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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:50 pm 
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Hello folks - in my introductory post I mentioned that in the Ooniverse, I am currently flying 'In Service to the Margravine of Aronar' and said I enjoy writing story posts. Since I've enjoyed reading yours, I hope you like my own offering. :) I'm a poor coder and haven't figured out how to tweak the Ooniverse yet, so let me contribute with my imaginings. :)

What follows is the largely out-of-cockpit fiction based upon the events I encountered during game-play, and I would love to thank Ramirez for coming up with the delightful 'Feudal States' OXP upon which this story is based.


In Service to the Margravine

I don't think I need to tell you that Ishmael Dark is not my real name. I don't think I'd have gotten very far growing up if it was - for a young working-class boy from Lave it's a pretty silly-sounding moniker.
In the right circles however, it is a good name - the kind of name one would expect of the dark, romantic stranger in the room; the dangerously elegant outsider courtiers tell wild tales about, and court Ladies whisper about behind their fluttering fans. That was exactly what the man who had given me the name had planned, and for that, I have to thank him.

In fact, I have much to thank him for. The man who named me was the one who found me, brought me into the folds of the Feudal Families. He trained me, coached me, guided me. He gave me what I'd always craved: wealth, power and women. He gave me the ability to insinuate myself into court, to maneuver the politics with a daring smile, and taught me, Pygmalion-fashion, to live this life with grace and style. He gave me everything, in fact - everything I am today. And one day, I pray, I will be able to pay him back in the best way I know how.

One day, I swear I'll pay the bastard back with an eight-hundred megawatt laser cannon right through his ship's cockpit canopy.

You've all heard about the freedom and romance that is the life of a Free Trader. The newsies and vids are full of stories of brave, independent traders. Free to roam, free to explore. It's a load of trumble-droppings; the lot of it. Oh yes - you're free. Free to be bilked, swindled and burned at every turn. Free to learn all the myriad ways businesses and bureaucracies have of nickle-and-diming honest traders to death, and free to experience the wonderful 'freedom' of paying off your inflated debts in a Worker's Glorious Mine in some backwater People's Free State. Slavery? No Comerade; it's Freedom! And even if you avoid that fate there are still the hyenas of space out there: the pirates, the gangs, the crooked cops. Ambush, intimidation, racketeering and outright murder. Take what you can, give nothing back and never ever give a sucker an even break - welcome to the free and romantic life of the Free Trader...sucker.

But I was doing OK. Not fantastic, but OK. I'd learned what every Free Trader learns from the outset: the slow but steady profits offered by hauling foodstuffs and computer equipment. I'd discovered that Space Dredger crews could be relied upon to pay well for wholesome fresh produce and didn't mind selling off their aluminum and duranium alloys for pennies. That boosted my bank account a bit - enough that I was able to trick out my Mk. III Cobra with some decent gear. In those days, I thought in terms of small payouts; seeing a profit of 1000 creds on a run made me chortle with satisfaction.

I'd recently just made my latest purchase and was simply cooing over it: a Williams 'Pew-Pew' fast-cycle laser on my forward weapons mount. I'd seen the write-up on the thing and was just itching to try it out...but even still, I would never have tried it the way I did if I had had any choice at all.

I'd been doing my usual routine - some beer here, some textiles there, this place pays well for erotica - up towards the Pulsars and was coming out of Inleus for Beor. It was a decent trip, profitable enough that my Cobra, the Big Joe Mufferaw was empty - I hadn't bothered to load up any of the cheap mass-produced Garetan crap; not much of a margin there. I'd come out at the Witchpoint and was just starting my scan when my alerter screamed. There was a battle a few kilometers ahead. Yay - another battle. Good - the pirates could kill someone else.

Does that sound callous? YOU fly Witchspace sometime - see what you think about the pirates who lurk near Witchpoint beacons after they've jumped you a dozen times. I did what I always do: I turned until the red dots were abeam and lit the Q-charger; I'd be out of danger range in a few minutes.

I had time to watch the battle. Usually it's pirates versus whatever random sucker bursts out of the Blue Hell, but this time it was different. Long, sleek ships shot around a massive yacht; fending off pirates with superb discipline and accuracy. I have to admit I was impressed, even if it was hopeless. The slender fighters - my computer identified them as Freiherrs - were horribly outnumbered. The yacht was frantically calling for assistance, pleading for help. There were women and children aboard. Better them than me, I thought. No point getting into an unwinnable fight. On the red side I could see almost twenty Asps and Sidewinders, even a couple of Fer-de-Lances; pretty expensive hardware for pirates. There were a couple of heavies in there too: as I watched a hardened Boa Cruiser unleashed a withering blast, stripping shields and plating off the hapless yacht...
...And then blew up.

There was another ship out there; one of a type I'd heard of but never seen before: a massive Zerstorer heavy assault ship. That was some serious firepower. As I watched, the destroyer burst through the wreckage of the destroyed pirate and threw itself into the mass of attacking fighters, scattering them like chaff.

I have no idea why I flicked the safety off my arming toggle, nor why I rolled and pulled into the fight. I had seen the other Boa pulling towards the yacht's belly; I knew the unarmed pleasure liner was defenceless. But I've never given in to altruism. Perhaps I thought that with the Zerstorer in the fight things might be more equal, perhaps I just wanted to let my new Williams loose...I don't know.

Big Joe Mufferaw thundered in behind the Boa, afterburners screaming. I cut loose with a barrage from the Williams at point-blank range, blowing through his shields and hitting his exhaust louvres, forcing him away from the yacht. G-meters wailing, I turned away before ramming him, roaring around in a 60G turn to nail him with my aft beam. The Boa shuddered, stabilized...then cut loose with a vicious blast of magenta fire, shredding my shields. I cursed and twisted, trying to get away from the vengeful retaliation.
Important life lesson: DO NOT take on a Boa Cruiser unless you're really, really sure you can deal with four military lasers. If a pirate can afford one of those damn things, he can afford all the nifty, nasty guns to hang off it. Duranium burst off my ship's stern as I pulled away, the Boa pounding me hard. I jinked desperately, trying to get away from those heavy lasers. Then...

The Zerstorer I'd seen damn near ripped my nose off as it flashed overhead. The big assault ship roared by, heavy lasers shrieking. It struck the Boa dead abeam, causing the armour to glow red hot. I turned, and using the Destroyer as a shield dove in on the cruiser again, cutting loose with the Williams. Chunks of slag burst off the pirate's half-melted hull, it rolled desperately to bring its portside laser to bear. But by that time, the Zerstorer had turned and unleashed its full barrage. Blinding magenta fire poured into the Boa; a small sleek object dropped from the belly and rocketed ahead. The missile took the pirate dead-center. She exploded with a thunderous shock-wave that rocked me into my seat.

My radio clicked. "Well done, lad, well done!" the radio said. It was the pilot of the strange destroyer. "Come on - the big ones are down but my lads need help!"
I could have left. My shields were only starting to recharge, warning lights from my energy banks were screaming on the control panel. My lovely mauve paintjob was ruined. But the yacht was turning desperately, trying to avoid enemy fire and the remaining Freiherrs were too few to stop the pirates. I heard the leader of the Knights shout to 'give lives for the Tsar!' and one Freiherr did; plunging in to ram a pirate Sidewinder as it was lining up for a shot on the yacht. Both vessels disappeared in a cloud of plasma and shredded metal.

I cannot properly describe the next few minutes. A lone Cobra is, if properly equipped, a fearsome platform; but it's no match for purpose-designed fighters. Big Joe Mufferaw was damaged from my fight with the Boa; I had no reason at all to remain.

But the strange Zerstorer flew in to hang off my port wing, matching my moves with smooth, easy precision. I knew what he was doing - he was 'Ghost-Gunning', the most effective tactic for two spacecraft who haven't trained together. The junior ship flies in attack; the other lends its firepower, matching him move for move. It's a tactic the Families use against Thargoids and it's devastating when used right.

Cobra and Destroyer ripped into the pirates, my Williams' chattering drowned out by the banshee shriek of the Zerstorer's heavy beams. Pirate after pirate fell to our assault; the Freiherr Knights rallied around us. Soon, the last red dot was disappearing fast into the Big Black, running away under full Injectors. There was a pause as the surviving defenders grouped around the yacht.

"You have scoops on that thing?" my radio asked quietly. The big assault ship pulled into close formation on my wingtip. Now that I had the chance, I could see the craft was entirely unadorned; it carried neither sigil nor livery usually worn by the Feudal Families. Its only decoration was black lightning-bolt stripes down its nacelles. "Yes," I answered.
"Some of our lads managed to punch out. They don't deserve to die out here." Nor did they, I thought. More than half of the defenders had been destroyed; only four Knight-ships remained. I looked at my scanner and nodded. "I'll go get them." There were three white blips in range. I turned and boosted off; carefully scooping each into my cargo hold, then went down to open the hatch and allow them into the cabin.

So young, I thought - so young. None of them more than twenty years old; all of them with eyes a thousand years old. Two boys...men...and one woman. They idly nodded thanks, then turned to one another, helping each other...tuning me out. Figures, I thought. I returned to the cockpit and strapped in.

"We're still an hour from the aegis," the strange assault ship said when I'd reported on the survivors, "Thank you for your help, we'll pay you. If you stay with us we'll pay you more."

"They won't be back," I replied, "Pirates never repeat a failed attack."

There was a chuckle from the other ship. "Oh yes, they will. They weren't pirates. In fact...yes. There they are now."
As I watched in horror, red dots - dozens of red dots - appeared on my scanner. "What the hell?" I exclaimed, "What is this?"
"Politics," the Zerstorer's pilot replied, "Politics, lad. I'm afraid you have no choice now - your ship's been painted by their targeting scanners."
"Ve cannot survive another assault!" the yacht's Captain gasped, "And ve cannot outrun zem! Vat will we do?"

I scanned my radar desperately. The station's Aegis was far too far away, and the attackers were closing fast. With four Knights left...all that was left was a glorious death.
Screw that - I wasn't about to die for some inbred schmuck. I looked harder. "Yacht - do you have injector capability?"
"Ja, what of it, commoner?"
I ground my teeth. "Turn to...134 mark...62 and punch it! We may have a way out of this!"
"I do not take orders from common..."
"You WILL take orders from ME!" the Destroyer pilot roared. No doubt he'd seen the shining, shimmering dot on his radar as well. "Do what he says - NOW!" The yacht instantly rocketed forward under heavy acceleration.

At least...heavy for it. The Freiherrs pulled in under close escort and both I and the assault craft kept easy pace, our Q-drives barely ticking over. "We're not going to make it," I said. The distant asteroid field was getting closer...but the attackers were closing fast.
"Yes, you vill," one of the Knights replied, "I haff seen what you haff seen. I know vat you intend. Ve will delay them long enough. Come, my brothers." With that, the last of the Freiherr Knights flipped end-for-end, and burned for the distant attackers.

I watched them go sadly; they were outnumbered twenty to one. "Who the Hell is in that yacht?" I wondered.
"You don't know?" the Zerstorer pilot asked quietly, "That is the personal yacht of Tsar Nikolas IX of Oreseren. His family is coming to join him after political exile in Tibecea. There are factions that seek to stop them."
"But why? They're just...well..."
"Women and children? Yes. The future of the Zarakov lineage. Best hold tight now, son. We're entering it."

Yacht and escorts plunged into the outskirts of the asteroid field. My shields flared as micrometeoroids vapourized. "Ten minutes to the center," I reported. On my scanners, I watched as the green dots of the Freiherr Knights dove into the cloud of attackers. Red dots flared and disappeared...it took longer, much longer than I could have imagined. Red dot after red dot vanished from the scope. But one by one, so did the green dots. Somewhere, hundreds of kilometers behind me, the ships of four brave Knights erupted in silent plasma. The horde rushed on, determined to destroy the yacht and its two remaining escorts.

We dove into the asteroid field, rock pinging and thudding off our shields. Alarms screamed as my shield drained from the impacts. I looked up - the yacht shuddered under the impacts but while the Captain might have been an arrogant git, he knew what he was doing. The heavy vessel steered around the worst of the debris, its shields flaring blue at each strike. Behind us, the horde caught up fast under Torus drive. "It's going to be close," the Destroyer pilot said, his voice tense. "You have to be careful, lad - choose your timing well!"
"Well, why don't YOU do it?" I snarled.
The Zerstorer pilot chuckled. "Because I won't be with you. They're closing too fast - someone has to hold them off. Any takers?" The big Destroyer banked away. "Good luck lad - it only takes one shot. Make it count."

So it was only me - guarding a yacht I'd never seen before twenty minutes ago. I watched on my scanner as the strange assault craft leaped towards the attacking horde, lasers blasting. Brave or stupid? Fool either way. I shook my head. The horde had slowed slightly to deal with the new threat; a forty-to-one dogfight that could only have one possible outcome. "Hold tight, yacht," I ordered, "Aim for the far side and give it all you've got!"
"Ve haff sustained sixty per cent armour loss!" the Captain complained, "Ve MUST slow down!"

"Keep going or you're going to find out what a baked potato feels like!" I shouted back desperately, "If you've got anything left, USE IT NOW!!"

Big Joe Mufferaw staggered and heaved under the onslaught of the asteroid field. With a bright flash, my shields collapsed. Rock smashed into my naked hull and still I pushed the throttle forward; desperately trying for a bit more speed. "Almost there," I gasped, shoving the joystick down to evade a boulder the size of a shopping mall. The horde were entering the asteroid field, spreading out to blanket the yacht. We thrust through the very heart of the asteroid field, where a male Star-Jelly was placidly, mindlessly grazing the rock. That was the shimmer we'd seen on our scanners. A beautiful sight...a brief sight.
"Ve haff cleared mass-lock!" the Captain crowed, "Ve are going to torus now!"
"No!" I roared, "Hang on! They're converging on you - let them! Bring them in!"
"Are you crazed, peasant? Ze Tsarina is more important zen your silly ideas!"
"Any one of 'em gets out of this asteroid field, you're dead meat!" I roared, "We're still half an hour from the aegis! I have ONE shot, help me make it count!"
"Very well," The Captain agreed reluctantly, "You had better be right, stranger."

I gasped as a rock I hadn't seen smashed into my wingtip, throwing Big Joe Mufferaw into an uncontrolled lurch. I didn't dare glance at my alarm panel; so many red lights were blaring I couldn't count them. I kicked the rudders, bringing the Cobra into line. "A bit more..." I murmured, "Just a bit more." Five kilometers from my target...six...eight..."Just a bit more," I pleaded as a flying stone sent crazed cracks across my canopy.

The horde was pulling into the center of the field now, ignoring their own safety and barrelling through the field. Whoever was paying them must have paid them a lot. "Almost there..." I looked up: the yacht had cleared the heaviest parts of the field and was pulling into clear space. I looked back: the center of the asteroid field was exactly behind me. I looked at my scanners: forty enemy combatants were firing lasers. Hot plasma sliced into what remained of my armour.

"NOW!!! I screamed. I lined up my aft beam and pulled the trigger.

The Star-Jelly was dead in the center of the cross-hairs.

BOOOMMMM!!!!

The fragile Quirmium creature erupted, sending a vast blue blast-wave out, vapourizing everything in its path. And whatever the quirmium blast hit, it exploded.

And the horde was right in the center of the asteroid field.

I rocketed out of the asteroids with a shuddering, shaking wreck of a Cobra and fell into line with the pristine yacht. Behind us, red dots disappeared as they were engulfed in a massive quirmium chain reaction.

I was dealing with my own chain reaction. My hands shaking so badly I could barely take my guns offline, I fell into formation with the yacht and escorted it into Coriolis Station. Upon arrival, I was met by the Royal Guard who escorted me onto a shuttle down to the surface, for an audience with Tsar Nikolas himself.

I didn't want to go. At that moment, I wouldn't have given two figs for the entire Feudal Families. But the guards had guns...and were very insistent.

So I went.

(To be continued.)


Last edited by TheOldGamer on Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:04 am, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:04 pm 
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Yep, I'd say that passes muster. Welcome aboard! 8)

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:11 pm 
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You murdered a Star Jelly? Ruthless!

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 11:32 am 
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Quote:
You murdered a Star Jelly? Ruthless!
(Chuckle) I love the add-on; they really are lovely to look at. But man, those things freak me out. :mrgreen: I doubt it's anything different from anyone else's experience, but I recall doing an RSS mission: a black box in an asteroid field. Grazing the field was a male jelly.
I don't know if the males have thinner skins than the females, but that bloody thing insisted on blowing up whenever I got within 50k, through half a dozen reloads. Finally, after another reload it was a female there - and she held together. I got in close enough to collect the box, but I was seriously sweating the whole way in and out.

More coming soon. :)


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 3:41 pm 
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Wow, this is awesome! Keep up the good work! And star-jellies.... they're soooooo pretty, but... they have pretty explosive behavior too! :lol: Just remember, injectors are a commander's best friend!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2016 1:25 am 
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Quote:
Wow, this is awesome! Keep up the good work! And star-jellies.... they're soooooo pretty, but... they have pretty explosive behavior too! :lol: Just remember, injectors are a commander's best friend!
Oooo yes... if I hadn't had injectors you could call me 'Kingsford' and light your barbecue with me. ;)


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2016 3:12 am 
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The trip down to the planet was an uneasy one. No-one seemed to know my status; least of all me. Was I a prisoner or not?
I rode down to the planet with a detachment of soldiers. They had apparently not read the 'one-size-fits-all' rulebook where soldiers are supposed to glare suspiciously at strangers and finger their weapons. They were quite friendly and polite and quite ready to chat about news, the latest vids and (as always) the opposite sex. One young man had just gotten married and was the butt of genial jokes. When sandwiches were passed around (it was a 2 hour flight), they gave me one - and even offered mustard when mine turned out to be grylfish. They just didn't seem to know what to do with me, so they defaulted to friendliness - easy enough for fifteen guys with enough weaponry to take down a small town.

Not that I minded - I was still dealing with the after-effects of the battle. When I'd opened the door and stepped out onto the hangar floor, the smell had almost driven me to my knees: Big Joe Mufferaw reeked of burned insulation and melted metal. My baby was badly hurt, and I didn't have the funds to fix such massive damage. I was certain I would have to sell that Pew Pew again - And the telescope, AND a bunch of MFDs AND my missile loadout AND my aft laser at the least - in order to pay for repairs. I was busy wrapped up in thinking 'Life's not fair'.

We landed at the Palace's private military base. The soldiers jumped off; suddenly looking very smart and disciplined now that Royal eyes were (potentially) on them. As I stood at the base of the ramp, uncertain, a small man came over to meet me.

He was slight and sandy-haired; blue eyed and perhaps fifty years old. He was smiling awkwardly and wringing his hands. "Hello! Hello!" he bobbed his head, "Please let me apologize for your treatment, I trust you haven't been ill-handled?" He turned to glare at the soldiers, who had suddenly found something else to do. They fell into column and marched off; not at all aware of the glare directed at them; oh my word, no.

"Just a bad sandwich," I replied flatly, still unsure if I was a guest or a captive, "Mister..."

"Oh, call me Andrew," the small man gushed. He wore a black uniform, clearly military but entirely devoid of insignia - judging by his demeanour what part of the military was impossible to guess. "I am military attaché to His highness," the small man explained, smiling. "We all saw what you did up there and we're just terribly impressed. Yes, indeed."

"So are you taking me prisoner or not?" I asked bluntly.

"Prisoner? Indeed not!" Andrew said, looking shocked, "No, my good Commander, we are going to reward you! Or rather, His Highness is. The Tsar is very eager to endow the hero that saved his family."
"Really?" I had heard the man's awkward turn of phrase and was not impressed. Andrew looked back and, for a moment, his smile was not at all obsequious.
"Yes, indeed," he nodded. "The lower one exists in court, the more value one places on allies; especially random ones. You will be well compensated, I assure you. Those of us who watched the battle saw true expertise - we would be loathe not to honour it."
"In case it turned against you?" I asked.
The small man just smiled. "The basis of politics in a nutshell, I think you'll find." He turned to lead me away, up the long floor of the hangar.

"You were on that yacht?" I asked.
"I was up there seeing to the safety of the Tsarina, yes," Andrew responded.
"Then you know what kind of damage I took," I responded angrily, "I don't know what 'compensation' your Tsar wants to give, but you could at least pay my repair bill."

"My dear Commander!" Andrew laughed, "Have faith! His Highness would not abandon a friend! Now please, this way..." He led me down the hangar to the end, where it met the Palace's outer wall. At the end were several closed-off work bays with very thick concrete walls. The very last one contained a ship; there were sounds of welding, grinding and shouts as technicians worked on it. I glanced into the opening, curious. Even though it was a military bay, the walls were there for safety, not security, so I had a perfect view of the big vessel that hunkered inside. It was a massive machine thirty meters long and easily two hundred tons; a huge, stoop-shouldered and claw-shaped nightmare of armour, weapons and engines; menacing in both design and ability.

It was a Zerstorer-class Destroyer; entirely unadorned, with neither sigil nor livery. Its only decoration was two black lightning bolts down its engine nacelles.
And though its aft armour was melted into slag and it was obviously heavily damaged, the Destroyer was still very much operational.

What the Hell?

No-one could have survived that blast! To say nothing of the forty pirates shooting at it...I caught Andrew's elbow. "Who flies that ship?" I asked.
Andrew looked at me in genuine shock. "You mean you've never heard of the Black Duke?" he asked, his eyes wide.

The Black Duke! Of course! I had heard of him, who hadn't? But as far as anyone knew, The Black Duke was a myth; like Robin Hood to the Planetbound folk - a mysterious hero who righted wrongs, destroyed evil, found little kittens for children, recovered lost pencils, solved world problems, et cetera et cetera. He was real?

"Well, yes," the military attaché answered when I asked, "But myth and reality are often quite different, don't you find? The Duke of Beor is very old-fashioned in his thinking; he retains the old requirement of the Ducal status." Andrew smiled as he explained. "Le Duc Noir is a skilled combatant; truly the most skilled any have ever seen. He defends his holdings and the Law with a zeal many find...embarrassing in this modern age."
"And everyone else finds admirable," I fill in.
"Yes," Andrew smiled, "Exactly that. Landsmen do speak of him with pride; which is more than I can say for the Lords of many Holdings. Please, this way." He led me into a generously-appointed waiting-room, decorated in crimson and gold.
"His Highness is in audience right now," Andrew explained, "He will want to meet with you near the end, once the tedious business complaints are taken care of. Please make yourself comfortable, Commander...?"
"Jameson," I said flatly.
Andrew nodded and smiled, understanding completely. "Of course, Commander. I will take you in, in perhaps half an hour."

(To be continued)


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:36 am 
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Oh wow - hey! Back online after a few months; my last computer exploded (Literally! Main capacitor blew; it was pretty spectacular) and it's taken simply ages to rebuild everything! I do want to finish this story so I'll get into it right away.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:05 pm 
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Welcome back, TOG! Glad you survived the explosion … :)

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 1:01 pm 
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... my last computer exploded (Literally! Main capacitor blew; it was pretty spectacular)
<grins> I once saw a capacitor blow in a powerful hi-fi amp - big bang, flames pouring out, smoke.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:12 pm 
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Welding machines have huge capacitors, the size of soda cans. They're made with a lot of tolerance of course and rarely blow. But when they do.... it's like someone tossed a pipe bomb into the machine and let it off. :shock:

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:52 pm 
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I watched them go sadly; they were outnumbered twenty to one. "Who the Hell is in that yacht?" I wondered.
"You don't know?" the Zerstorer pilot asked quietly, "That is the personal yacht of Tsar Nikolas IX of Oreseren. His family is coming to join him after political exile in Tibecea. There are factions that seek to stop them."
"But why? They're just...well..."
"Women and children? Yes. The future of the Zarakov lineage. Best hold tight now, son. We're entering it."
(To be continued.)
There is an old saying what happens on Tibecea stays on Tibecea. You know for an ice block, right out at the rim of G1 that system ain't half see it's fair share of action. :D

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:42 am 
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There is an old saying what happens on Tibecea stays on Tibecea. You know for an ice block, right out at the rim of G1 that system ain't half see it's fair share of action. :D
Updated description for Tibecia:

"This system is mildly famous for being a magnet for sudden monumental trouble."

:lol:

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