compass atop a bowl of roasted coffee beans set inside gold laurels Tomasius Space

Ex dubium scientia. From doubt [comes] knowledge.

Star Citizen

Port-lit, metallic, Star Citizen Logo comprising a single cruciform star encapsulated by a wreath and set between the words STAR and CITIZEN

Star Systems
In-system view of a O-Type Main Sequence Star

Space Trials
Shuttle Class space ship

Cutter Class space ship

ASW Frigate Class space ship

Endurance Cutter Class space ship

Heavy Ordinance Endurance Cutter Class space ship

Life in Overlap

Technical Requirements
Starboard-lit, metallic, Star Citizen Logo comprising a single cruciform star encapsulated by a wreath and set betewen the words STAR and CITIZEN

Due Diligence

What is an RPG?
It all began with pen and paper

Gaming Concepts
USB Iconography

Gaming Psychology
Neural network node showing connective reinforcement

The Hurston Job


A Shameless Plagiarism:

It was a rough and restless dusk. Garbage and grit blew in stinking clouds; even more obnoxious than the usual miasma, for it is in Lorville that an equally distasteful mystery lays concealed. And what better place to discourage a thorough investigation? Metal sulphides, within the grit, would sting and blind the eyes of the unwary; further obscuring ones vision in the deepening darkness of the burgeoning night. Overwhelming every soft sound; the hiss of windblown grit against plastic, steel, sapphire glass and anything else exposed in the night. Meanwhile, a louder racket arose from trapped plastic sheeting, whipping back and forth in the gale, while empty plastic bottles and other light garbage cracked and clopped against anything upright while the wind howled through cables and guy lines.

In the rising cacophony, a singular, pristine thought stirred from it’s slumber.

Most livable city in the universe, my arse!

For it is only about the most hellish places that such diabolically outrageous claims are made.

A shadow, barely visible in the swirling dust and garbage, collectively steeped in gloom, mingled and merged and mixed and separated from other shadows like a drop of oil or water in an emulsion curdling betwixt fitful agitations; the barest waft of a faceless soul among the multitude of the damned.

Of a sudden something defined coalesced from the soupy maelstrom. Into the light of the security scanners stepped a man in the burgundy and gold regalia of an old Odyssey II Sunset flight suit, largely concealed beneath mismatching armour; the ochre yellow Calico breastplate with all its little attachments, the dull olive greens and charcoal greys of field reconnaissance leggings and arm protectors. Although well kept, everything he wore was old, obsolete or cheap; a man of former success drowning in the ever rising competition of younger, more energetic entrepreneurs.

That'd be me.

Grenouilles dans le Chaudron

A place always has it’s own feel; an emotional vibe as distinctive as the sound of your voice. I feel it now, like barely audible music in the wind, as I ride the train to the spaceport. I see the facilities of heavy industry against the golden-brown of the sky at sunset; a prison of steel and pollution for many who live here. There is a comfortable beauty to it and a reassuring sense of stability but beneath this, there is the sadness of dreams crushed by the unforgiving reality of life’s demands.

I travelled here at great personal risk. I could as easily find myself trapped here, like so many others. All it would take is a dry spell, maybe a lull between jobs, and a lapse of attention when reading a work contract; a debt I cannot repay and a moratorium on travel until the debt is cleared. That is all it takes to make slaves out of human beings in this day an age.

There is some occasional, fleeting glimmer of tempestuous feeling at such a cruel trap but even this is swiftly concealed deep in the soul; for Hurston Security, in their charcoal and yellow armour, are everywhere in force. I have my ship and my way out but the enormity of what has been done and what is being done here; this weighs as heavily upon my soul as the oppressive security. But I too am in debt. For me it is not the same. I owe a friend and that makes all the difference. I did not have to come. I chose to because friendship is more valuable than anything else.

At the spaceport, I wear the mismatched flight suit and mixed armour pieces of a freelancer. In truth, there is an advantage to be had in the mottling of local terrain colours and the selective use of light and medium armour pieces for function. Moreover, the mottling of local colours superficially lends itself to a local image; one of many familiar and frequent space travellers shuttling goods and services through Lorville, Hurston’s Mining facilities and the lunar outposts. Beyond the spaceport, I travel incognito, dressed identically to the workers. I need to be seen as part of the system if I am going to access the parts of it I need.

An Open and Shut Case

The change was profound, as the train pulled into the CBD station. The air was suddenly clean and scrubbed despite the area being open to the outside - thanks to powerful threshold blowers which created a convective barrier between the air inside and the air outside. Public seating carved from pyroxenite sat atop polished micritic limstone pavement inlaid and bordered with polished tungsten. For a momnet I was reminded of the grey-green jade of Tubec hall criss-crossed with raw, golden Tubec veins but this was different; contrived. Golden-hued statues of Hurston family ancestors towered over the scene like watchful guardians; statues erected to immortalise a perception of hero status but which fell flat into the pose of tyrannical watchers for the lack of deeds carried on the lips of those who scurried about at their feet. Here were Hurston Security as well, in their charcoal and yellow armour but the people who went about their business were stock brokers, wheeler dealers, executives, traders and the odd ship's captain such as myself. To everyone-else, I was just another trader blowing through. It's not like that wasn't true. I'd loaded up with medical supplies anticipating some demand based on the reputation of Hurston Dynamics for sloppy occupational health and safety practices. I stopped at the stock terminals and managed to offload an amazing three quarters of my stock for a generous price. By the time I'd stopped around the outposts I needed to visit, this stock will have paid for my trip and then some.

Overlooking the atrium was Constantine Hurston's office. I wandered up to the upper atrium elevator access behind his office and got buzzed in. The man did not stand or even look up as I entered.
"A mutual acquiantance asked me to look in on an old friend." I announced once I reached the man's desk.
He paused briefly then continued without looking up.
"How are your fuschia's, Mr. Hurston?"
The man froze for a moment then decided to stop what he was doing. He looked up at me for the first time since I entered the room.
"They are thriving. Thank you. I could not have acquired such a hardy breed, myself. What is your business, here?"
The transition from subtlety to bluntness could not have been more disorienting. But this was something to which I was accustommed,
"I'm here concerning the recent murder, Mr. Hurston. Our mutual acquiantance is concerned that there may be a political motive."
"An assassination? Here, of all places? I suppose you need access to the the investigative findings."
"It would show some decorum, under the circumstances, if I were to be included in the pursuit of the current investigation including all findings and evidence pertaining to the case. We're not asking for a lead, just inclusion; a small favour to further the bond of goodwill between yourself and our mutual acquaintance."
At the mention of goodwill, Mr Hurston's face lit up for just the briefest moment before returning to its part baffled, part stressed countenance of quiet desperation. He opened a comm.
"Detective Anderson. I have a new member for your team. He's a consultant." Then, looking right at me, "He will be discrete and not interfere."
"Yes sir. end me the details and I'll make sure the rest of the team know."
"Make sure it's only the team. he has an outside perspective on this and if there's anything to it, we don't want to tip off whoever is responsible. To everyone else, he's..."
Constantine Hurston looked briefly down at what I assumed was the trade I'd made and ever so slightly shook his head,
"...he's supposed to be a trader. Make sure you get him out to Lyria. He won't look like much of a trader if he doesn't make a killing dumping his remaining stock at the mining reserve."
He ended the comm and looked up at me, "You see, Captain Morat, we too understand the value of goodwill."
My blood ran cold. The river does not turn but for something big and very durable in its path and Mr Hurston had just opened negotiations for my loyalties when it was his own loyalties which were being called upon. Nevertheless, I shot him a brilliant smile and replied enthusiastically, "As one hand washes the other, Mr Hurston, as one hand washes the other."

I did not feel that enthusiasm as I rode the train out to the spaceport. Mr Hurston, in a single gesture, had just admitted to knowledge of both the murder and the political motivation which Fen Wei, our "mutual acquaintance", had meagerly speculated on as a remote possibility. My mission was, in fact, built on the assumption that there were no politics, no assassination so that my involvement in the case would meagrely act as a cover to get me close enough to one of Fen Wei's operatives to displace her a short distance for an extraction; a service she needed because she had been operating under the cover of an indentured worker; #245367498. Currently, there was no contingency plan and the sudden escalation of the case raised the likelihood that #245367498, known as Fiona to her friends, would be or become a person of interest. This trip was promising to be costly. Thankfully, even when things are bad, they're not all bad. If I can hang in there, the promise of life awaits me at the end of it all.

Detective Anderson had sent the case files over to my MobiGlas and I reviewed them on the train. This entire mess began when Constantine Hurston received a comm from his nephew, Julius, who'd just woken up in bed beside his girlfriend, Corrie Archer, after a wicked bender of a night out on the town. He couldn't remember a thing about that night but he was covered in his girlfriend's blood and, as it turned out, she'd been stabbed 27 times with a knife from his own kitchen. Suffice to say, she wasn't available to say hello when Julius made that comm. The murder weapon was later found, lying on the floor under the bed, by Hurston Security forensics specialist Todd Griswald. When the weapon was scanned for trace DNA, only the victim's could be found. For a setup, it wasn't bad. Julius might well have murdered his girlfriend under the influence or for more deliberate reasons. Nothing is certain until probative forensic evidence can be uncovered. The Archer family, formally known as Archer House, were old money with deep roots on Saisei, in the Centauri System, had already contacted Hurston Security with their concerns when Corrie didn't make her usual contact with her adoptive home that day. They also reminded Hurston Security of Corrie's high diplomatic credentials. There! Amidst the ocean swell! A brief glimpse of but the tip of the political iceberg amassed 'neath the seas.

Archer House typified everything about the idle rich. Their very public and demonstrative attempts at philanthropy obsessed over the trivial while ignoring the major sources of human suffering. These people cared deeply about the fate of a highly toxic species of dust mite, for example; one which is endangered by poorly managed emissions, on Hurston. Yet, they consistently and conveniently sidestepped bigger issues like slavery, Malarial Disease Analogues, indentured labour and the deadly consequences of lax occupational health and safety policies; especially for the most vulnerable workers. It made sense that they'd target the Hurstons. It made sense that the Hurstons would kill one of them to stay off the hook and it also made sense that the Archer's would freely sacrifice one of their own to put the Hurstons on the hook and contrive an interstellar incident worthy of UEE sanctions against Hurston - which, ultimately, would have the worst impact on the people who lived and worked on Hurston and, especially, those trying to scrimp enough together to purchase their ticket off that rock. But, for the great houses, it was little more than grandstanding. What didn't make sense was the lack of any attempt, on the part of the Hurstons, to clean up and pretend nothing happened. As it turns out, floodwaters can run to surprising depths where boulders and cobbles clash together and can crush the bones of the unwary.

If the oppressive atmosphere was generally bad in Lorville, it was far worse at Teasa Spaceport. Hurston Security patrolled with firearms at the ready and what were normally hushed conversations were carried out with the barest of whispers; mouth to ear. Citizens were randomly seized and challenged for identification and Hurston Security weren't shy about conducting strip searches right out in full public view. I'd chosen my attire well. Most who looked in my direction didn't even see me. There was one high ranking officer who seemed to notice and looked right at me but, after consulting his MobiGlas, he quickly lost interest. Or so it seemed. Just as I reached the top of the stairs to order delivery of my stored ship to a hangar, I was suddnely flanked by two security officers.
"This way, if you please, Mr Morat"
The effect was instantaneous as the crowd discretely parted before us. They led me to a waiting elevator and directly to a hangar where my ship was already delivered to the pad, serviced, refueled and waiting for me to board.

Stopping at the edge of the plaform, they wished me well with, "Best of fortunes in your Journeys Mr Morat" and suddenly I was free; walking across the pad beneath the hull of a 61 metre endurance cutter, called a Constellation Aquila, with four engine nacelles, aft; a cargo lift, amidships; and a bow-mounted bridge with impressive visibility for a ship like this. I entered via the personnel lift which ascended into the crew facilities in the section just aft of the bridge. By the time I had her engines warmed up and my preflights done, the hangar door (above in an in-ground hangar such as this) had already opened. I edged power up to 80% and lifted off; ascending clear of the hangar space and the upper altitude of the no fly zones before setting a forward trajectory and disengaging VTOL. I banked to port and came about to a northerly heading; passing to the east of the enormous Hurston Dynamics building on my way out to the security depot roughly 100km north of Lorville. This was going to go sideways, badly. No stranger to foulups, I contemplated past experiences as the city and its industry slipped pased beneath my ship.

So that's why the road less travelled is, um, less travelled!

North of Lorville, vast open cut valleys stretched east and west with the remains of later ore pre-processing facilities and associated sulphide contamination, from tailings dam spills, littering their terraces. Looking down from the bridge of my endurance cutter, I watched as the browns, yellows, pinks and burgundies of the upper open cut terraces gave way to the redbeds of the high country and vast, green woodlands which survived in spite of the tremendous toll taken by unregulated industry. Engines built for speed roared futilely against the thickly polluted atmosphere which greatly slowed the ship and burned through much more fuel than I'd expected. It was to be a relatively short trip so I'd chosen to fly low.

The Aquila variant, as an endurance cutter, was built for long range scouting, deep skirmishing and ultimately found service as an exploration ship in the hands of civilians. This was not the only use of an endurance cutter, as many of the traders and haulers frequenting places like Lorville must have known. As I flew, I used her superior scanner range to look for potentially troublesome contacts - before my ship appeared on their LIDAR as a contact. It was just as well. A suspicious contact showed up loitering, 30km to the north, between my ship and my destination. Without a second thought, I peeled off to starboard and gave the contact a wide berth. Woodlands blended into ochre savannah and, when the dead pinks and purples of the heavily polluted coastline showed up, ahead, I heeled her over to port and came about to follow a valley running southwest. That's when the missile lock warning sounded out of nowhere. Between the dejavu and the confusion following a ghost lock, I'm surprised I noticed anything. For a fleeting moment, the LIDAR picked up a Ballista mechanized missile launcher just as the ordinance rocket flared; only, this thing doesn't deploy missiles. The Ballista deploys torpedos.

I was done; too low to kill the engines and let gravity dictate departure from countermeasure trajectory, too much atmosphere to gain enough speed to put a safe distance between my ship and the countermeasures and no guarantee that the coin toss would favour the torpedo finding the countermeasure instead of my ship. I still wasted no time rolling the dice. Any chance is better than none at all. So, when the torpedo luckily detonated on the countermeasure, it took down the aft shields and blew the top engine nacelles off their mounts. The blast followed the descent, which came as a consequence of dialing the engine power right back as far as I dared, and pushed the endurance cutter into port turn; drifting in a precarious rolling drop to starboard. I maxed out the power and rolled hard to port; re-engaging the VTOLs and getting the gear down just in time for a rough landing on a broad, stony, wadi floor.

Badly damaged, the ship was still flyable and the pirates who took the shot would be looking for wreckage and cargo strewn across the wadi floor. I wasted no time reviewing the damage control panel, getting the endurance cutter back up off the ground and limping towards the security depot. It seemed that in no time, multiple turrets, ahead, opened up on my ship but, miraculously, kept missing. A considerable atmospheric detonation thrummed through the hull and smoking ball of fire and steel steaked overhead to smash itself upon the ridgeline behind the turrets. And there it was; a squat central structure with supplies and portable equipment strewn about right in the midst of those turrets. I popped the landing gear and set down just outside. Seems my long range scanners got taken out by that torpedo detonation too as LIDAR gave no indication of what must have been a medium ship. Burning on the top of the alluvial fan extending from the ridge, I could see the outline of what looked like the wreckage of a Cutlass; a medium, multipurpose ship.

To be continued...

Still can't fall asleep? Click for part three. It'll bore you more than a squadron of Vanduul Drillers; better than counting sheep.
I promise!

compass atop a bowl of roasted coffee beans set inside gold laurels
Monday, ISO: 2024-July-22, 01:34 hours, UTC.