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Story - Silent Night

Story - Silent Night

In the cold and dark the young female fled through the streets, stumbling over debris hidden by the thickening layer of snow. She kept heading in the same direction though when the occasional light beamed came close she would enter a side street, crossing to a parallel empty road.

Clearly in the late stages of pregnancy, her arm was across her swollen abdomen though whether this was to protect the unborn or just to support some of the weight was uncertain. The expression on her face was one of terror and determination to keep going.

She was a few kilometres beyond the limit of the settlement when she finally collapsed. The lights of the colony were almost lost in the swirling snows.

Cheant, home of a typical stage one affair was little more than a few main roads, light industrial zone and scattered agriculture taking the form of fields and ponic processing plants. It had come under the control of the Flagritz and times had changed. On the surface everything appeared normal with traders going about their usual business but then rumours started to circulate regarding things happening beyond the port security. Initial promises of infrastructure and improved trade had steadily turned to veiled oppression with some people disappearing while others started waving around obscene amounts of money and buying themselves into positions of influence within the once fair councils.

Joe swerved nearly hitting her, skidding to a halt a further thirty metres along the track. He hadn't expected to encounter livestock this far from the gap. The storm had ripped down a few old root-thorns, taking down the perimeter fencing with them. He’d had doubts about the trees when he put up the fences back in summer but the shade they offered his animal stock against the burning glare of the F class star convinced him to leave them until the new foliage achieved a decent height. He was good at making mistakes.

It was only when he approached slowly so as not to spook the animal that he realised it was a coptuvian like himself. One of the minority species here on Cheant.



He thought for a while, though not too long, debating with himself vocally as was his habit from long years of only having himself and his cattle for company barring the occasional jaunt up Cheant Central. He still thought of it as Prefab as the first settlers dubbed the loose collection of converted cargo containers that formed the initial habitations.

'Right girly you can come back home and I will get some warmth and food into you. I doubt them critters will stray far from shelter in this storm. I can always come back when the storm blows itself out.' With that he gently picked her up. She weighed very little to someone that was used to carrying around animals. Once in the cab he turned up the heating, covered her in a fleece and set off back to his cabin. She mumbled a few things but didn’t wake.

She was well enough to be left alone by the third day, eating but not yet talking though she occasionally cried in her sleep. Joe had been able to not only fix the fencing but also make quick trip for supplies and hear the news. The latter was bad, very bad indeed. By the time he returned he was passed concerned and verging on scared having debated with himself all the way home on what it meant. Against his personal moral code he was beginning to think that he should have left her to freeze to death. Terms like missing 'breeding stock' and 'punishment for harbouring fugitives' from flagritz sources could only mean one thing.

A few more days later and he had progressed to terrified. He had been shouting at himself while in the barn only an hour before, finally coming to the decision to turn her over. Maybe they would believe he didn't know she was a fugitive or that he had only just found her in the hills. They might just issue him with a fine he kept convincing himself. He resolved to head straight into Prefab and made his way to the truck. She was looking through the window of the cabin as he passed and smiled for the first time. His resolve crumbled.

It was the next day when he heard the roar of engines, too loud for ground conveyance and too far from the flagritz base which meant only one thing, a trader coming down for civilian goods. That it was bypassing the base in favour of the sector gave him an idea. Ten minutes later he was heading cross country in the opposite direction of the contrails left by the descending ship.

Thasar was intent on getting the civvy deal tied up and off this backwater world before sundown. He hated these places with their hick mentality and stupid customs. He also hated the Flagritz and as captain of a small Privateer he was well aware of their attitude to him. Better to be out of orbit as fast as possible. He was only here because he had been tipped off that there was a consignment of local perishables for sale. Getting them back to Yank would put him in clear profit for once.

Late. Thasar was not happy. Did the bumpkin not hear the ship? With no world comms there was no way of messaging ahead. He’d have thought that they’d been eager to do business. How often does a starship come along and bring real stellars as well. The chance to get hands on stellars rather than chump guilders was not something to pass up lightly. He almost expected to have a band playing and a decent spread laid on.
The harassed little alien that approached was at best unimpressive, clearly not the local trade magnate though how could tell on a world like this.
'Er...' it stammered having come to a halt in front of Thasar.
Thasar stared down at him. At nearly two metres he tended to stare down on most people. Probably some starstruck idiot wanting to sign up despite having no training. He gave him his best veteran look.
'Er, is this your ship?' inspired observation, 'I mean are you the captain? Er, you are not working with the flagritz are you?...' ok, now that was intriguing. Thasar raised an eyebrow, though as this alien with its fixed ridges above its eyes couldn’t match the response it probably didn't understand the connotation.
'No,' he finally replied as the small alien started to look even more anxious, 'I don't work for flagritz, now unless you are here with a consignment of perishables...' he didn't think he needed to finish the sentence.
'Yes, yes I have them. I just bought them so, um, if you want them, you need to deal with me but there's a problem…’
‘Listen here bub,’ Thasar cut him off, ‘the price has already been agreed. You think you are gonna rip me off…’ the little alien threw up its arms in the universal placating gesture.
‘No, it’s not that, just that you will have to collect them.' Joe had paid over the odds for the goods but what other options did he have. He needed these off-worlders to come out to his farm.
Though suspicious, Thasar couldn’t work out the angle so the deal struck. The small alien retreated saying he would need to prepare and to meet him out at the farm. He would give them a call in a few hours time. Thasar hated waiting but at least it gave the opportunity for the rest of the crew to enjoy a little shore leave, not that there was much to do in this place short of get food poisoning or maybe trade a few beads for local goods. He supposed making some personal deals would keep the them sweet for a while though he warned them about getting into trouble with the flagritz sycophants of which there were always a few.

It was dark and many hours later when the message finally arrived. Fresh snow had fallen. They had managed to hire three haulers from the locals. He would pilot the first while Mel and Gaz had been assigned to the other two. Roads such as existed were only good in summer. There was a very real chance that one or all of the haulers could get stranded if they ventured away from the hard-packed ground.
'Gabby, I want you to take the airfoil and scan the ground. Keep low and paint us a path,' shouted Thasar.
'Sure thing captain.' Gabby was pretty good with the flyer and despite the gusting storm lit up the night guiding the three out towards the farm.

'Cap, you heard what the faggies are doing out here?' Mel liked to gossip.
'No and neither did you.'
'Reckon they got some sort of programme running here.' Gaz contributed.
'Not this again.'
'Serious captain, 'Mel continued, 'they are experimenting on people like Gaz says. Impregnating girls, using them as breeders. Governor Rodion is threatening to kill all the kids over something.'
'We're here for goods, nothing else. You need to wise up. Nothing to see, move along,' Captain Thasar started to have a bad feeling about coming here.
'They are doing searches, dragging people back to the base for interrogation and stuff.'
'That's enough, in few hours we will be on the other side of the system and by next week on the other side of the Periphery.' Thasar put an end to the conversation.

They found the farm a little after midnight. The airfoil positioned above the barn bathing the figure of the small alien in a white light.
They approached in their exotic clothing. The all in one suits were designed for exploring frozen moons and therefore more than up to the task of keeping them warm on a winter's night on Cheant even this close to the pole. Gaz's suit was open down to his stomach exposing just a loud purple shirt with flickering holo logo. The three of them looked about as out of place as it is possible to be.

'Please,' the alien said as they walked up, looking nervous again, 'you have to help us. They have been once but I managed to hide her out here. They will be back. She can't stay here and the baby has just come.'
Mel and Gaz looked at Thasar. He closed his eyes and sighed as his shoulders slumped.




The three men stood looking down at the woman and baby amongst the cattle and recently stacked crates of perishables.

The sun was coming up over Mobile Bay as the three of them descended down the ramp, mother, baby and ex-farmer. He couldn't work out why Joe had come along, he didn't strike Thasar as the sort of man, well alien, to give everything up for somebody he had just met and a child to some unknown father. There was no wisdom in it that he could see though admittedly nobody had accused him of being a wise man.

They had sort of got used to the small aliens and the goodbyes had been awkward. Mel had given them some of his stash of unique cosmetics he had picked up in Halo. They would be worth something locally he said. Gaz had handed over some pharmaceuticals. Useful for the baby especially on a new world. Thasar had even found himself slipping a few strips of precious mets into Joe's hand. He had responded by tilting his head in an approximation of Thasar's trademark raised eyebrow. Thasar had stopped thinking of Joe as an alien ‘it’. He couldn't remember when the transition to ‘he’ had occurred.

Gabby's contract was up and as she was staying on Mobile Bay for a while, said she would watch over them.

Profit was down that much was certain. Even so Thasar felt good about himself for the first time in as long as he could recall as he sat alone on the bridge. He would miss their company but not the baby's crying. It was nice to have a silent night.




 
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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

 

Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

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