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214
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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.







 
News
Is open for business...
 
******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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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Admiral Lord Simms killed after a long and distinguished service to the Empire.

    The Imperial Services have intercepted and serious damaged several DEN ships on the way to the Empire’s home systems. Unfortunately during the action Admiral Lord Simms was injured and reports from the Viceroy indicate he has passed away, fighting the enemies of the Empire like any true Imperial Officer.

    The Viceroy has stated that the officers and crew of the DEN ships have been captured and are now awaiting trial at a secret IMP base.

    DEN continue to strike at the Empire

    Reports are coming in of multiple engagements between the Empire and the Dewiek Elder Nation over the last week. With several battles taking out Empire ships in the Heartland of the CIA.

    AFT turn to piracy

    The Association of Free Traders have, after a long history of neutrality, turned to piracy this week. AFT Drake boarded an IND ship in the Halo periphery, killing several of the crew in the process.
    Independent trader Jarlebanke Langhofdi immediately took to the public communication channel demanding an answer to why supposedly peaceful traders had killed his crew and taken his ship.

    The AFT remain silent over the attack.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Combat Special Edition

    Since the DEN started shooting at those lovable FEL fluffballs things have certainly been heating up. So we through it would be prudent to bring you, gentle beings of the peripheries, a special edition in order to keep you updated with all the latest action in regards to who the DEN are shooting and who is shooting them.

    Felini strike back at Dewiek

    Reports have come in of the FEL striking back at the DEN in the Kallisan system. A huge FEL force supported by the IMP and CIA assaulted DEN positions taking both the platform and base called Lucien. There was much rejoicing in the FEL camp as the Felini proved they were not such lovable fluffballs after all!

    GTT get sucked into the war

    A passing fleet of GTT warships got caught in the fighting and this saw the GTT enter the war. When asked about this CEO Fox pointed out they are not warships at all, they are trade defence ships. So how they came to be in the DEN system of Kallisan is a mystery to us. But the GTT CEO was clear that they only engaged using support and defend orders to protect allies. Needless to say, the CEO commented “We found ourselves on the Dewiek Nation’s enemy lists pretty soon after.”

    Dewiek Nation attacks GTT positions in Orion Spur, breaking DOM system rules

    A fleet of DEN warships has engaged and destroyed a significant number of GTT cargo ships and escorts in the DOM system Monument. The GTT immediately took to the public channels to ask why the DOM were not doing something. In reply the DOM issued a statement to stop, which the DEN ignored.

    The DEN newssheet "The HOWL" published a completely unbiased review of the attack shortly after.

    DOM make a choice

    After the above incident and then further raiding by the DEN, taking out a few GTT cargo ships in the DOM system of Coptuv, the DOM seemed to have been faced with a choice of stopping drinking their tea and doing something or just hoping it would go away. Instead they seem to have decided to abandon the whole idea of being an active affiliation and we have since folded. The lengths some people will go to not to have their elevenses disturbed is truly staggering. We asked the DOM for a statement on their new system rules to share with our readers but have received no replies.

    DOM positions share out

    Just as we were going to press news has come in of various DOM assets being given to other affiliations or sold. Hopefully we will have more on this story in the next issue of your favorite factual newsheet. Yes, that's us at the SSS.

    *** Affiliations ***


    AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
    CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
    DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
    DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
    DEN Dewiek Elder Nation (67) - Urd
    DOM Dominion (57) – we believe the DOM are now inactive
    FCN Falconian Republic (70) - Bacran
    FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Juris
    FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
    FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
    GRC Gracians (13) - HG1
    GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
    GCE Garcia Enterprises (4) - Neil
    HEX Hexamon (23) - Ando
    IMP Imperial Services (51) - Jack Jones
    KRL Krell (30) - Namica
    KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Kal Torak
    KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
    MZC Mizuchi Combine (86) - Mizuchi
    MOH Mohache (73) - Listens
    MIC Mohache Independent Commune (76) - Sleeps with Dragons
    NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
    RIP Regularly Involved in Piracy - Githyanki
    RRH Roy Robert Holdings (39) - Roy Roberts
    SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
    USN Ulian Stellar Nation (34) - Oeipus Prime
    WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

    * Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
    ** Affiliation has no leader but this is the only known contact

    NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS

    Inactive: ANT, BHD, COD, HVE, IDC, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG

    Deceased: CAL

    *** Submission ***

    By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    New pirate threat rocks Corward Arm.

    Several large pirate ships have been spotted in outer rings of Corward systems. Reports forwarded to us at the SSS allow us to exclusively tell readers that traders should keep their wits about them when moving through these areas.

    No existing pirate menace has yet claimed ownership.

    In a possibly unrelated event one of the FET cartel members claimed nothing was happening in the outer ring of Coptov shortly afterwards. But it could be that they are still trying to catch Empire backed pirates and have nothing to do with the new sightings.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****


    DEN continue to shoot innocents

    The Dewiek have made themselves busy shooting at the peaceful and innocent traders of the SSL. Leader of Solar Spices and Liquors Mr TOAD has been vocal pointing out that the Beast-DEN are being totally unfair. News of a go-fund-me appeal are yet to surface though.

    This office is sure that it must have provided the DEN light relief after picking on the equally defenceless Felini. Word is that the DEN faced such an uphill struggle in these recent actions they had to take up Felini inter-breeding to provide some entertainment as the battle reports were rather boring.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Return of the LiQuans

    A close associate of the Baron LiQuan has been haunting the Corewards periphery and like the old Baron it is said he has a meklan connection. It's unclear whether he obtained his meklan nanites via the CIA but there are rumours that the DEN may be helping the Liquan relative in a bid to sow discontent in the Stellar Empire. Exactly why they would start in Corewards is unclear although with DEN allies, the DOM, having strong positions both in the Sol system and the old Harcorp systems of Harlong and Coptuv they may be the linking factor.


     
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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).


     

    Free Ship when you sign-up
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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