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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:00 am 
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Interlude

Within the Halls of Innovation on Polevnic, Simguru Antal's true believers go about their work. It is not a duty but an honor for them, for they are furthering their leader's vision which will bring order to a chaotic galaxy and light where there is darkness. In these halls you would not see a single face that showed signs of dissatisfaction, or whose eyes were not alight with purpose.

Well, perhaps one.

"Brother Sparks?"

Brother Sparks halted, wondering how the man had recognized him. Had he an ocular implant that transmitted real time location data on everyone on Polevnic? Had someone slipped a tracking device in his drink and was now lodged in his lower intestine? Was he using a genetic trace sensor that scanned the air for flakes of dried skin or dandruff?

Oh, wait, it was the fact he was the only man in the Halls of Innovation wearing a hood.

He pulled it down and turned around. The young courier, smiling brightly, handed him a datapad. He turned and ran off with another datapad for another client.

Brother Sparks let it scan his thumb and his retina, then gave it a password to voice-analyze. Of course any amount of data could be sent instantly across any distance. Pilots communicated with one another between star systems and listened to Radio Sidewinder from Sagittarius A*.

But that didn't make the data secure. Transmissions could be intercepted and encryptions could be broken. One famous such incident involved the explorer Erimus, the first to travel to the opposite side of the galaxy, sixty-five thousand light years from Sol. Weeks before his expected return he seemed to have showed up early, to much fanfare, and ready to claim millions of credits.

Only that hadn't been the case at all. A preliminary data transfer had been relayed when Erimus feared that he would be unable to make it back alive. That had been intercepted and decrypted, then merged with terrabites of worthless forged cartography data, and handed in.

It hadn't fooled anyone for long, but the pilot had almost made off with a small fortune in ill-gotten credits before he was interdicted and brought to justice.

This was why Stellar Cartographics insists on all explorers bringing their ships to an authorized station personally, so that the data core can be analysed and the information proven to be authentic. It hasn't made many explorers happy, though.

But this was why, especially in places like the Halls of Innovation, sensitive communications required a literal personal touch. Everyone was on the same side, marching forward toward the perfection of human society. They were all on the same side here. Nobody had anything to hide.

Funny how many couriers one could see running about here.

Brother Sparks tossed his hood back up and headed for his Order's wing. It wasn't officially his Order's wing, of course. Offically the Order didn't exist. They'd been folded into the Utopian Commune fifty years before. But traditions were respected, to a degree, and his Brothers knew how to keep the old ways alive.

Brother Sparks sat down at his minimalist desk and skipped past the "Eyes Only" warnings to start reading the relevant parts.

He stopped, then leaned forward. Backed up several pages, then skipped ahead. Connected the dots.


Salvage and Recovery Report Summary 34992X

Station Outpost: Trevithick Dock - LHS 3447
Unidentified Signal: Derelict ship in deep space.
Ship class: Cobra MKII prototype (possible reproduction?)
Contents: One pilot (deceased), hold empty.

Report 1: Ship found by salvagers suffering from severe carbon scoring and drained power plant. Canopy breached. Deceased pilot suffered severe facial burns. Salvage returned to nearest space dock for evaluation and repairs or scrapping. Due to state of pilot body, ship assumed to be a more recent reproduction of the Cobra MKII prototype rather than an original. Possibly a KitCobra refit.

Report 2: Standard medical examination of deceased pilot indicates body is still in resuscitatable state. Taken to Emergency for standard RemLok procedures. Items found on board ship suggest it may not be a reproduction. Federation Galactic Aerospace Museum contacted with serial numbers for verification.

Report 3: Standard revival procedure failed. No cellular degradation observed despite prolong vacuum exposure. Advanced RemLock procedures authorized.

Report 4: Advanced revival procedures failed. Neurological and vacuum exposure specialists consulted. Experimental procedures authorized. FGAM expert confirms pilot's ship is at least two hundred years old and is most likely one of the lost Mark II prototypes, though it has been refurbished several times.

Report 5: Experimental revival procedures succeeded. Pilot has suffered memory loss but is making remarkable recovery progress. Neurology reports indicate unknown implant of organic and inorganic components covering his brain. Experimental RemLok implant? Nothing on file matching it for last two hundred years.

Report 6: Patient continues to make rapid recovery, on par with that of a normal long-exposure pilot rescue. Hematology reports unknown nanotechnology in his blood stream, now dormant. Could these have helped preserve his body in prolonged vacuum exposure in close. Blood work sent to Geneva Medical Research Laboratory on Sol for further analysis, along with brain scans.

Report 7: Pilot still suffers from memory loss but is considered fit to leave. Having no insurance, the Federation Galactic Aeronautics Museum has agreed to acquire the MKII prototype in exchange for all medical bills paid, plus an arrangement with the Pilot's Federation to allow him to resume work as a pilot. Pilot is... not happy about this arrangement.

End Report


This on its own was worth Brother Sparks attention. The procedures mentioned were within the fields his Order had worked on in the past. Fields they continued to work on in secret. Fields Simguru Antal was also studying, but with darker ramifications. It was a game of chess. His people ostensibly worked for Antal, yet helped made sure certain breakthroughs were never made.

Not all was well in Utopia.

However, it was the second report that tied in with the first that gave him what he needed. It had occurred months later, in Alliance space. It had been attached and forwarded because of the pilot's facial recognition match. Whoever in the Order had sent him this information had apparently now created a search string specifically for him, because there was far more where that came from, including something about a spokesman for Odyssey Expeditions called 'Ranger M'.

But it was this that grabbed his attention.


Audio Log of Dr. Pavel Klimt, head of pilot recovery

"Hoo boy, had a doozy today. Got five popsicles brought in from the local Combat Zone--bunch of stupid kids squabbling over turf like that means something. Three of them wake up like babies, one does into neuroshock and had to be brought in for advanced recovery procedures, but the fifth?

"Okay, you ever see a movie where you think the guy is dead, but suddenly he lurches up, back arched, gasping like he's been underwater for three minutes, eyes bulging out like he's seen hell and doesn't want to go back? Yeah, like that. Then he crashes back down, unconscious.

"Thing is, there was no brain activity. Not before, not during, and not after. There might be some kind of EM interference, but this guy was braindead.

"And then the braindead guy opens his eyes. He's looking around for someone, looks over at an empty chair, as if he expects to see someone there. Starts saying 'moss foot', which it turns out is his own name, and waving his hand in front of his eyes, like he's making sure he can see. Then he looks to me and panics. Yells out something about her brother, that I should tell Mathias something went wrong. I finally get a sedative in him and he calms down, but according to our scanners, still no brain activity. I mean, what the hell?

"That's not even the weirdest part. After this guy leaves, I send off a request to Gateway regarding what I'm seeing, trying to find out if a specialist can give me a call with some advice, but when I get an answer, it was a request from Geneva to forward everything I have on the matter. So I do, and what happens? It turns out I accidentally deleted everything about it after I sent it. Geeze. Sixteen hour shifts will do it every time. At least somebody's got the information."

End Log


Accidentally deleted? Maybe. Maybe not. The fact Geneva came knocking wasn't a coincidence.

Brother Sparks waved a hand over his featureless desk, which exploded into an elaborate holographic computer array. After several security checks, he dipped back into his Order's archives. It would take forever to search every experiment, but he had the information he needed to speed things up.

"Computer. Search keywords: Mossfoot, Brother Mathias. Secondary keywords: nanotech, long term vacuum exposure, brain implant. Cross reference and compile."

Brother Sparks leaned back while the machine sorted the millions of records, and quickly came up with a virtual folder file of results. He plucked the folder from the screen and checked how thick it was.

This might take a while.

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Last edited by mossfoot on Mon Aug 03, 2015 2:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2015 12:01 pm 
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Location: Aboard the Pitviper S.E. "Blackwidow"
Quote:
In these halls you would not see a single face that did not show signs of dissatisfaction, or whose eyes were not alight with purpose.

Well, perhaps one.
You managed to triple-negative the red section above.. in other words saying that every single face showed signs of dissatisfaction. From the context, I'm guessing you meant to say "you would not see a single face that showed signs of dissatisfaction". Alternatively, you could say "you would not see a single face that did not show signs of satisfaction".

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2015 2:17 pm 
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whoops. Fixed! ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 4:36 pm 
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Runaways

It took me a while, but I tracked down the three most famous runaway stars from the supernova that created Barnard's Loop, ranging between roughly 700 and 1200 light years away from the nebula: AE Aurigae, Mu Columbae and 53 Arietis.

Not much to report at the moment. Might not be for a while unless something amazing happens. Exploration is strangely meditative. It might seem like you're visiting the same types of planets and stars over and over, but you honestly never know for sure what is on the next horizon.

Listening to GalNet News I hear the Emperor's getting married. While I am a sucker for a royal wedding, given that he already survived on assassination attempt, I can only assume security is unbelievable tight.

Been chatting on the long range coms with other explorers, some making their way to SagA*, others farming the neutron fields for easy credits. I've always wondered why Universal Cartographics was so keen on black hole and neutron star data - it's not like they're risks for travel, per se. We know where they are already. I can only assume that the data is in high demand by the scientific community rather than prospectors and colonizers.

Trouble continues to try to find new ways to earn her name, though she is getting used to me and the ship. They say you can litter train them like cats. What they don't tell you is that the also like to take a crap as a way of marking the boundaries of their turf. Gotta break the poop-meister out of that habit before this ship gets a brand new funky smell added to it. And given that she's got access not just to the floor, but the walls and ceiling as "turf", well, yeah.

Hmmm... marketing idea: mobile cleaning unit with microthrusters and gyroscope. Follows pet at discrete distance. Sensors set to instantly recognize when pet is about to take a dump. Grabs pet, flies it to litter box. If it's too late it gives gentle tap on nose for correction, then cleans and deodorizes mess.

After hitting the last runaway I turned to a not-too-distant nebula called the Cave. From there, I'll probably choose a random direction and see where my feet take me.

Anyone reading or listening to these, you'll hear from me when I have something interesting to report. Until then, assume I'm getting one hell of a long term meditative de-stressing session.

Or watching Die Hard. I could just as easily be watching Die Hard.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 4:27 pm 
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The Emperor is Dead. Long Live the Emperor

So, the Emperor's dead.

Huh.

It's hard to get details out in the void. The only thing that broadcasts this far are things like Radio Sidewinder and GalNet, and that's because they're voice/text only. From what I've gathered since waking up in this era most people believe in Holo or Nothing, but the amount of data needed to transmit that can't be boosted across more than a few dozen light years.

Some of the pilots are chatting about it. One guy in the neutron fields near SagA thinks Patreus is being framed. Says it's just too damn obvious to have a member of Patreus's entourage do the deed. A gal out by Orionis then asks the questions "why wasn't Patreus at the wedding?" To her it's too convenient that he just happens to be there. So neutron boy says the assassin no doubt chose a uniform on the day based on what would make the best fall guy - when Patreus didn't show up, it became him. Orion girl counters with the fact that the Emperor had no line of succession and Patreus had long advocated that the next in line should be based on merit, not blood. But getting married would have made that impossible, since Arissa Lavigny-Duval would have been made Empress if the Emperor died. If he ever wanted a shot at being Emperor, he simply had no choice.

And so on and so on. It got pretty ugly after a while.

Honestly, I have no real love for the Empire. Like Mossfoot, I think they got bags of style in their clothes and cities and ships, but their views on human rights are disturbing to say the least. Aisling Duval's got the right idea, but I don't think she's got a real chance. I hope I'm wrong.

Sometimes I think it's better to just stay out here. Politics don't mean a thing a thousand light years in any direction. This assassination could make the whole Empire unstable, and who knows what will happen with the Federation. The Alliance will have to buckle down like they tend to.

Why should I care?

It's not that different than a thousand years ago, I guess. A lot of people live in a country, they may or may not have the ability to vote, but most don't actually feel like they have any impact on their country's direction. They simply go about their business, make money, make a life, try and do a bit better than the day before. But would any of them have a real plan on how to fix their economy, or fight a war, or rebuild their nation's infrastructure?

At least I know my ship. I know what makes her run, I can fix her if she breaks down. My ship is my world, and it just happens to transit through theirs once in a while.

Ghah. When did I get so maudlin?

I'm about two thousand light years from Sol. Sprinting from system to system, looking for points of interest. I think I'll try a different approach. I found what I hope is an unexplored sector of space and have squared off a one hundred light year square on the galactic map. Let's try doing a thorough scan of the whole grid.

The problem with exploring at top speed is that you end up missing all the stars in between. Who knows how many earth-like worlds does an Anaconda miss when they're jumping forty light years at a go?

I guess I'll find out.

This might take a while.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:03 pm 
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Sector MF-1

People are dumb.

Honestly I don't mean that as a disparaging remark, more of an observation. We are, in many ways, brilliant. We've composed symphonies that can move the entire species to tears, mastered the elements to turn dead worlds into living ones, have looked at laws telling us the speed of light is as fast as you'll ever go and given them the finger.

And yet we'll try to convince one another we're right even when we know deep down we're wrong.

Orion-girl and Neutron-boy are still arguing about the Emperor's death. BOTH of them got their facts wrong. Neutron-boy said Patreus wasn't in his entourage and was therefore the most likely suspect. But he was. It was President Hudson who wasn't there. Orion-girl said the emperor was getting married to Arissa Lavingy-Duval, when it was her mother Florence.

Do either of them nut (or ovary) up and admit a mistake? No, they double down. Neutron-boy insists Patreus is still being framed and that the footage of the attack showing him try to stop the assassin will eventually be revealed as fake just to try and throw suspicion on him. He's basically inventing new ways to prove his boy is going to be a fall guy, when he's in no danger of it at all.

Orion-girl on the other hand, is more than happy to believe the footage is fake (and all witnesses lying, I guess) because it supports her theory that Patreus is guilty. On top of that her mistake about who the Emperor was marrying was dismissed with a "Oh, we know who he was REALLY marrying" wave of the hand.

Space madness. Explorers call it gazing into the abyss. These two have been out in the black for months. You stay out here too long with only a radio for company and you start to create your own reality. And after a while you get very protective of that reality, treating any information that disagrees with it as a hostile attack. I quickly learned that me interjecting with my "facts" had no place in their discussion.

Or maybe they're both just nutters who like arguing.

On my way to the East Veil Nebula when I stumbled across a fascinating system. Dual binary, Red Dwarf with a Class-L dwarf star almost touching it. And only a hundred and fifty light-seconds away is an Earth-like world.

The system itself is very young, under a billion years old, so the live down there must no doubt be very basic. There IS life, my sensors can pick up that much, but what kind I have no idea. If it's anything like Earth they've probably only just learned the photosynthesis trick. Some science nerds might totally get off on this, since it might give them a window on the early stages of life on Earth.

The planet is smaller than Earth, but the atmospheric pressure is about the on par with it. It has a moon, but oddly enough it orbits this planet at a right angle to the rest of the orbital plane.

This binary system also has a water world and two other terraformable worlds in it rich in mineral deposits. About thirteen thousand light seconds away is another star with more planets orbiting it, including another water world and another metallic terraformable world. And orbiting all three stars in an even wider orbit are a couple of gas giants.

I hadn't come across any other explorer marks in quite some time, and decided this would be it. This was where I was going to plant my flag and map out a hundred-light-year box. Sure it wouldn't be legally binding in any way as "belonging" to me, typically planets belong to whoever can colonize it first (and one crazy hermit with a laser does not constitute a colony. Nor, sadly, does indigenous life).

But this is about sixteen-hundred light years from Sol - I can't imagine it being colonized any time soon. We're still stuck in a pre-supercruise mentality for space travel, and once we're over it, I can imagine the human Bubble expanding rather quickly. And I could see myself coming back here again and again, if only for this one world. Who knows what else there might be in the box, though?

So, sketching out the boundaries on the galactic map, I started scanning what I'm calling Sector MF-1. Hopefully it's not full of crap.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 4:32 pm 
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My God, It's Full of Crap!

Aside from the Earth-like I stumbled across, sector MF-1 is turning out to be a bit of a bust. Found some more water worlds and terraformables. One or two ammonia world as well. But there are far more crap sundaes out there than anything else.

...er... crap sundae means a small sun with nothing but iceballs orbiting it. Dang explorer lingo kicks in when you spend too much time talking to other explorers long range who have gazed too long into the abyss.

Speaking of which, Orion-girl and Neutron-boy forgot to set their comms to private when their latest conspiracy laden argument turned into comm sex.

Ewww. That got me back to exploration right quick.

My strategy for scanning MF-1 goes like this. First I carefully plotted out every star in the bottom layer of the sector, sweeping back and forth to ensure that I got everything.

Then I got bored and just started zigzagging all over the place hoping for the best.

I'll probably be heading back soon. Not only is scanning every star in a sector really hard to organize, it turns out sector MF-1 isn't even pristine territory. The top half has the tags of a half dozen explorers passing through. Maybe I'll scan the sector below it next, since it seemed to be reasonably untouched.

But at the very least I'll be back to explore the initial Earth-like, or at least its moon. Moss found a number of Earth-likes in his last expedition, but this one is all mine.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:06 pm 
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A good dispatch from the front. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2015 4:07 pm 
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Well, that's it. I'm done. DONE! God, how Mossfoot ever coped with being out here for months on end is beyond me. Now I remember why I spent so much time locked away in my hidey hole during our previous expedition.

It's gotten to the point where I've been talking to Trouble like a co-pilot, and am imagining her talking back to me. I've become too wrapped up in the bickering love/hate relationship between Orion-Girl and Neutron-Boy like it's some goddamn soap opera. I'm looking at crap sundae systems and wondering if the icy worlds might actually be ice cream. I'm looking at Barnard's Loop way way way off in the distance thinking it's watching me and judging me.

Most of all... I'M BORED.

MF was the explorer at heart. I don't know if it was because of the accident that turned our communal profile into a piece of abstract art, but he just didn't care much for interacting with people anymore. At least, not face to "face". Maybe he found solace in searching the unknown and learning about the galaxy. Me? I got my fill of that a while back.

Maybe he used exploring as a way of running away, I dunno. But if that's the case, so am I. After the Cerberus plague and my realizations about my career choices, I just wanted to get away from everything and everyone. And it's time I stopped. Maybe the science nerds will find some of the stuff I found in sector MF-1 interesting. More power to them. But I need to talk to people who aren't crazy in my life, alternating between planning a wedding and assassinating each other ten thousand light years apart from one another. I need purpose. I need a mission.

I need to go home. I need to find some excitement. I need to make a difference.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 4:20 pm 
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Career Day

I tried to track down Surly Badger once I was in Aisling space, but it turned out he had left to go on an expedition through the neutron fields near the galactic core. My own expedition had been less than fruitful. Less than thirty million credits for all my hard work, and still a long way to go before reaching Elite status.

Mind you, I don't really care about that kind of rank. I used to be an Elite combat pilot back in my old body, and quite frankly judging by the Elite competition I faced as a bounty hunter? Not that impressed. There are plenty of ways you can grind your way to a rank, subverting the intentions the Pilot's Federation had coming up with their system. Want to be an Elite combat pilot? Fill up with shield cells, hang out in a tank in combat zones or high security resource extraction areas and pick off high ranking ships that have a half dozen other bogies on them already. Want to be an Elite trader? Check online for the most profitable trade route that other people already found and grind. Want to be an Elite explorer? Go to the neutron fields and... Oh...uh...sorry Surly.

To be fair, I'm wishing I had gone there too. I'm not a scientist, my attention span for the wonders of the galaxy is limited compared to Moss. He didn't mind travelling half a million light seconds just to scan a star that had a water world around it, on the off chance that it might have some islands. He'd also pour over the data he collected, looking for anomalies or seeming paradoxes in system formation and trying to figure out what happened. Not that he shared that side of himself often in his journals… I think he was afraid of being labeled a nerd.

Me? I was only interested in the Earth-likes on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, I'd see some lights on the dark side, a sign of intelligent pre-space life. Now THAT would be awesome. I'd come back the moment I could get an atmospheric capable craft and... I dunno... hopefully not kill them all with a cold virus I brought with me for starters.

Anyway, back in Aisling space and without any friendly or at least non-hostile faces to call on for help, I decided to check in with the Aisling representative and see if there was anything I could do to help the cause.

The Power contact was a stout bald man who would have resembled a laughing Buddha if it weren't for the fact that he had clearly never laughed in his entire life. I explained why I was there and he looked over my record.

"I see..." he said, scrolling through my file. Then back up. Then down. Then up again.

It wasn't a very long file.

"Am I to take it that you pledged your allegiance to Princess Aisling Duval on the premise of assisting those in need and abolishing slavery?"

I nodded. "That's right."

"Well, it seems you haven't been very productive in that regard."

"Well, I handed over all the data I had about underground slave smuggling between Alliance space and Archon Delane. I assume that was helpful?"

"Indeed, it was. But, there is an old Imperial saying that goes: What have you done for us lately? You flew off to God-knows-where for four weeks, coasting on your single accomplishment. I'm sorry, but at this moment you have no standing with us whatsoever."

"And I'd like to remedy that. Just tell me what you'd like me to do."

"Well, we have various media supplies we'd like to ship out to prospective allies, and contracts to take to those we wish to cement our commitment to..."

Oh God, not another paper route.

"Um... anything else?"

"Well, Princess Duval has been building closer ties with the Federation as far as Shadow President Winters is concerned. She senses a kinship of purpose between them, I am told. But the current President, Hudson, is a thorn in her side--and ours. I'm sure any accidents his ships would encounter at your hands would be seen favorably by us."

Oh God, not more murder... well, excessive property damage with a slim chance of murder anyway...

"Look, I joined Princess Duval's cause because I hate slavery, Imperial or otherwise. A close friend of mine was in a position more than once where he could have been forced into slavery, so it was important to him. Therefore it's important to me. Don't you have anything along those lines?"

The representative frowned. "Hmmm... perhaps. Are you familiar with Zemina Torval?"

"Senator, big in mining." That was all I knew really.

"Controlling shareholder of Mastopolos Mining to be exact. And 'big' in slavery as well. She talks big about treating them well on the Senate floor, but that doesn't stop her from crushing down ruthlessly on anyone who looks to enhance their rights, well being, or bids for freedom. As a result she has a number of political prisoners in her controlled systems. She keeps them shifting around in cryo tanks just like slaves, their whereabouts eventually lost under piles of red tape making it difficult for family or the media to discover their whereabouts. We have a vested interest in rescuing these prisoners, either to reunite them with their loved ones or so that they can work with Duval for a brighter future. How would you feel about helping us there?"

I thought about it. "So, basically you want me to be a pirate."

"Well, no. Not a pirate. You're freeing political prisoners from unjust confinement and--"

"Am I interdicting cargo ships?"

"Well, yes, but--"

"Shooting out the cargo hatch or spamming hatch breakers at them?"

"And not destroy the ship, that's very important, however--"

"Scooping up cargo pods and bringing them back here?"

"Yes, but I must emphasize--"

"Sounds like piracy to me."

"I take it you're not interested, then?"

"Hell no, I wasn't going to say that. I was going to ask you if the job came with a free eye patch!"

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:01 pm 
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(S)He's A Pirate

"Yarrrrrr! Avast, matey! This be Commander Violet of the Trubadour. Be droppin yer booty or I will keel haul ye and send yer boat to Davey Jones' Locker!"

"What?"

I groaned. Nobody had a sense of fun while being mugged anymore. "Drop the prisoners or I blow out your cockpit."

"Are you wearing an eye patch?"

"Yes." I have a flare for the dramatic and kept video comms on. Sue me.

"And a weasel on your shoulder?"

"Ferret."

"What's with the weird hat?"

"Look are you going to drop your prisoners or am I going to blow your ship out of the sky?"

"But if you blow my ship out of the sky you won't get any prisoners."

Wow this was the mouthiest victim I'd ever come across. "Look, I'm in an Imperial Courier fully kitted out. You're in a Hauler. Do the math."

"I have done the math. One plus one plus one equals zero."

Uh oh. I knew this guy wasn't that bad at math. He was stalling.

Sure enough, two Vultures popped out and oriented themselves to open fire. I closed my cargo hatch and hit the boosters. I was out of there and in supercruise before either ship could lock on.

I could have fought them, but I was under orders not to destroy Torval's ships. At the end of the day she and Princess Duval were on the same side, and blowing up ships was frowned upon. These kind of piracy actions were more like counting coup.

I decided to base myself in Aisling space in a control system called Shapsugabus at a space station appropriately called Abe Dock. The nearest Torval control system was Caspatsuria, about two jumps away. I loaded up with limpets and went to work. Only work turned out to be not as fun as I thought. Asking nicely wasn't doing the trick, so I needed to consider my options.

Being a pirate (even if I am rescuing prisoners the skill set is the same) is far different than being a bounty hunter. As a hunter I was expected to do one thing--blow up ships. Not much has changed in the last hundred and fifty years in that regard. If anything it's even more encouraged now with the improved safety of ejection seats and recovery systems. Pirates with large bounties on their heads might survive their ships being blown up, but they're tagged when the recovery teams pick up their ejection seat and have to pay the consequences once brought back to port.

Mind you, from what I hear a lot of clever commanders avoid these consequences in a number of ways, or at worst are forced to pay off legacy fines before they can go on their merry way and start blowing up more ships.

Welcome to the future. Some disassembly required.

So, here's your options as far as I can tell: 1) Ask them nicely to drop cargo (doesn't work), 2) shoot out their cargo hatch to force them to drop cargo (I tried this but had to stop before destroying the ship), 3) use hatch breaker limpets to yank the cargo hold open, then cargo recovery drones to pick them up.

Time for option 3. In theory the process should be straight forward. Interdict, melt shields, launch hatch breaker, collect loot. In practice? We'll see.

*****

"Yarrrr! This be Commander Violet of the Trubadour, prepare to have creepy little drones do minor structural damage on your ship!"

My C3 beam laser took care of the Type-7's shields quickly enough. I launched a limpet.

The turned and smacked the drone into space dust with its stubby wing!

I fired another.

The Type-7 was armed with anti-missile systems. It shot the stupid thing down!

I fired three at once and hit the ship with multicannons to remind it who was in charge.

The Type-7 decided to take me on head-to head and opened fire with all its guns.

I lifted the eye patch off my eye to make sure I was seeing straight. "Are you kidding me?" I commed the ship. "Dammit, keep it up and I will defend myself. I just want the prisoners."

"Yeah? And I want to keep my job!"

The clunky Type-7 tried to circle around me. It had to be stalling for time, but this guy definitely didn't have a wing with him. He must have been waiting for the cops to show up.

Finally one of the limpets connected. I kept on firing at the ship in moderation, trying to aim for the thrusters so he'd be dead in space. But this guy wasn't going to make it easy for me.

Twenty seconds later the hatch was open and cargo containers were spilling out.

"Okay, now get out of there. You've done your job. Scram!"

"Screw you, buddy. It'll be my hide if I don't get those popsicles to spacedock."

Dammit, this guy just wasn't going to quit. He'd whittled down my shields and I didn't feel like taking hull damage from him.

"Last chance, punk. You can fly home or float home!"

His response was more weapons fire.

I lined up the plasma accelerator out on my left wing nacelle. I had planned on testing it out on a more heavily armed ship if I came across one. "Fine. Have it your way."

_________________
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:19 pm 
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By the time I got back to Abe Dock in Shapsugabus I was feeling pretty good about myself. Granted, things hadn't gone exactly as I had planned, but I had a cargo hold full of prisoners to be freed. I'd helped people. I'd made a difference. I'd...

...earned absolutely no merits.

"WHAT?"

"It's not that we're not grateful for your assistance, Mr. Foot." While I was using Violet as my pirate name, there was no way around Mossfoot's moniker when it came to official business. "It's that you caused as just as many problems for us in the process."

Aisling's rep on this station was a thin, reedy kind of guy who looked like a pencil--and by that I mean he wore a yellow suit and had what I can only describe as a "circ-hawk"--a circular mohawk--right on the top of his head. We sat in his office which was white and curved and Imperial from desk to door.

"Oh, come on..." I protested.

"Shall we go over the video?" The rep tapped a holographic button in front of him and footage from my ship's camera started playing.

First he reviewed over the Type-7 I had to blow out of the sky.

"That was self defense! I gave him every chance to run."

"Yes, well, regardless the property loss does show up on Senator Torval's sheets and she looks to us to blame for it. That aside..."

The footage continued, where I was launching recovery drones towards the pods. I knew where this was going.

"Look, before you say anything..."

Pencil-neck raised a finger for silence as Imperial security came on the scene and scanned me. In my haste I tried to get out of the way, which cased the recovery drone with prisoner to splash against my hull.

"Well, I--"

"And this."

Next, in my panic I tried to scoop some up manually before I ran, only I was now competing with my own drones. More canisters splashed against the hull either from me rushing at them too fast or the drone failing to unload it properly.

"Well that was an accident, I'm new to--"

"And then your next encounter..."

A new video appeared where I interdicted a Type-6. The only problem was it had an escort of three Sidewinders with it.

"I think you know where this is going."

"Hey, I'M not the one hiring suicidal pilots to work for them. Those Sidewinders knew they didn't stand a chance and kept on firing anyway."

"And the T6?" He asked this just as it exploded on the screen after having dropped a few canisters.

"Um... unlucky shot?"

"Yes, you seemed to have had a lot of those. Let's run down the list, shall we? Cobra--destroyed."

"Well you can't blame me for that, of course a Cobra pilot is going to try and take me on. Cobra pilots think they can take on anything."

"Then there was the Asp. He was actually trying to get away."

"Okay, that guy MAY have said something about my mother and by this point I was just getting used to these bozos fighting to the death. I mean, old habits die hard, am I right?"

"And then there's the question of recovery. Just how many prisoners did you leave behind, excluding the ones that met with unfortunate recovery accidents?"

"Every time I start scooping them up the Fuzz shows up. Next thing you know my shields are down as six of them pepper into me and I'm praying my hull holds out until just one more drone comes back."

"Yes, you seem to be very good at excuses, Mr. Foot. But the fact remains you've shot down Senator Torval's ships, who is an Imperial citizen and, at the end of the day, an ally to the Empire. The prisoners you managed to recover only barely balance the books on that regard. If you are to continue aiding the People's Princess, might I suggest you come up with some better tactics for prisoner recovery? These are actual people you are dealing with, and your casual attitude towards their loss is disconcerting to say the least."

Pencil-neck was right. I was used to being an excellent fighter pilot and didn't want to admit that I actually sucked at something. But as a pirate? Yeah, I sucked. I needed some time to re-evaluate my combat strategy, figure out what kind of targets to go for, and what kind of attacks would encourage them to leave, maybe not get greedy when it comes to recovery. I could run some simulations, but it was probably for the best if I didn't practice where actual lives were at stake.

I sighed. "Got any paper routes open?"

_________________
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 4:59 pm 
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Just A Setback

My mediocre attempt at piracy had me doubting myself. I'd spent my life as a bounty hunter, and was starting to wonder if I could do anything else. I figured I could run some missions for a while while I was there and keep thinking about the problem. Maybe I needed to go old school, as in high school, and look for a guidance counselor.

I dutifully shifted media and propaganda filled cargo containers around, furthering whatever goals Princess Duval had going on, but my heart just wasn't in it. The only time I felt alive was when some Hudson Fed interdicted me, trying to stop the signal. I tried my hand at mining, thinking it might be the zen-like break I needed, only I kept getting attacked by morons who didn't realize that just because a beaten up looking Imperial Clipper was using a mining laser didn't mean mean its other three hardpoints weren't equipped with fiery pew-pew-pew deathy deathy bang bang.

Eventually I gave up and took my ship in to a high-tech system. The Troubadour was about due for its monthly overhaul, reinforcing the hull integrity, running diagnostics on subsystems, and I did my usual run down of equipment, power usage, and effectiveness.

Back on my old Cobra MKI I was constantly tweaking things, at times replacing my military grade laser with a simple beam (as effective as the old school milspec was, it overheated like crazy), going for a missile heavy or missile-less loadout, and eventually hacking the hyperdrive to circumvent the old 7 light year limitation everyone had gotten used to. There is never such a thing as a perfect ship setup, only what works best at the time.

As I checked the station's inventory, I came across an interesting reference and called over one of the mechanics to ask about it.

"What's a Prismatic shield? Something for rich people who want their shields rainbow colored?"

The mechanic smirked and nudged her grease monkey hat up so it wasn't blocking her view. "Naw, that's something new Aislings people came up with - refracts incoming energy, especially laser, as well as absorbing it, can take more punishment than your standard shield."

"How much more?"

"Let me put it this way, your 6A shields? A 6A PSG can take more punishment than a 7A, but still leaves your 7 slot free for cargo."

That sounded impressive. "What are the downsides?"

"Weight, for one thing. It takes more punishment than a 7A, but it weighs just as much, which is twice as much as the one you currently have. Plus it takes a lot more energy to run. Like 30% more than a 7A, and 50% more than your current model. And of course there's the cost."

I checked the figures. "Ouch."

She snorted. "Yeah, we get that a lot, and on dedicated fighting ships, like a Vulture, it's just not worth it. They're already starved for power in most cases. But a trader? Or a multirole? Well, you crunch the numbers and let me know what you think. We've got a few in stock if you're interested."

I decided to do just that, and started reviewing my ship loadout, how much power I used, and where I could save it. The Clipper is a big ship, with notoriously weak shields due to the amount of surface space it needs to cover. I was currently running two shield boosters to help make up for that. I could put on four, but then I'd have no room for useful components like chaff, heat sinks, or various scanners.

The PSG would give me a roughly 20% boost right off the bat, so it would be like having a third booster, without taking up the slot. But what about the weight? The Clipper's speed and maneuverability (not counting inertia) was a key reason both Mossfoot and I fell in love with this ship. I'd already upgraded the hull to military grade armor, and that weighted a hell of a lot. Would the shield end up slowing me down? What kind of weapons could I carry and still maintain my edge without sacrificing anything?

It turned out not to be as easy as I thought. There was no way I could have it all, so it became a matter of compromise. But compromise isn't the same thing as sacrifice. I figured I could do without a top grade life support system, and settle for a weight and energy economical D class setup.

I also found that while my dual beam setup was devastating in an initial volley, I sometimes had to shift power around once it ran dry, often at the expense of my shields. But if I swapped out a Gimbled Beam for a Pulse, I'd be draining less energy while not giving up the hard hitting firepower of my fixed beam, and keeping more power diverted to shields longer.

I probably spent the better part of an evening looking over the numbers, experimenting with different setups, until I found one I liked. It shaved a couple of ticks off my top speed, and took a light year off my jump range, but I reckon overall it will be worth it.

After I was finally happy with this I sat back in my pilot's seat and sighed. All this talk of finding a different life outside of combat, and I just spent the past two days fine tuning The Troubadour for just that.

What was that Godfather reference? "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in."

Then I thought about it. No. Not really.

If that was actually the case I'd be in a Vulture or a Python or saving up for an Anaconda. Or I would have gotten a 7A PSG instead of 6. Why didn't I? Because I wanted the cargo space. I needed it. It was important. I wasn't trying to make The Trubadour a combat focused ship, I was trying to make her the best multi-role ship in the galaxy. She's my ship, and I can do anything I wanted in her. Anything at all.

So what was I going to do with her?


Eh, fight pirates, probably.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:26 pm 
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An Old Acquaintance

"Um... hello? Anyone out there?"

With the Troubadour kitted out for kicking ass and delivering pork rinds, I'd been checking up the bulletin boards and doing whatever struck my fancy. Even tried my hand at mining for a bit before I remembered just how much I hated it. I'd handed in my resignation to Duval's representative at one of her control systems and left on amiable terms. After my hasty rush to help her out and abandon the Alliance I realized I was better off not making enemies just because I wanted to go off and do other things.

I still felt a bit down because I was starting to think the only thing I had to look forward to was dealing out death or at least large insurance bills to dirtbags who deserved it. While a noble profession, unless you were taking them down in the midst of a hijack, you don't exactly feel like you've helped anyone but your own pocketbook.

I was in the midst of that funk when the distress signal came in.

"Um... kinda stuck here."

It wasn't on a distress channel, though, which struck me as odd.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Cortex Reaver. Who's this?"

The name sounded familiar. Wait, I did know him. Shortly after I woke up in MF's head he was helping out some new pilots with advice and even some short term loans to get them on their feet. This guy was one of them.

"Cortex. Hey, I remember you. It's Vio... Mossfoot. Remember?"

"Vio Mossfoot?"

Great. Improv time. "Well, I go by Mossfoot by my given name is Violet. You can imagine why I don't go with that normally."

"Oh, hey, Mossfoot! Yeah. You back in the bubble? Last I heard you were off exploring."

"I'm back. What seems to be the trouble. And why aren't you using an emergency channel?"

"Yeah. I'm out of fuel and my comm unit is on the blink. I only have an open channel and Radio Utoipia working. Can't reach the Fuel Rats."

"Yikes." Radio Utopia was a propaganda channel for Simguru Antal's Utopian vision, and if that was the only radio station I had to listen to, I'd take the eternal silence of space instead. Those guys creep me out.

"Yeah. For some reason nobody is picking up, though. You're the first one to answer. Think you can help?"

The Troubadour wasn't "ratted up" as the Fuel Rats put it, but it wouldn't take long to fit a drone controller and some fuel drones.

"Hang in there. Help is on the way."

This was the kind of mission I was waiting for. It wasn't about credits or blasting bad guys into space dust, it was about helping someone out who was in deep crud. Making a difference for one person whose life depended on it. Doing the right thing.

Unfortunately in my haste getting the Troubadour ratted up, I ended up accidentally replacing my fuel scoop with an extra fuel tank and didn't realize it until a couple of jumps before I reached him.

"Um... I'm just going to be a bit delayed. Sit tight, Cortex."

"I'm not going anywhere. Just listening to Antel talk about how technology will ascend mankind to a higher something or other. Please don't let his gibberish be the last words I hear before I run out of air in this bucket of bolts."

A quick run back to the nearest station and some module swapping and I was back on track.

Cortex Reaver had been in a Sidewinder when I first met him, and having a heck of a time. He ran into a common problem for young pilots where they want to get ahead and make money as fast as possible, but don't realize that some missions are just likely to get them into more trouble with local cops. Mossfoot had shown him the ropes a bit, and loaned him some Platinum.

Now he was sporting a Vulture. Deadly ship, but a crappy jump range. Even loaded down with military armor and a prismatic shield, my Clipper could outjump him by a fair margin.

I followed his Nav Beacon in and dropped out of supercruise. Here I was ready to be the hero for once, I activated the fuel drone and...all my systems shut down.

Dammit! I'd tweaked the hell out of The Troubadour's energy settings to get it just right as a multirole ship, but I hadn't checked whether the drone controller would redline the system or not. Which it did.

"Hang on... just need to make some adjustments..."

"You're new at this, aren't you?"

"I could take my fuel home with me, bub."

"Hey, I'm not complaining. Just observing."

I shut down some of my weapons (why they're on the same grid as things like the discovery scanner and drone controller I have no idea) and the lights came back on in my ship.

"That's more like it. Fuel away!"

It didn't take long to top him up enough to get him to a scoopable star. I followed him to the same system just to make sure everything worked out okay. After that we saluted and went on our separate ways.

It was a little thing. No money involved, no merits, no prestige, and it was a pain in the butt in terms of outfitting and power regulation, but it was the most satisfying hour I'd spent in a long time.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:27 pm 
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Old Habits Die Hard. Pirates, Not So Much.

I don't want to think I've simply accepted who I am. A killer. A hunter. A vigilante. Maybe I really am just a sim of myself and I can't fight my programming, but I don't want to believe that. I'd like to think I've broadened my expectations to include everything at my disposal. I've gone exploring and enjoyed that for a time. I've gone mining and enjoyed that for a much shorter length of time. I've done rescues and raced and gambled and traded goods and smuggled goods. I'm fine with all these things.

But there's no point in denying what I'm good at, either.

I decided to join up with Arissa Lavigny-Duval for a while. I didn't feel like showing my face in Alliance space again any time soon, and Senator Lavigny-Duval's stance on piracy is one I could not only get behind, but do well at supporting. I'm sure another goddamned paper route will be involved somehow, but thought of taking out corrupt cops as well as pirates makes my skin tingle. Corrupt cops make my blood boil as much, if not more than pirates. At least pirates are honest about what they are.

I'd also been considering a change of weapon loadout. Back when I was weapon testing, before I lost my friend and took over his body, the eggheads wanted me to use a loadout that combined lasers, multicannons and a railgun. Great in theory, but the firing delay made it impractical at the time.

However, Lavigny-Duval's people have looked at the problem and come up with something potentially more useful. They call it The Hammer, a rapid fire railgun. Each shot does less damaged, but a three shot volley can inflict great damage, in theory. The firing delay is the same, but I have some ideas on how I might get around that without draining too much energy. We'll see. I'm doing just fine in The Troubadour as it is.

As a side note, I've seen a some multipurpose ships using the prefix ICV lately. Everyone seems to think that stands for Imperial Cargo Vessel, but then I look at their weapon loadout on the scanner and realize it could just as easily be Imperial Combat Vessel. No doubt the choice of prefix is intentional that way. Nothing like a pirate intercepting you thinking you're just another cargo ship only to realize they got the C part wrong. Might have to borrow that.

My anti-piracy got off to a strong start, as I ended up in an area where two systems were both trying to cut down on piracy coming from their neighbour, which basically meant I could jump back and forth between them both to rack up bounties, and cash them in. Sometimes I even got multiple bounties in the other system, and the old bounty hunter math still applies. Remember kids, when accepting multiple missions from the bulletin board, if the target locations are from the same system, 4 pirates plus 4 pirates equals 4 pirates.

One strange thing, though. As I was getting my ship repaired and recording this, some mechanic comes into my cabin and starts checking out my pilot and copilot chairs. I was hoping they were going to offer me an upgrade to those sweet looking Gutamaya Imperial chairs, but no. Instead he tells me my ship is already VR compliant and asks if I am interested being hooked up for CQC.

First off, I already have a VR rig in the entertainment room, and being hooked up while flying seemed unnecessarily lazy--not to mention dangerous. I mean I sometimes shoot over my targets just reading Galnet news. So I tell him no thanks and he shrugs and leaves.

Not sure what that was all about. Oh well, back to making space safe again!

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Rank: Competent - Status: Clean

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