Paradijs Lost (Part 1)

Welcome to the very first part of a not-very-short story tracking the exploits of Eve Walter in the Pleiades system, the system we’ll shortly be opening up in the alpha. If you like what you’ve read, don’t forget to checkout the previous short stories over in the Story category by John Harper, author of the licensed Elite: Dangerous novel ‘And Here the Wheel.’ 

Eve Walters burst through the tavern doors.  Heart pounding, mouth dry, she saw the heads turn toward her and she knew she’d make a mistake:

No one would forget her entrance, forget her face.  She might as well have danced into the bar covered in neon.

Lungs screaming for air she calmly walked to the bar and sat on a stool.  She spent two minutes releasing the built up desperation for air – obvious to anyone watching her, then caught the barkeep’s eye. “What’ll it be miss?” The bartender’s drone spoke of boredom and monotony.  Eve wasn’t sure if that would help him forget her or not.  She decided to order the most common drink, undo the damage of her entrance.  She glanced to her right.  A man was drinking Brown.

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“House Brown please.”

The ‘keep reached under the bar, his hands together and still, his eyes down – a secret communicator? – then placed a full handle of Brown before her.  “Seventeen all up.”

Eve flicked through her billfold.  Her cards could be traced.  Did she have any Pleiades cash?  Her mind was a jumble, adrenaline and fear crushing any cogent thought that dared rise to the surface. She put some bills on the bar.  They were PLC currency.  Too much though, dammit.  She pulled a twenty back. The ‘keeps hand enveloped the cash and slid back under the bar, the cash gone with it, then he moved to the rack of empty jugs.  Perfect change, obviously.

She watched the bubbles roll up the glass of her Brown.  Her heart had slowed to a reasonable craziness now, Slow enough to engage in understandable conversation.  She swallowed a mouthful of the Brown though her stomach felt cramped from adrenaline.

She half turned on her stool to survey the clientele.  The place was reasonably bright, a far cry from the spacer bar near the Corporate Centre starport.  Men in those weird three piece suits all the rage in the Pleiades system.  Two women, both short hair, braided back to the skull to give the hair a strange curl.  Business people, and most of them off-worlders trying to blend in.  Which was a smart move, considering the Xenophobes that ran the system.  None of them fitted the profile of the person she wanted however.  A guy, probably. Mid-thirties, a swagger about him, but with a veneer of professionalism.  Someone who didn’t quite belong amongst a group of people trying to fit in because a part of him didn’t want to.

She found him in the fifth booth.  Short brown hair, a five day beard.  He was wearing a two piece suit only, straining across his shoulders.

She pushed her glass of Brown away then stood.  She passed a couple sharing a drink, then two men discussing import rates and stopped before her mark.

“You work at Soyuz Logistics and Exports?” she asked, too rushed for an intro.

The man was sitting on her right side, a glass of red wine in front.  He didn’t flinch, didn’t move, didn’t acknowledge her presence in any way.  Eve decided he was an asshole.

He grabbed the stem of his glass and Eve placed her palm over the top.  “Excuse me,” she said.

“Oh, hello,” said the man, turning to her suddenly.  His smile made her take a step back.  “Gosh, I didn’t see you there. My deepest apologies.”

She narrowed her eyes.  A wise guy.  Fantastic.  “Do you work for Soyuz or not?”

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The man stared up at her, not checking her out, but measuring her maybe.  Trying to figure out where she fitted in the scheme of things.  She was dressed in a single layer of loose Terran clothing.  Her blouse would have been called ‘work-casual’ back home.  Here it was rags that even the lowest Corporate employee wouldn’t wear.  So he’d know she wasn’t local, which would hopefully minimise his suspicion.

His gaze finished its appraisal and settled on Eve’s outstretched hand.  “Is that clean?”

Eve pulled her hand back.  “It’s a simple enough question.”

“On the contrary, dear lady.  The possible permutations of purpose behind the question makes it very complicated indeed.”

Eve stared at this man, his sheer disinterest and aloofness proving to her she’d chosen right.  She sat down opposite and leant forward.

“I need to transport something back to Terra.”

The man leant back, swallowed a mouthful of wine.  “Then come by the office tomorrow morning.”

“It’s urgent.”

“So is this glass of Pinot.”

Eve frowned.  “That doesn’t even make any sense.  Look I need to transport a package – six feet long, 140 pounds.  I need it out of here tonight.”

The man returned the glass to the table and slid it aside.  “Interesting dimensions for your package, my lady, unless of course you specialise in high end turn-key coffin manufacture.

Eve leant further forward.  She had to break through this guy’s exterior BS.  “Look, my name is Eve Walters.  My father is Nathaniel.  He taught me a few things that made it easy for me to figure you out.  You own Soyuz Logistics and Exports.  The company is a respectable front for your smuggling operation.  You-,”

The man’s hand shot forward, too quickly for Eve, and grabbed her wrist.  “Now what is this talk for? I’m just an honest business man trying to get through his days in peace and you come in here talking in tongues putting all kinds of strange thoughts in people’s heads?”

Eve tried to pull back but his grip was strong, stronger than she’d given him credit for.  “Don’t worry,” she said.  I’m not with the police.  Like I said, I’m from Terra.”  The man’s face was caught between an expression of incredulity and suspicion, an edgey, questioning look.

“The clues weren’t obvious,” she continued.  “Besides, it takes one to know one.”  She paused.  “Sort of.”

The man let go of her.  “Good night Eve.”  He retrieved his glass and took another swallow.

Eve watched him.  “Excuse me?”

“We’re done here.  Scram, or I’ll call the Corporate Politsiya.

Eve stared at him, unsure if it was a bluff, or whether she had gotten it so completely wrong.

She turned in her seat toward the door.  They’d be looking for her on the streets now.  She wasn’t safe out there.  Unwelcome attention from an episode here could kill her just as fast however.  She had to stay invisible and starting a fight here wouldn’t do that.  She stood and marched away, hoping like hell she thought of a Plan B before the police got her.

Part 2

Something to add Commander?

Faction: Allied Pirate Forces

apf-logo-red

[Abbreviated: APF] More often than not, history teaches that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ and this is the common ground that forms the tenuous power titled the ‘Aligned Pirate Forces’.

While a single, well organised pirate clan is sufficiently bold to attack a small escorted freight fleet, sometimes the booty is just too well defended and alliances must be formed to defeat its protectors. ‘APF’ is the generic term applied to any alliance of pirate clans but is more commonly used for larger pirate fleets organized by the Kill4.

The Kill4 is the collective that manages pirate interactions across Shallow Space. Kill4 consists of the four largest pirate clans: Kildred Clan, Jonas’ Clan, The Royals and Shallom’s Men. They work together as required to mediate pirate disputes, communications and organise alliances, including equality of mission risk and plunder division. It is a mutually distrustful discussion. They also act as an internal police force between pirates, ensuring there is some ‘honour among thieves’.

APF fleet’s are poorly organised and slow to adapt to new tactical situations, mostly due to an unclear chain of command. Ships are often mismatched and in various states of repair. The term Abberates was first used to describe an APF fleet made entirely from ships made from spare parts, often from wildly different designs.

Although APF fleets can often be numerically superior to TCN taskforces, a seasoned commander can often drive a wedge between the APF ships both physically and mentally, due to the natural mistrust between pirates.

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Faction: Incorporated

inc-logo-gold

What is now known as INC was once a major corporation on Old Earth known as Amalgamated Selene. The first corporation to go interplanetary, Amalgamated Selene led the harvesting of minerals on the Moon and later throughout the Sol stellar system. Once the 100 year plan was announced they were the first to build a worldship (using technology stolen from their competitor MFC) to carry humanity to its new home in the stars.

During the 100 year trip from Sol to Shallow Space, the corporation worked with Field Marshall Christian to assist in his coronation to Emperor (in exchange for many mining rights). In 2400 the corporation simplified their name to INC. They lay claim to the outer worlds of the Terran system, but later sold these to MFC when they relocated to the stellar system known as ‘Incorporated Space’.

3 components of an INC ‘Armstrong;’ a heavy rear, a middle piece and a heavy front form an equivalent Heavy Cruiser. There are many variations of these core components and utility is further expanded by adding modular wingpieces.

INC runs the Corporate Staryards (CSY), the largest ship building facility in Shallow Space. CSY leads the field in artificial intelligence, negative space research and combat computing. Their modular design philosophy allows quick production and turn around between their various designs. This necessitates a certain simplicity in componentry and design which although shunned by the more discerning privateers, is welcomed by the regimented Terran Confederation Navy. INC designs account for approximately 60% of the Terran Navy fleet, though many of these ships are purchased by other member systems and used as their contribution to the Confederated Navy.

INC is run by the ‘INC Authority’ and currently owns a stellar system known as ‘Incorporated Space’. This was colonized in 2427, but to this date it is still classified as a ‘colony’ world, which has taxation and senate implications.

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The Tale of Samuel Shallom (New Stars, Old Animals)

Toufet, Mary, Madam Librarian (2571) “New Stars, Old Animals” – The Official history of the Terran Empire, Ch 10, page 1371-1372

…historians were quick to judge it the turning point in Shallom’s war against the Imperium. With his forces destroyed, his will weakened, with only the fumes of vengeance keeping his heart beating, a final stand was the only possible outcome. The Terran Navy planned for it, even the members of Kill4 were on record at the time expecting Shallom to be quickly erased from history. (Though the classic vid ‘The Gift’, glorifying his theft of the TCN Concordia proved otherwise).

But Shallom’s genius lay in the unexpected. He layered his motives with moves and counter moves, sometimes so deep Shallom himself didn’t know where trickery started and truth ended.

It was the fourth week of his isolation in what is now known as the Shallom stellar system that Shallom’s brilliance shone. Rather than retaliate, Shallom literally smashed his remaining fleet of ships together to form a ring of steel and Shallom’s Anchorage was born.

The ring was welded airtight, two ships engines were kept operable to maintain the spin for artificial gravity and like the Futurist Larry Niven of Old Earth, Shallom had made his own ringworld. It was small at first, barely five hundred metres in diameter, but the beauty of ‘The Anchorage’ was not what it was, but what it represented. A safe haven, away from the eyes of the Kill4 and TCN, where pirates or citizens of low repute could trade, barter and sleep. Docking fees paid for maintenance, the customer numbers grew and eventually so too did the Anchorage, upward of a kilometre in diameter at its peak.

With popularity came wealth, and with both, came increased scrutiny from both within and beyond the pirate community. While the Terran Confederation Navy and Kill4 both had marks on Shallom’s head, they took opposing strategies to destroy him. The Kill4 Collectorate settled on the ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ strategy and Shallom was inducted as an honorary member of the Kill4 on the 2nd May 2473.

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TCN tactics also evolved. The order for his execution was waived. Shallom wasn’t useful if he was dead. Dead he was a martyr. Alive he was an example. A public trial was required, one that could be broadcast to the entire Imperium. And so small taskforces were dispatched to find Shallom and bring him back.

News of Shallom’s Anchorage reached official ears early 2473 but by July the TCN had ruled out any known inhabited system. It had to be an uninhabited system, which meant a jump gate.

Technology had always been a strong tool at Shallom’s disposal, utilizing the ingenuity of the desperate. While Imperial scientists worked to brute force gate coordinates, Shallom developed a ‘busy signal’ for his home made jump gate, stopping any wormhole forming unless the correct password was transmitted, a technology only recently being wielded by the Navy.

Security and wealth were not why Shallom began his crusade however; such mortal trappings were merely means to his ends – something much darker drove his actions.

Revenge.

No sources agree on the date, but most put it sometime in October 2473 when Shallom took a ship from the Anchorage and flew out into the Abyss. His ultimate goal of retrieving the mythical ‘ABanax artefact’ lay out of reach, for now, so he had settled on a stepping stone to get him there.

The ‘Far Nest Radio Blip’.

His lieutenants continued the work of the Shallom Clan, keeping the anchorage running while Shallom searched. He wouldn’t be seen again until…

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Faction: The Terran Empire

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[Abbreviated: TTE] The Terran Empire is the ruling government of the human population in the region known as ‘Shallow Space’. It currently comprises 3 ‘core’ stellar systems and 9 ‘colony’ systems. They are spread across a region of space roughly circular in shape with a diameter approximately 100 light years (LY)

The Terran Empire was born from the slow decay of social order that was the 100 year trip from Earth to Shallow Space. As those born on the worldships, (And having never seen Earth) moved into positions of control, the notion of a dying world uniting all peoples was forgotten.

Old differences surfaced. New ones formed, and Corporations, the opportunists that they are, saw ways to take advantage.

Field Marshall Christian saw the damage unfolding, knew it could destroy the fragile species of human kind. Something had to be done. Already in command of the military he initiated a swift coup and dethroned the United Earth Council, taking ultimate control. Immediately factions formed amongst the worldships, but quick negotiations with the major corporations resulted in Christian regaining complete control over the entire human race.

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The ‘Mayflower’ System, the second full core system in the region dubbed ‘Shallow Space.’ Noted as being the busiest system of the empire.

With Christian’s guidance, and his son after him, mankind successfully colonized Terra and then spread to eleven other systems.

The Terran Empire, or the Imperium as it is colloquially known, controls all colonized space. Governments and taxes are all controlled from within the Imperial Palace, situated in the city of Home, on the planet Terra. The Empire is defended by the Terran Confederation Navy, whose ships patrol the common traffic routes through space.

The 'Terran' system, the capital system of humankind.
The ‘Terran’ system, the capital system of humankind.

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