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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
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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