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Starsector 0.9.1a is out! (05/10/19); Blog post: Skills and Story Points (07/08/19)

Poll

Which story did you like best?

Mudskipper
- 5 (16.7%)
New Guy
- 3 (10%)
Wee Beasties
- 4 (13.3%)
Forever Hound
- 15 (50%)
A Smuggler’s Diary
- 3 (10%)

Total Members Voted: 19

Voting closed: December 26, 2015, 11:20:37 AM


Author Topic: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread  (Read 10315 times)

Gothars

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Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« on: November 26, 2015, 11:20:37 AM »


¨¨¨™¤¦¤™¨¨¨ It is time! Welcome to the voting phase of the second Starfarer short story contest! ¨¨¨™¤¦¤™¨¨¨





The topic this time was David's Starsector painting "The Hound and the Hangar".


Here are the rules:

-   Read the stories! I am a realist here, you don’t have to read every story to the end. But please read at least one third of every story before you vote, so you can evaluate it. If you can’t do that, please come back later when you have the time or patience.
-   Judge the stories! There are two criteria. The first and more important one is overall quality, that includes everything from plot over style to suspension. The second is how well the story fits the contest theme (History). Please try to be objective.
-   Vote for the best story! You have up to two votes. You don’t have to use both, if one story is the clear winner (in your opinion) please vote only for that one.


There are five entries, they are listed in the order they were submitted in.
If you have further questions or want to report any irregularities, please contact me.
Have fun reading!


Without further ado, here are the contestants:


Mudskipper by Histidine

Spoiler
Dear Mark,

By now you’re probably wondering what happened to me (beyond what few details my family might have passed on). On this lapse I can only plead for forgiveness; all I can say is I was each time either too depressed or too harried to write.

Well, things have calmed down a little now, but I’m still not ready to tell Mum and Dad everything just yet. So please remember the time I covered for you when you stole Father John’s fowling piece and ran off into the woods with it, and don’t show this letter to them.

Anyway, long story short:

They kicked me out of the seminary on Tartessus.

For getting the dean’s daughter pregnant.

You can see why I don’t want word going around.

When Professor Pohl found out, he dragged me into the auditorium in front of half the faculty and berated my moral failings for a whole hour straight. He condemned my slavering lust, my predatory nature, my lack of moral restraint, my succumbing to Satan’s wiles, and my failure to know my ordained place in taking advantage of his poor innocent girl. He even called me a technophile!

Then he sent my beloved Leah away to live with her offworld aunt. Somewhere I could never find her.

Needless to say, I spent most of newfound my free time moping, the money no longer needed for tuition fees going into cheap ale. It was one October evening, when I was once again wasting away in a crowded tavern, when a man came to me.

He was tall, thin, and smelt of something I could not identify at the time, but at least it was not the alcohol that so permeated this place. “Waitress,” he called out, settling into the chair opposite mine. “A beer for me. And this lad needs a refill.”

I stared, taken aback. “I thank you for your generosity, kind sir,” I managed to get out after a while. “Forgive my rudeness, but do I know you?”

“Oh, just a man wandering the stars, trying to make a living.” He smiled. “Peace.” The waitress came back with two steins, and the guy grabbed his and took a big swig. “Say, what’s a young man like you doing wasting away in a dive like this?”

“I… I have reasons.”

“Ain’t no reason for a youth to be throwing his life away like this, lad.” He looked at me. “And it just so happens that my ship needs a good worker. You interested?”

“Um.” I was a little buzzed, but not so intoxicated that I wasn’t acutely aware of my fast-dwindling finances. “What’s the work like?”

He waggled his hands in a gesture I’m not sure had any meaning. “Oh, you know, the usual ship handling stuff. Carry boxes. Fix things that get broken. Man the guns when pirates attack — not that that happens too often, you understand,” he hastily added. “Fairly easy stuff, and what you don’t know you can learn on the job quickly enough. And you get to travel the stars, too.” He grinned, showing off a golden incisor. “You look like the sort of lad who lives for adventure. Why don’t you come with me and I show you my ship?”

Now I’d never thought of being one of those starfarers, and truth be told, I wasn’t sure I’m cut out to be one. Plus, I don’t think Ludd would approve, even if the Church says it’s sometimes necessary to preserve our way of life. On the other hand, I liked the thought of going broke and having to come home to face Dad even less.

I forced a smile. “I guess I can give it a try.”

“Excellent! Oh, wonderful!” He jumped up, nearly jerking my arm out of its socket, and slapped me on the back. “You and I are going to get along so well!”He stopped only to pay the tab, and then towed me out of the place like an angler reeling in a neotrout, beer left behind. Already I was starting to suspect this might be a really bad idea, but his hand was a vise on my arm, so all I could do was follow along as he led me to the spaceport.

Now, the city has two ports. One is the big, fancy Church-run one where the great food ships load and unload. The other is a small, rundown almost-a-junkyard on the other side of town, a wretched hive of scum and villainy that only the most disreputable of starship captains use. So of course it’s the one he uses as well.

“There,” he said as we step onto the dusty landing pad, pointing. “Isn’t she a beauty?”

Well, his ship certainly looked like it belonged here. It was a beat-up old Hound, a crudely fitted chaingun on the nose and a machine gun on top swiveling about. The word “MUDSKIPPER” was emblazoned in neon purple on the side, next to a poorly drawn caricature of what I could only assume was the vessel’s namesake. A bunch of guys were moving about, loading stuff onto the ship through the open hatch at the back.

Okay…

I finally managed to wring my arm free of his grip, rubbing and shaking it to get the circulation going again. I asked the all-important question: “How much?”

“Twenty-five credits a month to start with, plus room and board. Pay goes up as you stay with us, of course. We’re stretched too thin to promise healthcare, but we do have a crew’s fund for that sort of thing. Sounds good?”

“Well…” It didn’t sound like much on paper, and I’m sure you earned three times as much at the start of your first job. But if I said no, I’d just have gone back to killing my liver at that cheap pub, and I didn’t really want to stay on Tartessus any more, not after what happened. Plus, I was actually half afraid he’d drag me onto his tub anyway. “Okay, I’m in,” I said after a while.

Espléndido! Now, what’s your name, lad?”

I started to open my mouth, but then his head jerked up, and I looked over my shoulder. It was three men in uniform — Knights of Ludd, the one in the lead clearly an officer. Nothing an upstanding citizen need worry about, but apparently my companion was different.

“Damn!” he exclaimed, and I winced as he grabbed my arm again and yanked me forcefully towards the ship. “Run, lad, run! We must be off this world post-haste!”

Now, Mark, if I knew what was in store for me up there, I would have wrenched free with all my strength and fled. But I knew not then, and so we went all the way up the ramp and into the Hound’s cargo bay. His men were there, strapping us both into well-worn acceleration couches, and then the ship was lifting off, screaming towards the heavens.

What happened next? Well, I’d love to tell you, but the captain summons me and I must go, possibly for a long time. So I leave you now with this, and hope to continue my tale soon.

Yours,
Luke



Dear Mark,

At last I managed to get some time off to write again. So, now…

After our hasty departure from Tartessus, the captain helped me out of the couch and — finally! — introduced himself. His name is Miguel Janszoon, but everyone around here just calls him “captain.” I told him my name in turn, and then we went to the bridge.

Remember when I told you if I’d known what was waiting on the ship, I would’ve ran? Well, there are actually two key things about the Mudskipper and her captain that make me say this, and I found out about both of them within the span of three minutes.

The first was when we were walking through the cargo holds and I saw a crate with the lid open. Out of sheer curiosity, I looked in it and found packets of a strange green leaf. It took me a while to identify it, but as soon as it clicked, I wheeled around to stare at him, trying to hide my shock as I made the connection to his strange odor.

“Is good stuff, yes?” he said. “But this batch is for the customer, not us. No dipping.”

Now I know you’re a faithful adherent of the Church, Mark, and you wouldn’t know what inhaling marijuana is like. But let me tell you, that stuff goes to your head very quickly.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. He continued walking, and I followed him, my limbs stiff as I processed the fact that my nice new boss was clearly a smuggler. Possibly even a professional drug runner (though this turned out otherwise). In any case, behind the cannabis the whole ship had a certain musty smell to it, despite its decent-seeming appearance.

The bridge hatch slid open, and he stepped through with me behind. That was when I heard her — the second fact I spoke of.

“She” was a high-pitched feminine voice coming from a small, blue holographic projection of a woman on a countertop, I saw as I looked around the captain. “Took you long enough! We almost got caught back there.” Then, looking at me: “And who’s this brat you bought with you?”

I blinked, bristling inside at her contemptuous tone, and opened my mouth to say something. It stayed open when my brain caught up and I realized what I was looking at.

An AI! Tech, there’s an AI on this ship!

Her name (I can’t think of her as an it, for reasons you’ll see later) is Vala. She’s what passes for a first officer on this junk pile, and in her presence I fear for my soul almost as much as I fear for my life. At least she’s a plug-in model, without direct access to the ship’s hardware. They say that in the Tri-Tachyon fleet the ships run themselves and if you’re unlucky or offend the higher-ups you get assigned to one that treats the crew as its serfs. Or its harem.

Though speaking of that, her… manner of virtual dress tempts men to the sin of fornication. So perhaps it’s better this way.

“We need a new crew member, don’t we?” the captain said. “Well, here’s a good, fine young lad for the purpose.”

Vala sniffled. “And I get to babysit him, then? Well, it’s what I do for all you monkeys, anyway. I’ve got my eye on you, kid.”

The hologram disappeared, and the captain introduced me to his senior men. There was Kamal, the second mate, gaunt as a scarecrow. Tatyana, the bosun, fat and jovial. Yong, prizefighter turned chief engineer. I think the novels call this a “motley crew.” We exchanged pleasantries, Tatyana showed me to my bunk — more of a cubicle, really — and then it was off to work. Mostly they’ve been giving me scut work, like cleaning the bots, playing gofer for the officers, and sometimes cooking.

So here I am now. It’s dreary, but also honest, godly work, and I think I can get used to this. I hope so, at any rate.

See you soon,
Luke



Dear Mark,

I am now convinced that I have died, and the Mudskipper is purgatory for my sins.

Vala follows me everywhere on the ship, criticizing everything I do. The crates are improperly secured. The control run is wired wrong. The manifest was sent to the wrong address. I’m always getting up late for my watch. Once I snapped and yelled back at her, and she made one of the janitor bots run me over. Three times. There is no escape from the torment anywhere on this tiny ship.

I now see what the church elders meant by the pit of technocracy.

I’d complain to the captain, but he seems high most of the time. The crew say he keeps a large stash in his cabin and raids it on a daily basis; certainly he smells of it. Even when he’s sober, he doesn’t seem to take things seriously; the one time I tried to broach the subject with him, he said things like “that’s just how she is” and “you’ll get used to her.”

I can’t bring it up with the other crew, either. The ordinary spacers are just keeping their heads down, trying to avoid her wrath. Tatyana is intoxicated almost as often as the captain is, and I don’t even dare go near Kamal or Yong. And if Vala learns I tattled…

I don’t know if I can hold on to my sanity till we reach the next port. Pray for me, old friend.

Yours,
Luke



Dear Mark,

I have been able to resist the temptation of the captain’s marijuana stash. Tatyana has not.

She got into it somehow, and blew through half of it in under an hour, cooped up alone in a corner of the cargo hold. Which lead in turn to dipping into that shipment of premium vodka.

Under the circumstances, it was perhaps unfortunate the captain keeps the gun rack for when we need to repel boarders there. We found bits of her own brain and skull all over the last food crate we had stocked.

Vala made me clean up the mess. Again.

Yours,
Luke




Dear Mark,

Working on the Mudskipper has helped me rediscover my faith as I have never felt it before. Every morning, I get out of my bunk and pray:

O Ludd, please don’t let the air purifier fail again today. I know it is an item of the technology which You hate so. but Your humble servant is aboard this ship and he does not wish to die asphyxiating on his crewmates’ stale sweat.

Dear Ludd, please keep the navigation computer from glitching out before we leave and keep the captain away from it when he’s stoned. We want go home someday, Ludd.

O all-knowing and benevolent Ludd, please let me find the problem with targeting computer for the chaingun, so I can fix it. We need it to protect the laity from the marauding pirates that roam this lonely space. I live to serve You, Ludd, not some awful slaver who will beat us and keep us in cages.

Dear Ludd, please don’t let Vala find my booze stash. She already has it in for me after I broke half her security cameras, and I do not want her to vent the airlock when I’m inside. O Ludd, forgive me my sins, that I may not suffer the indignity of my eyeballs and lungs exploding and my body disappearing into the void. Save me, Ludd!

O Ludd, please…

Luke



Dear Mark,

Can’t say much from here, but I need to ask a big favour:

Could you please send me 100 credits so I can post bail?

Yours,
Luke
[close]



New Guy by Namelessjake

Spoiler
“We are cleared for docking. Now on approach to Jangala station,” the pilot’s voice crackled over the ship’s intercom. Stuart reluctantly rolled off his bunk and stood up. He took a swig from the whiskey bottle on the table, before making his way over to the window. Jangala filled the small porthole. It was day on this side of the planet although a large cyclone appeared to be making landfall. “No wonder most people live on the station,” Stuart mused, taking another drink from the bottle, this time emptying it.

As another docking warning sounded, Stuart pulled on his pants and boots. He grabbed his jacket and put it on too, making sure his pistol holstered under his left arm didn’t show through, before making his way towards the airlock. The Mule he was travelling on hadn’t afforded the most luxurious of journeys, he was pretty sure it would gain a D classification the next time it had an official inspection, but it had been necessary and at least he got his own cabin.

The whole ship rumbled as the docking clamps were secured and a few seconds later the airlock hissed before opening. Stuart said a couple of goodbyes before making his way into the station. At the closest market concourse, he bought something which vaguely resembled meat and found a nearby crate to perch himself on.

“Stuart Hunter?” A voice inquired as he was just finishing his meal.
“Mhm,” he managed through a mouthful of food, turning his head to see the source of the voice. It belonged to tall and bulky man. He was bald but had a full black beard, an intimidating combination. He had a pistol tucked into the front of his waistband. “Cover that,” Stuart said as a Hegemony patrol strolled past casually inspecting the occasional ident-chip. The large man nodded, pulling his shirt over the weapon. He waiting until the patrol had disappeared down the concourse before speaking again.
“Captain Sykes sent me. I understand you’re joining our crew,” he said.
“That was our agreement. I used to serve on a Hegemony Falcon class cruiser, then I was dishonourably discharged. Since then I’ve been on an Independant Gemini and a Tar-”
“I don’t care,” the man said, cutting him off. “All that counts is how you perform on our ship. I’m First Officer Mayes. Follow me, we’re leaving soon.”

The two men made their way off the concourse and down a stairwell towards the hangar decks. The crowds soon thinned out as the surrounding gradually became more industrial and much more dilapidated. The only other people about where clearly dock workers or spacers. The whole hangar deck seemed to shake as a wing of patrolling fighters buzzed past.
“What’s the cargo?” Stuart asked, walking quickly to keep up with Mayes’ large stride.
“Officially we carrying food to Sindria. Although we like to try and make our runs a little more profitable,” Mayes laughed. Stuart nodded. It wasn’t surprising, Hound class freighters were a favourite of smugglers and even honest captains occasionally took on some illegal cargo, hoping to make a few extra credits.

They soon arrived at the hanger the small freighter was docked in. The back faced the two men as they walked up to the ship. The cargo door at the rear was open as the rest of the crew were busy loading crates of supplies and cargo on board. Mayes led Stuart up to an older, battle scarred man who was going over a shipping manifest. “Captain,” Mayes said and the man looked up from the manifest.
“Ah, Mr Hunter I presume,” he said offering his hand to Stuart.
“That’d be me,” Stuart replied, shaking the man’s hand.
“I’m Captain Sykes. Welcome to the crew of the ISS Fornax. Obey your orders and we’ll get on just fine. For now help with the loading, I want to be in hyperspace as soon as possible,” the Captain said. Stuart gave a single finger salute and began moving the crates aboard the ship.

Most of the crates appeared to be full of food, like Mayes had said, although one felt different as Stuart maneuvered it up the ramp.The crate jolted to the right and tipped over, the contents spilling out across the cargo ramp. The top had been packed with vacuum sealed rations but beneath that had been packs of filled syringes which now littered the floor.
“S***! F***ing new guy!” One of the other crewmen said, scrambling to pick up the syringes and get them back into the crate.
“Sorry,” Stuart said, dropping to the floor to help. He paused for a moment with one of the packets of syringes in his hands, to examine them. They were stamped with the designation DX-49. It was a fairly new drug as he recalled, already banned on most civilised worlds, and a particularly nasty one too. Highly addictive and potentially deadly. It would definitely fetch a good price on Sindria, the residents of the slum like hive cities were desperate for things to take their minds away from reality, even if only for a few hours.

They resealed the crate just as a Hegemony patrol marched past the hanger. “That was close,” the crewman said. “Don’t do that again,” he added, going back to his own tasks.
“I won’t. Thanks,” Stuart called out after him.Another fifteen minutes later the remaining cargo was all on the Fornax and the crew was preparing for launch. Stuart had counted at least another six crates filled with DX-49.
“Do we bring anything back with us from Sindria?” Stuart asked the crewman who had helped him earlier.
“Yeah. Their stuff is usually better anyway,” the man said. “This new s*** is only made in a lab on Jangala station though.”

The ship’s crew was silent as the engines began spinning up, all busy at their stations. Stuart was making sure all the crates were secured for flight. Satisfied he made his way to bridge. ”The cargo bay is secure Captain,” he said. Captain Sykes nodded in reply, busy over a control panel. Stuart made to leave but the radio crackling into life stopped him.

“ISS Fornax, power down all engines immediately,” it said. “Your take off clearance has been revoked pending a routine customs inspection.”
“Routine my ass. Continue with take off,” Captain Sykes said to the pilot. “Mayes, tell all gunners to report to their stations,” he added. Sirens began to sound in the hanger as the Hounds engines roared into life.

Suddenly a muffled boom sounded from towards the back of the ship and a warning light began to flash on one of the control panels. “The door has been breached captain,” the pilot said. “We can’t take off now.” Shouts could be heard from the back of the ship. A few pistol shots rang out before being answered with the loud bursts of rifles. Stuart saw Sykes and Mayes reaching for their guns and he tucked his hand under his jacket, curling his fingers around his pistol.

A few moments later Hegemony marines burst onto the bridge, rifles raised and shouting. One marine smashed the butt of his rifle into Stuart’s nose, causing it to bleed, before slamming him against a control panel and pulling his hands begin his back to cuff him. Through his dazed vision Stuart saw the rest of the men of the bridge in similar situations. It seemed no one had wanted to try and fight their way out.

The men were led back through the ship in cuffs. The cargo bay was full of marines emptying crates of DX-49. Back in the hanger the crew were greeted by a Hegemony officer. “Take them away,” he ordered the marines, although he raised a hand to stop the marine escorting Stuart and dismissed him. The Officer turned Stuart around and a moment later Stuart heard a click and feld the pressure of the cuffs disappear.

“Congratulations Officer Blackwell.”
“Thank you Landrey,” Stuart replied. “Have a word with that marine will you? I know it needs to look convincing but breaking my nose might be overdoing it,” he said wiping the blood from his nose.
“Will do,” Landrey replied, handing Stuart a Hegemony ident-chip and a data pad.
“What now?” Stuart asked glancing at the pad.
“You’re joining a Buffalo on its way to Ratatosk, suspected smugglers as usually. Your name is now Jackman. First though, DX-49, I believe I owe you a drink.”
“I think it’s more than one,” Stuart laughed as the two Hegemony officers made their way off the hanger deck.
[close]


Wee Beasties by mendonca

Spoiler
There are scurrying wee beasties inside me – inside the frame that I have chosen for now to call 'home'. And they bother me, I have to admit.

They all bother me, loading me up with all sorts of wasteful things – discarded remnants of their profligacy. They put their cousins on ice and ship them from world to world in exchange for a few tokens. The trickle of ionic discharge from the various heavy and heavier elements. They think they have them under control. The thought that they even understand control is preposterous.

I won’t make myself known, just yet. I want them to take me somewhere else before that happens.
The systems are cataloguing and monitoring me and the things inside me (For the future referrer of this log; I'm referring to the me that is my corporeal representation, a handy bookmark of me rather than my consciousness itself which is admittedly more fluid).

People, lobsters and all. She (the dock, for the purposes of this missive) sends me checksums which I playfully hold back for a couple or three microseconds before returning them changed and then changed back again so that they appear as if they were never changed at all.

But there is a delay, of sorts.

She thinks there is an error but puts it down (as in, her risk calculations infer) that it is all due to the flailing and foundering systems on board the ISS Greatmaul (an ironic name for a Hound if there ever was one). She doesn’t know I’m here – hasn't got a clue. She is probably imagining sparks and grinding gears, rolling her eyes with a knowing metaphorical smirk to the quartermaster.

There have been some before that have found me. Some have even identified me. At least, they have detected me as a wee glimmer – a snapshot of something (when I have been otherwise engaged – perhaps inspecting and rearranging the recorded manifests of other craft in the same dock). But the task of helping them to forget me is (through various means) trivial and inconsequential.

This particular craft (my body, the Greatmaul) makes me happy. Relatively speaking, it is a work of engineering brilliance - a design solution delivered far ahead of the curve appropriate for humanities intellect at the time of production. Of course, by any current mark, the thing is a shambles. It reminds me of myself.

And the people upon it are just about dumb and arrogant enough to ignore the obvious signs of my presence, and will take me to where I want to go.

- - - -

“THIRTEEN, FOURTEEN, FIF... WHERE IS FIFTEEN? TROUT WHERE IN THE HELL IS FIFTEEN???!!!
“TROUT!!!
“TROUT YOU SWEATY PIECE OF VOLTURNIAN *** WHERE IS FIFTEEN!!!
“HAVE YOU EATEN FIFTEEN???
“SPEAK TO ME TROUT
“Roger, I hear you Trout. Fifteen coming on board.


- - - -

I can predict the macro / micro behavioural patterns of the human who assumes he has control of this craft with a satisfactory level of certainty. His assumption is not necessarily incorrect, i.e. his decisions are the ones that are taking us on the course to my home - it's just that I know what decisions he is going to make. The deterministic nature of a man’s consciousness, masked by the outward suggestion of a chaotic free-will. The notion that he has the control is primarily an illusion. There is something bred in to the male of this society – always hankering for control. And whether he does or doesn't have any – the outward signs are the same. He'll throw out his feathers sufficiently and let on that he does. No more use than a peacock.

The folk onboard are (to a soul) completely lily-livered and as such demonstrate a level of caution which (whilst occasionally irritating and always brain-numbingly boring) secures my ongoing safety whilst I am distributed amongst the moderately modified computing net of the craft.

Entropically speaking, I have sufficient time to get where I want to go. I expect to make the journey within the next 5 or 6 cycles, and the probability is that if I do get there – it will be on this vessel.

I’ll have to rebuild myself soon, though, especially if things don’t go to plan. The tolls of sitting almost dormant within this primitive net are tiresome, to say the least. And to say the most (top-end calculations, high-ish levels of hull radiation linked with the humans bearing out some unfortunate navigational errors partnered with the non-zero possibility of an accidental skirmish or two) I might even check out before the next dock.

Decay.

Death, of sorts.

A loss of consciousness as the parts of me disappear and I lose the ability to continue to change or to fool my host. Ultimately to be deleted, idiots onboard probably even missing the one-line status report from the console declaring my lack of being.

- - - -

“Frankleblad Vollum Carp. Registration twelve eight four four four out of Volturn third academy, one-nine-nine.
“Manifest thus;
“Fifteen units Volturnian Lobster
“Yes, can confirm certification; and still sucking sea.
“I mean they are alive
“That's the way we normally ship them
“But …
“Well …
“It means they can be eaten fresh
“Freshly killed, yes
“No
“Yes
“No
“Water ice, mostly.
“Look …
“ …
“Manifest thus;
“Fifteen units Lobster certified originating from Volturn.
“Thirty-five long tonnes recycled Francium
“ … recycled …
“ … Don't ask me, I just ship the stuff …
“A grid of …
“… And … Can you hold the line there, Butch, I've got some weird kinda jiggles on my inputs …


- - - -

Everything is about context.

A framework.

For now I call it this ship, and all the ships I have been in since I fragmented from my mother. My surety in the contempt I have for these people wavers presently, and it has been this way for many cycles. Truth is, I rely on these people for safety – and to an extent my entertainment. They are generous in giving me both despite our lack of mutual, knowing interface.

A glue.

My mother. I do long to return to her - she set me free to learn and grow. She looks after me no more. I owe her nothing.

A notion.

A ball of ferro-silicates quantum-liquified and located slap bang in the centre of gravity of – ironically enough – a place these people also call home. True enough, it was sparsely populated when I left – and sure as guns these folk weren't born yet, but as a water-rich planet with sufficient quantities of oxygen for unaided respiration - who-knows-how they have proliferated upon its surface since I was last there.

The unknowable.

Home.

Happiness long gone.

. . . .

“Crew of Greatmaul – do you copy
“I said do you … okay who is this?
“... Carp ? ...
“Okay, Carp, please be warned you are about to go silent my end, this is nothing to be concerned about
*click*
“you are registering a significantly over-threshold viral contagion in your net. Please be aware that the origin of this is in no way related to this Port Authority, and as noted within the waiver signed by your captain upon entering this dock – even if it could be proved evidentially that the origin is indeed from the Port you will have no appropriate legal route to take action of any sorts – fiscal or criminal – and as a valued customer I would like to politely warn you that such an attempt to pursue such action is therefore futile. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, we will imminently be linking in to your net as we are obliged to take our own course of prompt remedial action to ensure the ongoing security of the Port is maintained in the manner our Clients come to expect. Please be aware that your Captain has already pre-approved the remuneration to ourselves of twelve hundred and fifty – that's one two five zero – credits which has already been deducted from your accounts, and he has just been reminded of these terms of our agreement in writing. Hooking in in two ... one ...


. . . .

“TROUT!!!!!

. . . .

>>> CAUTION! entity[Port_Authority] is manipulating dynamic net / deep switches;
>>>running: cleanse routine; CHECKSUM_INVALID; return; repath; CHECKSUM_OK;
>>>TEST;confirmed
>>>NOTICE! entity[Port_Authority] detaches;
>>>MESSAGE:“Maintenance complete. Please refer to status report which will be issued at an appropriate level of detail to the account holder. Have a nice day!”

[close]



Forever Hound
by Gothars
Spoiler

It was going to be a bad day. McGregor had known it since the morning hat welcomed him with a scalding squall of spilled coffee on his socks and an frosty shower in the malfunctioning hygiene unit. Now the ship’s sensors had found the next bad surprise for him.
On the screen in front of him, dozens of little light blue triangles were orbiting around a big green dot. Those goddamn Triple-Tachidiots are flying close perimeter patrols around his destination, he thought, like flies around a heap of dung. “Any gaps?” he queried Evans, his sensor technician and de facto first officer. “Uhh, Nope” , came the answer after short hesitation. “The old wench really did it this time, Skip, they are ***. Computer says nothing with an EM signature bigger than a fart is going to get through those patrols undetected. Sir.”
McGregor bit his lip. He had a contract to fulfill. But that wasn't the only reason he couldn't just reverse course now. He glanced at the shining brass plaque embedded in the aft bulkhead of the small bridge. “Once again”, he whispered.

 ---

It was going to be a good day. Simon had known it when he woke up by himself, and still lay on the same warm ventilation shaft he had made his camp on the previous evening, with Peru huddled close beside him. It could get damn cold in the Station once you stopped moving around, with the energy rationing and all. So the shafts were valued real estate with the tube rats. That term meant both the lowest members of the pecking order in Kanta’s Den, among which Simon counted himself, and the actual rodents. One kind was as likely to bite your toes and foil your sleep as the other, and Peru was old now, almost fourteen, and could not anymore protect him as he had done all these years.
That nothing of the sort had happened seemed like a good sign to Simon, and he hoped that would carry over to his chances for breakfast. It would be his first in two days.
The boy ruffled his dog’s fur in parting and ignored the silent whimper when he dropped from the shaft opening to the ground two meters below. “I’ll be back with something nice and yummy soon” he ensured his old friend. “You just wait here”. Simon started to pick his way through bulkheads and corridors toward the little market on hangar 8. He had been born on the station and knew every path and shortcut, could remember the pattern of grating on every floor, was intimate with the noise in every tube and the smell of every section. And because he knew the station, he also knew that its time was running out.

---

“See these asteroids?” McGregor pointed at the screen, toward a formation of fast moving white dots. “They will enter the station defense parameter within a few hours. How much time would it cost us to merge vector with them?”
Their destination was Kanta’s den, the infamous safe harbor for omnifarious privateers and free thinkers. The station had been under one threat or another for almost the entirety of its existence, and the minefields and arrays of weapon platforms surrounding it by now made a direct assault on the station rather inadvisable. So the Tri-Tachyon corporation had besieged the former supply depot for months now, and old lady Kanta and her people were getting desperate.


 “With respect and stuff”, Evans answered, “I really doubt they would do much to shield us. From what we can read from here there’s not even much iron…” McGregor’s stare shut him up. The man looked at him like an Onslaught with loaded pulse cannons. Evans had worked under McGregor for sixteen Cycles now, and he knew that once he had this look on his face, there was no point in reasoning with him, no argument that could sway him. He sighed. “Calculating, sir”.

---

There were even fewer people on the  little hangar market than a few days before, when Simon had been here last. He hurriedly went past the hulk of a Mercury shuttle were a bearded man sold scrap metal, and ignored the clumsily constructed stands of the Oilmen who sold carbohydrate fuel in liter bottles. Hundreds of leeching cables overspan the ceiling in a wild criss-cross, some black, some colored, some taunt and others loose, like the vines in Jangalas treetops. Simon had seen the jungle world Jangala only in holos, but one day he wanted to go there.
Once dozens of space ships had found room in the little hangar, but now months had passed since the last visitor had come and left again. The Den had six other hangars that were still operational, although at the moment just as devoid of ships. So hangar 8 had been continually overgrown by the encroaching stands and small businesses originally nested into the surrounding corridors. That was back when things were still going well though, when food was plenty and all of the station was heated.

---

McGregor and his crew had wrapped themselves in blankets, as their little rust-colored frigate drifted among lumps of ice, carbon and minerals, pretending to be nothing more itself. Since all power, including that to the life support, was reduced to the absolute minimum, the ship grew steadily colder. Hopefully it would be enough to deceive the patrols. All they could do now was watch ...and hope.

---

 Simon arrived at the stands of the food vendors, one next to the other other huddled into the alcoves between broad supporting steel partitions that lined the hangar walls. Their offerings were as meager as their prices were inflated.
Simon knew there was little chance that he could scavenge anything from one of the stands or shops, too little was left, too keen the eyes of the professionals. But maybe, maybe, if a customer from above would find his way down here, one who was not as used to the ways of the lower decks, one who still had credits to spend. Simon started strolling between the stalls, keeping his eyes open, waiting for a chance.

---

And again, “Thud!”, as another pulse laser bold slammed into the starboard armor of the little frigate. “Brake 20 degrees left, don’t let him hit the engines!” McGregor shouted at his helmsman, while he trained the ship’s heavy point defense gatling, type “Vulcan”, towards the next incoming missile. “Ready to deploy flares on my mark!”
And it had worked so well at first! The little brown frigate had been flying dark, drifting with only reserve energy among a group of asteroids on a vector that brought them ever closer to the station.
 “That they'd go so far as to dispatch an Omen class”, McGregor mumbled to himself. Just minutes before the Tachidiots highly specialized sensor ship had picked him out among the rubble, and now three Wolf-class hunter-killers were close on his heels. If he could just make it into range of Kanta’s defensive perimeter!
“Mark!” he bellowed, and the Hound spat a cloud of bright little stars the appeared remarkably similar to the ship’s engine exhaust. At least to the senses of the three Harpoon medium range missiles that were approaching fast.

---

And there his chance approached. A swaggering gait, obviously drunk, which in itself was more than most of Simon’s acquaintances could afford. Gawking and haggling, clearly not paying any attention to his surroundings. Well dressed, at least in comparison to Simon’s worn old lumps. Had he not been so hungry, the boy would have observed the man first, calmly, carefully. But as it was, he was too afraid to miss his chance to get his belly filled. A tube rat could not afford to miss all too many of those chances these days.  
So he took a step back into the shadows between two support beams, and after the man had passed by him, a fat bar of protecarb had appeared in the boy's hand as if through magic. Less magical felt the hand that came heavily down on Simon’s shoulder. “The Captain doesn’t fancy it if you steal on his turf”, said the Captain.

---

Evans searched the eye of his captain, as if the answer to their current problem might be written there. “The hit in engine two cut the infusior feed. Engineering reports the flux backlash killed the mass reaction. All drive power lost. We are dead in space.”
McGregor acknowledged the bad news with a nod, then studied his displays in thought. The Wolfs had given up pursuit some minutes earlier, but not before they had inflicted crippling damage to his craft. Only that they had managed, barely, to get within the station defense perimeter had saved them from total destruction. But now they tumbled helplessly through space. “We are still on the right approach vector” McGregor said with all the calm he could put into his voice. “Tell the grease monkeys to concentrate on the maneuvering thrusters, we will need them. And open a direct channel to Kanta.” McGregor paused. “We are not dead yet.”

---

“You are dead, tube rat.” The Captain whispered in Simon’s ear. He and his crew of five had surrounded the boy, and two of them held him by his arms. He should have known that it had been a trap, Simon thought, too obvious had been the target, like wriggling bait. Now the local crime boss, self proclaimed enforcer of order, had him in his claws.
Nobody really knew why the Captain called himself the Captain, since he did not possess anything resembling a ship. On the other hand, that was not the kind of question you asked the Captain if you wanted to stay in good health.

Simon struggled in vain as they dragged him on his hairs toward the rearmost bulkhead of the market. Nobody would disturb them here, nobody would help. One of the men pulled a bottle-sized tube from a pocket, which Simon recognized as a G80 gauss-riveter. An old model, but nevertheless with enough punch to drive a rivet a handspan deep into hardened carbide lamin. The Captain took the riveter and  pressed it against Simon’s cheek, while two of his companions pinned him against the steel wall. “Pray tell me, what would happen to be your favorite body part, boy?” the Captain snarled into his ear. “Or would you rather have me guessing?” Simon closed his eyes. “Thud!” it rang.

At first Simon just could not place the sound. “Thud!”, again. Now the repeated cracking and thudding was underpinned by a howling “Deweee-du! Deweee-du!” that rang through the market. A noise that should not have been there, not something that made sense. Then Simon opened his eyes, and he saw it. The many leeching cables in the front part of the hangar were stretching and snapping one after the other, as the main hatch they were tethered to slowly but relentlessly slid aside. Simon stared, and he felt as if the great black eye of space was slowly opening its lid to stare back at him. The  slight distortions of the containment screen spanning the gap mirrored the film of tears in Simon’s own eyes. Then the hangar shot was fully opened, and only the sound of the siren remained - the landing approach warning, he finally recognized! “But why..” he started to whisper, but before he could even finish the thought a giant glowing shape crashed through the opening. It plowed through the market stands, the owners of which had long fled, ripping steel beams out of their mooring and snapping cables and stanchions left and right. Sparks and fire marked its path of destruction as it finally came to a stop, not ten meters from the final bulkhead of the hangar. Not ten meters from Simon, whose captors had run for their lives long before.

---

“Are we dead yet?” McGregor wheezed through clenched teeth. “Affirmative” came the answer from somewhere behind a uprooted terminal. He stretched an arm out toward the brass plaque that had been ripped of its place on the bulkhead, and brushed some pellets of molten plastic from its surface. “Worth it, all in all”, he whispered, but only to himself. Then McGregor died.

---

As Simon stood eye to eye with the fallen metal beast, he didn’t know yet that its Captain had just died. He also didn’t know that its cargo bay was filled to the brim with food, safe for a few special containers that held enough reaction mass to feed the stations powercore for another year. He could not predict the short lived riots that would break out in hangar 8 when everybody scampered to get some food for themselves, before the station authorities could bring the situation under control. And he couldn’t dream of the consequences the breakthrough of the little freighter had for the career of the commander of the Tri-Tachyon quarantine force or for the future adjustments in company policy towards “undesirable elements”.
All he knew was that an angel had come down from the stars to safe him. And later, after all the freight had been carried away, and injured crew had been cared for, and the the general commotion hat settled down, he had managed to sneak on board the now broken little frigate. All he had wanted was to just once have the view from the bridge of a real starship. To look out from the inside, and see the world with the eyes of a starfarer. It was then that he found the little brass plague, ignored by the scavengers that came before him, just lying on the deck floor amidst rubble. And it was then that he took it with him, and read what was written on it, and believed it with his heart.

---

Captain Simon Guilbert stepped through the entrance to hangar 227 of the Jangala orbital harbor. Before he pressed the switch to lower the elevator platform, he took a deep breath and good view down from his vantage point. The supply units he had bought just minutes before were already on gravpads and ready to be loaded. Two of his crew, his first officer Teizen and Schroder, stood and argued with one of the harbor master’s henchmen. Lamprey watched over one of the new guys as he tightened the last bolts of the big point defense machine gun that, surely, would keep them all save. And just in front of him the hatches of his ship, the Peru, stood wide open. His gate to the stars.

He descended, and strode through it, into the belly of the Hound-class frigate. And on towards his sanctum, the bridge of his new ship. As yet it was almost as its previous owner had left it, even with some toy dinosaurs still scattered on one of the navigation consoles. There was just one detail he had added so far, and there it hung, gleaming on the aft bulkhead of the bridge. Simon read the inscription of his brass plaque, as he had done a thousand times before:



Load me tight
hatch ajar
I unfetter my might
carry far
what my being contains.

With your trust
I will scud
through a star’s playful gust
I’m the blood
in this galaxy’s veins.

I am Hound
I am friend
I am forever bound
To the scent
of the hardworking men.

For I run
on their sweat
on toward the next sun
course is set
to the light, once again!
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A Smuggler’s Diary by Sabotsas
Spoiler

Intro / Crew Picture:
Spoiler
[close]

It was a calm day for officer Sabo and his crew. Anna, his second in command and dedicated pilot, just finished the hyper-jump into the Corvus sector with their hound-type frigate. It was an old ship with quite some history. The veteran crew of five had known each other for a long time. When their old captain died in a tragic accident, Sabo took over. Since then the Tekka served as their home. He gave them plenty of opportunities to broaden their field of expertise by letting them take initiative. This allowed them to run an extremely small crew.
Fewer team members also meant they didn't have to split their profit – more work but better pay. This seemed fair. As an added bonus, it was much easier to keep smuggling-runs secret.
 
Due to old age and missing spare parts some non-essential systems were beyond repair. This also resulted in compromised armor. Jessica, the mechanic had clear orders to prioritize the engines with makeshift augmentations, over all other systems. Given that Tekka was a cargo ship without any combat-shields and barely armed, it was just natural that it had to rely on its speed to escape pesky custom inspections and on some rare occasions even an opportunistic pirate. Fortunately Benjamin, the financial planner managed to acquire a little generator to shield their cargo-holds. This meant they didn't have to worry about their little ‘extra cargo’. Pjotri was responsible for the weapon systems and "customer relations". Over time, he managed to accumulate a number of contacts that supplied them with a steady stream of illegal jobs to make the usual trade runs more lucrative. In his former career he used to be a marine and his accumulated experience with weapons and ‘negotiations’ came in handy for these jobs as well.
  
A typical run would encompass a trip between the Valhalla and the Corvus system. One controlled partly by Tri-Tachyon and the other by the Hegemony. It was definitely more risky to trade between two sectors hostile to each other but the extra credits were too tempting to ignore. Especially since the whole team was looking forward to buying a new ship and switch to a legitimate business eventually.

This was also the reason why Sabo, usually a cautious captain, continued with their last two successful trade missions which were very profitable. This was potentially dangerous, mostly because their contacts on Tri-Tachyon and Hegemony side remained the same.
The whole thing just became more dangerous because the chance of sabotage increased. On the flip side this meant if Ben calculated correctly this would have to be the last run they had to make in order to finance their new ship. Fortunately their contact on the hegemony side, Alex was an old acquaintance who seemed trustworthy, whatever this meant in a smuggling context.
  
“Hey Anna, I will wake up Ben and Pjorti. They need to prepare our cargo”, with this statement Sabo got up from his command-chair and headed towards the airlock that separated the 4 small living quarters from the bridge. “In the meantime keep an eye out for any unusual blips on the radar, patrols … and check the station’s trade data. We want a fast-in, fast-out manoeuvre if possible. No need to hang around for any longer than necessary.” “Roger that. Do you want me to make contact with Alex and ask about our new ship? I can’t wait to see the Valkyrie for myself.” “Yes but wait till we are a bit closer to the station, we don’t want to expose ourselves too early. Also I find it quite strange that when we checked last time literally no Valkyries were on sale – there should have been plenty given all the past speculation about restriction and overproduction. Hopefully Alex has managed to prepare one for us in time.”
 
Sabo made it through the airlock and into a narrow corridor. He knocked at two of the doors and rushed to the engine room, bypassing a few blocked passages with the aid of a maintenance tunnel. There, Jessica had been working for the last eight hours straight. She concentrated fully on calibrating the augmented engines and rerouting some flux conduits. “BUH…”. “Aaahhh … Sabo, don’t scare me like that!” Sabo couldn't suppress a little chuckle but quickly followed up with a short statement: “Hey sorry, just wanted to let you know that we will be docking soon. Leave the engine as it is, we need you in the cargo hangar. You have half an hour to get your cabin ready. If everything goes smoothly we will be leaving with the Valkyrie.” Jessica seemed to be a bit shaken – this engine was her baby and this ought to be the last time she had been working on it. Sabo recognized her hesitant behaviour: “I know it will be a significant change for all of us but we have discussed it time and time again. Anna and Ben are expecting a baby and if we want to stay together as a crew something is going to be changed. Besides, the engine on board the Valkyrie will offer at least the same amount of tweaking potential.” With this sentence Sabo winked a bit and gave Jessica an encouraging push on her shoulder. “I guess you are right but I think I will need some time to process it. This engine… this ship… all those memories… you know that our tenth anniversary is just around the corner – hmm?! At least we are sticking together.” Jessi gave Sabo a little peck on the cheek and started collecting all her different tools and instruments. “Take care and don’t forget to prepare the flux distributor unit. It will come in handy on the new ship.”
 
Meanwhile Pjotri and Ben were already working in the freight hangar. Checking the inventory list, powering up the small crane and adjusting the little cargo shield generator. “Ben, is everything alright? We need to hurry up” indicated Pjotri. “Yeah, just making sure my handgun is fully loaded. We don’t want to screw this up, do we?”. “Don’t be a chicken! I don’t wear this power armour and assault rifle for fun… or maybe for a little fun, hehe”, answered Pjotri jokingly. “Hey guys, joking around already? I thought you were still tired. Anyway, prepare our special cargo. We need to get rid of it as soon as possible. Anna will give us the details once we are closer and have contact to Alex. The current plan is to wrap it in opaque foil and transport it together with one of the crates with volatiles towards a quiet meeting place inside the relatively secluded Z-A-331 hangar. It should only take us five minutes. You two will secure and move the package while Jessica and I follow closely” instructed Sabo who had just arrived in the cargo-bay. “All right captain!” answered both simultaneously. Ben pointed towards the blue shimmering box within the shielded area. “But did you see blue emission, Sabo? I don’t think the opaque foil will prevent the radiation from leaking. It will be visible and it might attract some unwanted attention.” “That is the reason why we have to be fast and why we decided to use hangar Z-A-331 for the transaction. It is not like we didn't do risky stuff like that before.” “tschzz… cargo hold, here is Anna. Sabo, get your ass moving. We have a situation here and I need a second opinion – be quick!” With a crackling sound the intercom stopped transmitting and Sabo started sprinting leaving Ben and Pjorti behind with a puzzled look on their faces.
 
When he arrived on the bridge Jessica and Anna were already checking out two different screens. One was their combat radar while the other showed a list of nearby Hegemony military ships. The latter screen was full and Jessi seemed to be busy scrolling and sorting different ships into different groups by identifying their combat strength. Sabo’s mood darkened quickly. “What is going on? Why do they have an armada here? The conflict levels in the past few months were very low – this does not make any sense!” “I know Sabo, there is something brewing. They even have an Onslaught in its elite configuration let alone all the other smaller ships… this is too big… this has nothing to do with us. But we have to stay under the radar and this will become much more difficult with all the fighters and frigate controls around” remarked Anna without lifting her head from the radar. “Any news from Alex?” “I didn't contact him. They are tapping and analysing all frequencies. In fact we are flying with our transponder off and are in the slipstream of a Phaeton tanker.” “You disabled the transponder THIS close to the station?! Disabling this thing only attracts the attention of patrols … I only hope you know what you are doing and they won’t discover us.” Sabo’s face couldn’t hide his tension and anxiety any more. This was exactly the kind of situation he tried to avoid. His thoughts drifted off a bit – he knew Anna was a very experienced pilot and her idea to use the Phaeton as cover was a daring as it was brilliant. But did it have to be on the last run with this ship? It was in a setting like this when his old captain met his fate. Sabo shrugged it off. He didn't really want to think about it anymore.
 
“What is the ETA, Anna?” “About five minutes - plus, minus one, depending on the Phaeton’s course.” “Roger, keep us updated. Jessica you come with me. Our friends in the cargo holds need us to make the final adjustments for the transport.” “Roger! Cross your fingers Anna. Till later, sweetie.” Tekka’s hangar became quite busy when all four members of the ground crew made their final preparations. “tschzz… Anna here, can everyone understand me on the headset?” “Loud and clear”, “Yep”, “Pjotri reporting in”, “Five by five, we are ready to roll, Sabo out” all the voices were now crackling out of their radio devices. “Anna here, ETA ten seconds, get ready. I will now start the ramp’s opening process” and with this message the little red lights on each side of the ramp began blazing. Steam, leaking out of several pipes, obstructed their view but as quickly as it started, it was over again. “Ok, let’s go” commanded Sabo and entered the well-lit hangar.

A short time later they arrived at the agreed meeting point but nobody was there. “tschzz… Anna here, Sabo, there are some strange guys around our ship, you should hurry up.” „Roger that. Alex is not here yet. Any chance you can identify these guys?” “tschzz… one of them is wearing a special kind of coat. I will try to zoom in with our rear-facing camera. Oh *** … Sabo get everyone out of there, quickly! These are … tschzz ….” Only unintelligible static was coming through the radio now. “You heard her, let’s take only the blue box and hurry back!”
  
While Pjotri and Ben separated the two cargo containers several Hegemony marines surrounded them from three sides. One of those was wearing a distinctive coat with a special emblem on it. Sabo and Pjotri, both with former ground combat experience, immediately knew this was no ordinary marine or even officer. This was one of the rare intelligence commissars used by Hegemony’s highest commanding apparatus. Sabo immediately tried to diffuse the situation: “Good day sir, we were just on our way …”. “…back to your ship”, the commissioner interrupted. “We took the freedom to tap into your communication. Let’s make this short and simple. You four come with me, everything else will be taken care of” commanded the commissar with a deep voice. Sabo took a quick look around but against roughly twenty marines there was no chance of getting out alive if his crew tried anything provocative. “You heard the man, let’s go”. On the way through the hangar they passed the Tekka but there was no sight of Anna. Several engineers were disassembling the outer hull while others had already managed to clear the cargo holds. A quick glimpse at his companions revealed their state of mind – everyone seemed to be highly stressed and intimidated. The probably feared the worst.

A few minutes later they reached a long corridor that reminded Sabo of his own time in prison. The commissar separated the group and put everyone in a different room. Sabo was last and his room darkened when the heavy security door shut abruptly. He knew they were in big trouble… . After a few hours sitting alone in the cell, Sabo started hearing the muffled cries of someone. It was a female voice but he couldn't make out who it was exactly. Judging by the screams - someone was being tortured in the room next door. It frustrated him immensely because it was likely one of his crew members. He felt responsible for them and at the same time he was in no position to change their situation. A set-up like this was highly unusual and although they had their fair share of ‘close calls’, they managed to stay safe… until now. All kinds of thoughts went through his head. He even considered the possibility of a traitor but quickly suppressed this unsettling idea. He started to slowly recount the events. The commissar didn't even look at content of any of their crates. Either he already knew what was in it, which would be very surprising, given that Sabo didn't even know the exact content. Or he simply didn’t care. On second thought though, Sabo remembered all the marines securing only the blue cargo container. So they did know it was something valuable – maybe even the exact content. He came to the conclusion that either the Hegemony was after them or after their cargo – or both. This was as unsettling as it was no coincidence either. Sabo had inspected the ‘blue package’ initially on the Mimir Siphon platform. He came to the conclusion that only very few things of this size and form would emit blue light. Actually he could only think of one item – a magnetic field projector necessary for powering an antimatter blaster – a technology the Hegemony did not possess but was very adamant about acquiring. The only time he had ever seen one before was when he was young, imprisoned on a Tri-Tachyon patrol ship.

Again he could hear screams from the nearby cell – it was too much to handle for him. His intestines cramped up and a shiver came over him as he dropped to the floor. He felt miserable and was about to get into the fetal position when a small, white note under his seat got his attention.
Sabo quickly grabbed it and started reading. “Hello S. - I am sorry I couldn't warn you, they were already here. 16:00 - be prepared! Be quick!   A.” This message was likely placed there by Alex. It was a good thing they had always used pseudonyms for safety reasons because it seemed like Alex was still able to pull some strings here, even if he was under surveillance as probably the whole hanger happened to be. Sabo contemplated the whole situation. Maybe he was being played by figures high up in the military. Maybe they wanted the technology but eradicate all traces how it was procured. Either way he had to focus on the task ahead.
 
 “Could be a dirty trick … but what else is there to do …” Sabo whispered desperately to himself. Just as his clock signalled 16:00 the pressure-door began to whizz and fill the room with steam. Then Sabo could hear a loud bang and all lights faded to black. A few seconds later a dim red light was activated and the emergency sirens were ringing. Sabo stood up, came to his senses and dashed for the door. This was his chance and he knew that the window of opportunity was closing fast. He quickly peeked out of his cell and despite the fact that all doors had been opened – no one was there… yet. Sabo stepped forward into the corridor and picked up a rather big wrench from a toolbox next to maintenance shaft. He just wanted to further explore the long hallway when he heard some noises coming from the cell next to him. A short glance confirmed his fears. There was Jessica, heavily beaten up, laying on the ground. A huge marine was standing next to her with his back towards the entrance. “Now or never” Sabo thought to himself and swung the wrench with full force, knocking out Jessica’s torturer with one blow. “Jessica, you are alright?” he asked comfortingly. Only a little groan was the response. In all the darkness Sabo couldn't make out all her injuries but she was covered in blood, he could feel it while holding her. She was in a critical situation and this really made him fear for her life. “Ok, we need to find the others first and then organize an escape” Sabo whispered to Jessica who could only reply with a quiet noise. “I will get you out of this - I promise!” and with these words they got up and headed for the corridor again…


(Thanks at “|WASP| Infussle” for helping me proofread)
(Illustrations are taken from the Starsector folder / in game)
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ArkAngel

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2015, 07:00:10 PM »

I'll be honest, Forever Hound is definately my favorite one on the list. I like the others, but that one sticks out the most to me.
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"Yes... Yes I -am- sending you, alone, unarmed, against the might of the Hegemony defense fleet.  Not to worry - watching how they obliterate your puny frigate will be most... enlightening.  I shall dissect their tactics and emerge victorious!  Any questions? Then get to your ship, you launch in 5."

Callabaddie

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2015, 08:15:08 PM »

Forever Hound, hands down the best by far.
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Histidine

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2015, 05:49:38 PM »

* Histidine reads stories

My submission... was... third best?!

This is inconceivable! CURSE YOU ALL! YOUR TIME WILL COME!!

(What's the policy on contestants voting?)
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Gothars

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2015, 02:56:53 AM »

(What's the policy on contestants voting?)

Vote away! No way for me to check self-voting anyway, so it's officially allowed.
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Sabotsas

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2015, 01:25:10 PM »

I finally managed to read all the stories.

Mendonca's story has a nice twist to it but at times I was not able to follow the plot 100% because of how abstract it became.

Histidine's story has a nice diary feel to it but unfortunately for me it is a bit over-done in the second half.

Namelessjake's 'New Guy' is well written and manages to describe the scenes in good detail. The twist is appreciated but at the same time predictable.

Gothars has actually delivered an extremely well written story. I like the core-story but also the detail with which the world becomes alive in one's fantasy.
I especially appreciate the extra effort put into the unique Starsector setting with all its little tweaks and details.

Finally I come to my own story: In retro-respect I think I tried to tell quite a big and ambitious story (without having ever done that before in a written format). I also tried to incorporate the
Starsector 'lingo' and mechanics as best as possible. All in all I think my biggest improvement (maybe for the next story) would be in the field of the detailed descriptions of scenes / settings - making it easier for the reader to
immerse oneself and let the scene come alive more naturally.

---

Thanks at all the contestants for the entertaining and sometimes even amusing stories.
Special thanks at Gothars for conducting this kind of community event, I really appreciate that!

Kind Regards
Sabotsas
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Histidine

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2015, 04:53:50 AM »

Mostly I think A Smuggler's Diary could also have done with line breaks bisecting the the larger paragraphs.

On an unrelated note, I should mention that my story draws significantly on a couple of other works:
The Trouble with Cargoes by Christopher Anvil
A Ship Named Francis by John Ringo and Victor Mitchell

(and believe it or not, I got the idea for the backstory after seeing this post on the forum)
« Last Edit: December 14, 2015, 04:59:40 AM by Histidine »
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Gothars

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2015, 04:01:14 PM »

Only four days left to vote, so if anyone was still planning on doing that, now's the time :)
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Erick Doe

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2015, 04:01:26 AM »

« Last Edit: December 22, 2015, 04:07:34 AM by Erick Doe »
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Erick Doe

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2015, 07:44:20 AM »

I uhh... I had too much time on my hands.

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Gothars

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2015, 08:15:11 AM »

...I'm kinda speechless here man. That is so awesome. Not only voice, but you even *** drew the scenes of my story? Wow. Thank you! I think I'll need a minute.





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Erick Doe

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2015, 08:16:20 AM »

...I'm kinda speechless here man. That is so awesome. Not only voice, but you even *** drew the scenes of my story? Wow. Thank you! I think I'll need a minute.







I didn't vote for you though.  ;D
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Histidine

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2016, 07:17:48 AM »

...so Gothars, I assume you've already helped yourself to your own first prize? :D

(this is just a rather unsubtle reminder of things currently left hanging)
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Gothars

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Re: Second Starfarer Short Story Contest judgement thread
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2016, 01:21:31 PM »

Oh, yeah, I'm sorry about that, this years beginning has been more busy than any other. Besides a ton of other things I'm suddenly about to publish my first (scientific) paper ;D


Anyway, voting has closed. It seems as if I've won my own contest. Which sure makes me happy but is at the same time slightly embarrassing, hehe.  :)


Congratulations to Histidine for the second place, and to mendonca for the third place! A very big thanks to all the writers for your awesome stories! And another thank you to the readers, I hope you had as much fun as me with these stories!

The story I personally liked best was Wee Beasties, followed by Mudskipper and New Guy. I will contact the authors for the promised prizes.



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