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The Captain

The Captain
By Sarah Tenor

The starport barely deserved the name, any more. The vast hangars and loading bays stood silent and empty. Broken casings and strewn cables told of crude and hurried looting of anything easy to carry. Vermin scuttled in the dark corners of crumbling buildings.

A sudden gust of wind dislodged the torn remnant of a HarCop League banner from a pile of refuse, sending it whirling and dancing across the once-pristine landing ground before catching in a straggly purple bush growing through the supposedly impervious black surface.

***

As he looked out of the dirty and distorted viewport, he wondered again what he was still doing here. The League had forgotten about this place even before the Final Collapse. The supplies that he could scavenge from the stores were getting scarcer and more difficult to find; he hadnt seen another person in weeks, let alone a ship. Not surprising - there was little reason for anybody to come to this part of the city these days.


But, he reflected, he wasnt even really sure why he was here in the first place. Not so long ago really, hed been the proud Captain of one of HarCops newest and sleekest merchant starships, helping to push the frontiers of civilisation further and further across the systems.

In normal times, the misunderstanding (as he habitually thought of it now) would have been quietly forgotten about. As it was, with entire crews being abandoned on whatever planet the maintenance spares ran out, as route after route became suddenly worthless... as it was, he was lucky to get himself assigned to the post of Starport Officer in this dead end.

His thoughts were cut off by the familiar rumble of the thrust engines of a starship in landing mode.

Familiar... and yet, not. His experienced ear picked out the harmonics that didnt belong to anything produced by the Leagues fabrication plants. Moments later, the traffic control sensors finally caught up. His console beeped three times, made a peculiar fizzing noise, and went dark - he sighed in exasperation but then dismissed it from his mind as he caught sight of the ship itself making its descent.

Even here, theyd heard of the outsiders. This was the first to land here as far as he knew, but there had been whispers, rumours - tall tales of aliens of every shape and size, in starships almost as varied. This one at least was similar enough to League ships that the planet-tied might even have mistaken it for one. The Captain (hed suddenly - unconsciously - started thinking of himself that way again, though if hed realised it he would not have been able to say why) automatically began noting differences - some with interested approval, others suspicious disdain.

***

The four crew members forming the bridge team of the Aldous sat at their consoles as the ship made its steady progress towards the landing ground. Not one of them were familiar enough with the Terran classics to understand the name the dockyard had given their ship before this pioneering visit to the Coreward Arm. The advanced neurotech that had almost instantly made them into competent starship crew did not cover literary appreciation.

Benjamin cleared his throat as he peered doubtfully at the external optical feed. Err. Are you sure about this, Dave? These guys dont look like they have much to trade. He paused before going on, In fact... there dont really seem to be many guys here at all.

Dave glared resentfully. Look. I didnt ask to be in charge. What the f... - deep breath, marginally more restrained tone - What do I know about trading? How would I know where the... where the best places to land are?

Caroline muttered,Best? Id settle for good. Hell, adequate.

Dave rounded on her, all pretence of calm gone now, Yeah? Yeah, Caroline? And who was on sensor duty when the asteroid hit? Maybe if somebody had been paying attention, the Captain would be selecting our destination.

She flushed with rage, flinging herself out of her seat towards the Acting Captain - but before he could react, before she could cross the bridge, she stumbled as the ship lurched and settled.

Simon coughed guiltily when everybody turned to look at him. Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Descent complete; all systems nominal. Three minutes to airlock cycle

***

The bridge team shuffled down the ladder, landing heavily in the gravity a little stronger than shipboard standard. Uniform regulations had barely survived the Captains memorial service, and they were a mismatched and unkempt bunch.

He greeted them uncertainly. Good morning; Im the Starport Officer. Could you ask the Captain to come out? Or the crew?

They looked at each other uncomfortably, straightening and tugging at their clothes in what they thought was a discreet fashion. They felt they should have been angry, resentful; but somehow nobody wanted to be the one to stand up to this Starport Officer.

He stared in disbelief as he realised the truth. Youre the crew? How? What kind of Captain would allow... this?

More silence.

Explain yourselves!, he bellowed.



Dave finally began the story, but was interrupted before hed really got started. The crew fell to bickering again among themselves - arguments that had become such a familiar pattern they were automatic, almost a comfort. Much less disconcerting than the Officer, certainly.

If you had.... All the way back in Discordia... But.... I wasnt even.... Harlong... Yeah, and what about... The Captain would have..... Well, why didnt you... Court martial... Ill give you a pis...

Enough!, he snapped finally, losing patience. The crew looked at him, a little shocked, slightly sheepish; the sharper ones wondering a little why they obeyed so readily, the others oblivious but obedient nonetheless. Who owns this ship? And... how well do they pay their officers?

***

The new Captain settled back in his seat. It was less well cushioned than the command chairs he was used to, and significantly less grand and imposing - not to mention shaped for a completely different anatomy. And yet, for all that, it was somehow undeniably familiar.

He smiled.

So. Tell me about this Republic were part of




 
News
Is open for business...
 
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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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***** 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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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