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214
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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.




 
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
    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