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Samuel - First Stellar Caliph

Samuel - First Stellar Caliph
His new robes are a mixture of styles, blending traditional Brotherhood habit and the flowing light garments rapidly becoming fashionable as the masses adapted to the sweeping changes heralded by the formation of the Caliphate. His hood remains up, concealing most of his face. Despite recent surgery, the habit of concealing his face following his torture and disfigurement is proving harder to fix.

If he is uncomfortable on his throne of pillows he does not show it. The large chamber is carefully designed so that his immediate area is kept relatively cool while only a few metres away the temperature is a slightly higher, sufficient to cause some degree of discomfort at least to non-military. His personal guards standing in the many alcoves around the hall in their full battle-armour have their own internal environment controls.

As the orator drones on, occasionally trying to blink sweat back from his eyes and various dignitaries await to be introduced, Samuel recalls a very different meeting not so long ago.


"How is he?"
"Strong."
"And his mind?"
Silence.
Samuel was blessed with vastly superior hearing, something that early training in the cavernous halls of the Brotherhood taught him never to reveal. It had stood him in good stead over the years. The stranger was talking to his warden. He may go by the title estate manager or some such but Samuel was in no doubt as to his role, ensuring that he had no contact with anybody not on the accepted viewing list. He knew he was supposed to be dead. He had seen the media reports released by the Inner Brotherhood fanatics of Glory a decade ago. They showed his lifeless body at rest. They had pumped him with so many drugs that he was in a deep coma, blue lips and a slow pulse so weak as to be virtually undetectable. Even now his mind rebelled from recalling the endless days of torture both psychological and physical. He forced himself to look down at his fingers, as always surprised to see perfectly manicured nails and not suppurating stumps.

They said that they tortured him for more than eight months and for three reasons. First and foremost as punishment for his rejection of the Inner Brotherhood and their interpretation of the True Ones will; second, to have him step down as High Lord, Prophet of the True One and ruler of the Stellar Empire and third, to recognise Mark Eaton as Pope and representative of the True One in the material universe. He believed it was simpler than that. They tortured him because they wanted to as even after he was officially dead and they no longer needed either his confession or agreement to anything, the torture continued. He knew that behind those placid masks and despite their protestations that they were unhappily carrying out a necessary duty in the name of the True One, they always seemed so eager to hear him scream. By the end of a session, they were never disappointed. The nature of fanaticism is that it often justifies and even rationalises succumbing to base desires. He remembered the bloody fights on Sparta and how in revenge for stories heard third hand, his forces hacked down surrendering imperial troops and attacked convoys escorting civilians fleeing from the city. Did he court marshal them for war crimes? No, he promoted them. Viciousness, selfishness and self-righteousness, in essence the monsters of the id win wars.

Does he hate the Inner Brotherhood? It is a question he has asked himself time and time again. They raised him, taught him and made him the man his was. He admires them certainly and in his bleak moments wishes to rake out and murder every last one of them; from the highest cardinal, now posing as minor official in civilian government to the acolytes once dreaming of executing heretics and now working as lowly farmer hands. At others he simply doesnt care, individually even the worst have accounted for the deaths of dozens, maybe even hundreds. His rebellions cost the lives of millions no matter how justified it was AND IT WAS. He sighs. He understands fanaticism all too well even now after they have taken everything from him.

"High Lord?" the inflection at the end of lord catches his attention. How long had they been standing there? The one that had spoken had the air of somebody repeating himself. He looks up at the man, meets his gaze and holds it without blinking until the other sought to disengage with a bow. Clearly this was a man used to dealing with power, knowing the cusp between asserting it and arrogance.

"Mr Tweedale, could you be so kind as to call for tea, it seems I have an unexpected guest," he found himself saying. Today looked like it was going to be a rational day. He gestured to one of the settees by the window, watching the back of the stranger as he moved towards it before standing and joining him. The estate manager, his warden paused for a moment before retiring to seek the refreshments though Samuel was in no doubt that he was being left alone with this newcomer.

"A thousand apologies sire, it was rude of me intrude upon you uninvited but it is a matter of some urgency that only you can resolve." After saying this, the man sank back into the settee, relaxing and running his hand down his shining black beard. The gesture, like the oiled beard was an affectation belonging to a different era if Samuel was not mistaken. Here was a self-styled enigma. The statement, as intended was sufficiently phrased to both capture his interest while still avoiding the question of the strangers identity. Clearly this would only be revealed if Samuel's response was to his liking. He expected that if this scenario played out otherwise, the stranger would depart and the meeting would never have happened. He wondered how many similar meeting had occurred only to be obliterated in a nightly regimen of drugs ostensibly to hold back the nocturnal demons.



The seconds ticked away as Samuel digested the statement while viewing the grounds and the stranger surreptitiously watched him. Eventually he nodded, indicating the spring growth.

"It was a hard winter on this continent. We lost most of the northern wood. Those trees have stood since the early days of settling. They were originally from Earth. Everything has its season. Those that pulled through are even now putting out more shoots than I have seen in two decades. Sometimes a cruel frost is needed."

"I did not know that though I take your meaning. Yes indeed, the matter is one that should it come to pass will indeed be compared to a cruel frost by some. Afterwards I foresee green shoots of recovery and then, the True One willing it will flourish as never before. We are of course referring to the fate of the Confederacy."

"Has Spacewall sent you?" He already guessed the answer.

The tea was cold and untouched and the light failing before the stranger departed many hours later.

No drugs were administered that night or any night since. The demons were once again caged as Samuel dreamed of a new empire, not an empire, a caliphate, the True One willing.






 
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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