts, ripping chunks out of the storm and colouring the horizon a vivid green and blue. That’s when it occurs to me that the target cannot be anything other than Archipelago. They are nuking Archipelago. In all honesty I am not surprised, everybody hates the Kastorians even other Kastorians. Still I am thankful that it has dampeners or this storm would be nothing compared to what would have hit me by now.

It is a couple of days of hard skimming and pursued by the storm later that, still without communication I am treated to a spectacular pyrotechnics show. Despite it being the twilight of early evening the entire southern sky is lit up. The flashes are mostly fiery red though green and blue smudges can just be made out as escaping gases from ships are subjected to intense ionisation. These are as nothing to the sudden blooming of incandescent white. I have kept the gogs on just to be safe.

Finally I approach one of the smallholdings sited down here, more by luck than knowledge of the territory. Everything pretty much looks the same round here and I am without a working navigator. I plead my case and am given shelter and reprieve from the oppressive gravity. I feel like I have shed half my body weight. After a good scrub and some food I get filled in on news. Seems Archipelago was taken on by some human faction a short while back and another faction weren’t impressed so decided to reduce it to radioactive slag though in fact had their bombarding fleet reduced to dust and scattered across the surface of the Puddle. Apparently there has been some apologising somewhere though no doubt we will all be fitting rad monitors to our skimmers for the next few months.

Well, if humans are finally taking an interest in this backwater shithole my only hope is that they offer compensation for my skimmer and a chance to leave this world far behind. You can bet I won’t be the only one looking for a way off.







 
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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