Author Topic: Contraband  (Read 41633 times)

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Offline Mongoose

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I love it when you talk nerdy.

Vasudan engineering tends to favour a more progressive and measured approach.  Those of you fortunate enough to serve under Vasudan engineering staff will realize that they consistently get a good twenty percent faster recharge ton for ton out of their engine systems.  This comes at a consistent range cost.  Keep this in mind when planning for cross fleet deployments.  As always, Vasudan ships show an individuality we don't really appreciate in Terran deployments, but it is rare to find a Vasudan engineering crew chief who doesn't have a full up to date spec of his ship ready to hand.  They usually take pride in it.  Do not be afraid to ask.

I have this beautiful image of a Vasudan Scotty, synthesized brogue and all, waxing poetic about how he's managed to squeeze an extra 50 kJ out of his dilithium matrix.

The PVD Damascus incident from the Great War indicates the risk of crash jumping when they jumped twenty kilometers over a Vasudan desert trying to escape from the SD Lucifer.  The automatically ejected black box indicates they dumped a full drive charge into an unstable jump configuration.  The jump was less than four hundred thousand kilometers and it dumped the ship out with an opposite orbital velocity to Vasudan Prime itself, meaning it slammed into the desert at nearly 40 million ms.


40 million m/s, that's 1600 million million Joules per kilogram, that's 1.6 petajoules per kilogram, that's 382 kilotons per kilogram, that's 8 petatons for the whole impact given a reasonable mass approximation.

I... guess under the circumstances it couldn't have made things that much worse.
The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.

I have this beautiful image of a Vasudan Scotty, synthesized brogue and all, waxing poetic about how he's managed to squeeze an extra 50 kJ out of his dilithium matrix.

That was one detail I found particularly delightful as well. I have always liked the fanon concept of Vasudans as really, really good at making engines. The added pride wraps it up nicely.


Offline Rheyah

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They had built a home in a corpse.

A stressed beam far overhead yawned, shaking loose a sprinkling of dust.  Merino sneezed, drawing the baleful gaze of one of the establishment’s more dour patrons.  The military man shot a look back - he wasn’t taking any crap from a freighter jockey.

They locked eyes for a long moment.  Merino gave him a nod, raising his pint.  He got a rare nod in return and the man once more set his eyes upon his drink.

Merino wiped his nose with the back of a grimy bit of cloth and gazed up towards the ceiling.  These old stations had a habit of finding ways to invade your lungs.  The system was strewn with them, sewn together hulks of metal with ten million warm bodies scuttling around from warmth to warmth, scraping together an honest living in amongst the flickering lights and damaged equipment. Unfortunately, you had to be dishonest to make an honest living in the Red.  Most of the honest folks ended up dead.

Another distant rattle shook the station to its core as it birthed yet more traffic into the void.  More dust in his pint.  Damn it.

“Captain Vilham, I assume?” came a voice.  It was feminine but curt.

“Major Vilham now.” Merino shot a glance skyward.  She was a tall one, but what made her impossible to miss was that haircut.  Buzzcut on one side, long on the other.  “You’re late,” he said, gesturing to a murky glass.  “That wine’s bad enough without all this rock dust in it.”

“My apologies”,  she replied, squatting her lithe form onto the heavy metal stool, “it is getting harder to move through the system unnoticed as of late.”

“I hear that, Helena.”  The recent cartel-feud had caused system wide instability.  “You said it was urgent.  If it’s about that brawl around the Sceptered Isle, there’s not much we can do.”

Helena gave him a Look.  It had lost its effectiveness over the years.  “Yes, yes, I know.  The Ref can’t intervene.”

“You know how it goes.  Only if it’s a real threat.”

“Right, and what would be a real threat to the Blues?  How many Mjolnirs do they have camped up by the node?”

“Dunno.  A lot.  Plus a battlegroup.  Do you have a point?”

Helena frowned.  “A lot of help you are to the poor folk out here.”

The pint had soured with the dirt.  “You chose to come out here, Helena.  I didn’t make you.”

“No,” she replied, “I wanted to help.  I just thought the brass would have more of an interest if they had one of their own out here digging through the dirt.”

“Yeah, well, you know how I feel about this place.  But I also know why the brass did what they did.”

“That doesn’t make it any more morally right.”

“It’s above my paygrade”, he replied, taking a pull.  It still tasted like crap, much like everything else.  “What’s the flash about then?”

Helena reached into a satchel she was carrying and retrieved a small data wafer.  She tossed it onto the table.  “This.  I couldn’t send it by s-band because if I did, I would have every dust-sifter all over my backside.”

Merino glanced at the wafer, then at her.  “You’ve been squawking on s-band for months now with that food initiative of yours.  Why the secrecy?”

“Just look at it,” she said, pushing it across the table.

He snatched up the data wafer and slid it into a socket on his arm screen.  The display lit up after a moment and he cycled through the haptic interface.  His brows narrowed at what he saw and he shut it off fast.  “...Is this real?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Genuine Code Black.  My source died getting me this.”

The Major felt a lump form in his throat.

“****.  You free for a trip?”

“The Roma?”


She nodded.  He downed his pint.  Might be the last relaxation he got in a while.  “Let’s go.”
« Last Edit: January 12, 2017, 05:28:32 pm by Rheyah »


Offline Mongoose

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You are soooo good at this.

Dadgumit Rheyah!  If this doesn't turn into a finished campaign, you had better at least turn it into an anthology a la The Martian Chronicles.
"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day to day living that wears you out." – Anton Chekhov


Offline Rheyah

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Her scope scanned the flickering dark of the corridor ahead.  She gestured behind her.  The signitature clunk of mag boots slowly move to her side and another rifle joined her line.  A gloved hand sent her companion to a warped support strut.  He ducked down slowly in the zero gravity.

Not that it would matter.  Their guns were almost emotional aids now.

A wave of unearthly energy fizzled through her bones and made the ammo counter on her HUD dance between numbers.  Nothing had worked right on the ship for days, even her body.  The deck rocked beneath her.  A battle outside?  Who knew any more.

“Mendez.”  The voice crackled in her ear, even the static unable to mask the anxiety.  “Do you think they can track us?”

“How the hell should I know?” she replied, more glibly than she’d intended.  They’d been on strung out shape even before this mess with one battle after another.  Now this.  The CIC had fallen to the infestation eighteen hours ago.  Since then, she didn’t know what state the ship was in.

“Cap’n...  How the hell did they do this?” said the voice.
Carla bit her tongue.  “You’ve asked that before.”
“Yeah, but-”
“Is it going to help if I say the same crap I said to you last time, Private?”

There was a pause.  The deck rocked again.  Definitely a battle.  “No Sir.”
“Then stop asking stupid questions.  We just need to get the hell of this ship before they consider us a threat.”

They advanced one section at a time.  It was slow progress.  A handful of survivors trailed them through the hellish halls.  Five left, on a ship of six hundred.

Their cancer had begun as all cancers began, a creep building in the darkest recesses of a body.  Growing unnoticed, subverting and feeding on the very blood supposed to keep the body alive.  One emplacement.  That was all it had taken.

They’d lost engineering first.  It took control of the fusion reactors and main computers within six minutes.  Used the control of the subsystems to vent the entire compartment into space and then took control of all secondary power systems meaning internal defenses were worthless.  When their anti-boarding team responded, they’d been slaughtered.  It had taken less than an hour for the cancer to produce weapons platforms able to slaughter an entire contingent of armed troops with black market weapons.

CIC had rigged a secondary command post and were preparing to detonate a couple of their anti-matter charges on a timer.  Twenty minutes later they went radio silent.  That was about the time the command structure collapsed.  Every ship wide communication system collapsed.  Gravity vanished without warning.  The cancer hadn’t needed it.  They were a zero gravity species.

Carla had grabbed who she could, found an isolated compartment, sealed the doors, isolated them as best as she could from the main life support systems and prepared for a last stand.

Nothing had come.  Hours went by and nothing.  It had been a lot of time to think and mourn.

The corridors were quiet now, but it was difficult to maintain your sense of up and down without gravity.  Carla had done plenty of zero-g, but it was harder when it was the decks of your own ship you were walking through.  Corpses floated by in faint clouds of drifting crimson.  They had no real use for organic matter, after all.

A faint red light crept over the floor at an intersection up ahead.  Mendez snapped up her hand and her entourage froze to the wall.  She knelt down and gritted her teeth.  The weapon was heavy in her hand, but her aim was sure, for what it mattered.

It passed by, around fifteen metres ahead.  An oscillating ellipsoid mass of hellish colour, silently cruising through the drifting dust.  Strobes of crimson darkness stroked the walls and where they touched, they left behind mirrors of themselves, coating the wall in a shimmering blackness which morphed and then formed into slowly pulsing conduits of light.  The ceiling warped as they did.

It stopped and turned.  Mendez held her breath.  A distant thunder resonated through the deckplates.  Then, without another word, it drifted on, continuing its silent work.

“...hell if I know, Private.  We need to keep moving.”

In retrospect, they’d responded as best they could, shutting off decks, trying to hold the tide back long enough to regain control, but it hadn’t mattered.  In less than twenty hours, they had entirely reconfigured the ship.  Entire sections of the ship had gone missing where they had repurposed the material to better use.  Others had warped beyond imagining, stretching to carry ungodly amounts of power to remote sections of the ship.  You couldn’t get close to one of those unearthly conduits without feeling as if your skin was to rip from your bones.

Most of the others were mute.  They’d all been through the mill and most of them had been low level employees.  They’d signed on the dotted line and didn’t have military training.  Mendez had fought for the NTF in her youth.  That gave her something they didn’t have.

At least, that’s what she had thought.  The Shivans had robbed her of that too.  If Henderson didn’t stay quiet, she was going to shoot him to preserve her own sanity.  The escape pods were still intact.  Two hundred metres of dead hallways and a vague hope that whoever was out there was friendly.  That’s all they had left.

They moved on.

« Last Edit: January 26, 2017, 11:56:09 am by Rheyah »


Offline AdmiralRalwood

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How very... Homeworld: Cataclysm.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Codethulhu GitHub wgah'nagl fhtagn.

schrödinbug (noun) - a bug that manifests itself in running software after a programmer notices that the code should never have worked in the first place.

When you gaze long into BMPMAN, BMPMAN also gazes into you.

"I am one of the best FREDders on Earth" -General Battuta

<Aesaar> literary criticism is vladimir putin

<MageKing17> "There's probably a reason the code is the way it is" is a very dangerous line of thought. :P
<MageKing17> Because the "reason" often turns out to be "nobody noticed it was wrong".
(the very next day)
<MageKing17> this ****ing code did it to me again
<MageKing17> "That doesn't really make sense to me, but I'll assume it was being done for a reason."
<MageKing17> **** ME

<MageKing17> God damn, I do not understand how this is breaking.
<MageKing17> Everything points to "this should work fine", and yet it's clearly not working.
<MjnMixael> 2 hours later... "God damn, how did this ever work at all?!"
<MageKing17> so
<MageKing17> more than two hours
<MageKing17> but once again we have reached the inevitable conclusion
<MageKing17> How did this code ever work in the first place!?

<@The_E> Welcome to OpenGL, where standards compliance is optional, and error reporting inconsistent

<MageKing17> It was all working perfectly until I actually tried it on an actual mission.

<IronWorks> I am useful for FSO stuff again. This is a red-letter day!
* z64555 erases "Thursday" and rewrites it in red ink

<MageKing17> TIL the entire homing code is held up by shoestrings and duct tape, basically.


Sorry, couldn't help it.
"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day to day living that wears you out." – Anton Chekhov


Offline Rheyah

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Commander Lilian Shawcross needed to pace, and she didn't have the room.

Like all of the Diomedes corvettes, the Roma was a ship of compromises.  They had been born out of the ashes of a decimated fleet, in the aftermath of a brutal war, during a time when the philosophies and motivators of war were changing.  The GTVA didn't know what to do about the Shivans.  They could barely hold their disintegrating power structure together.  Forged in the early days of the fleet refits, a half dozen melded and counterproductive design ideologies catering to a dozen demands posed by what remained of the Brass resulted in a chimera of a vessel.   

Her design brief had called for a rapid strike vessel with staying power able to operate in deep space and co-ordinated fleet actions.  Thick armour, but overstuffed and febrile guts.  Her guns and lancers put too much demand on her underspecced heatsinks, so when the lancers opened up, the ship glowed like a minor planet in a sunbeam.  She had legs too - the drive motivator was for a ship half her tonnage again,but also ran hot.  Her reactors could probably perform fusion on mud bricks, but were finicky Vasudan designs and Vasudan engine techs were a privilege, not a right.  To make matters worse, she was pregnant too.  A full squadron hung like old Earth bats through her sole cavernous space.

Something had to give somewhere.  The Roma, a Block 1 original, was a product of a military industrial complex which was desperate to defend itself, bereft of ideas and terrified of the dark.  With her stuffed, overdesigned guts, the Roma gave ground in the only place she could.

The outfitters had done their best with the CO's quarters, given the space.  The shelves were tidy, the bed was high quality.  They even found space for the traditional hard spirit cabinet, but what she didn't have was space.  After five years, Shawcross didn't mind so much most of the time.  IRF deployments were six months in, three months out, and life was always interesting aboard an IRF Diomedes.  Either the Zoners kept you busy, or the ship herself did.  The Roma had been mostly tamed long ago in the way all Diomedes crews eventually had to, given the sheer design spread of the various Blocks and refits.  As one of the oldest, and an active participant in the Pacification campaigns, she'd earned herself a few battlescars and her share of honour.

Some days though, she was a Block 1 Diomedes operating a month beyond the Petrarch, in semi mapped space with no military grade traffic oversight systems.  Today was one of those days.

It wasn't the done thing for a Commander to show concern in front of the crew, but with the Roma being her usual overstuffed self, the only place Shawcross could vent her concern was in the privacy of her cabin.  There wasn;t enough damned space.  She cast another baleful eye to the report on her screen.

Code Black.  The first in nearly eight years.

The Red Zones were home to almost two billion people, living outside of the controlled and policed Blue Zones beyond the massively fortified Petrarch nodes.  Independent salvagers, pirates, hauliers, freighters, mercenaries and stations making a living selling goods and provisions.  Finally, the Red Dippers - morally apathetic GTVA corporations taking advantage of the unregulated environment to engage in what could be charitably described as worker unfriendly business practices.  They had spread over a dozen systems or more, sometimes beyond even GTVI's ability to track them.  The Brass weren't willing to put up the infrastructure.  They had the Sol Gate project ongoing in Delta Serpentis, and who knew how well that was going.  Shawcross had heard rumours of odd transmissions from Sol, but nothing concrete, and the Brass were quick to quash rumours.  Developing beyond the Petrarches had become political suicide - if we expanded too far, would we encounter the Shivans again?

The GTVA hid inside its walled garden, and left the Red Zones to fend for themselves.  The IRF sorted out damaging squabbles, and waved the Silver Zeta for what little good it did, but the IRF mobilised for Code Blacks. No one know how much Shivan tech still remained salvagable, or active.  Barely anyone knew how to control Shivtech, and the sole example had been destroyed decades before.  Even there, concerning reports about what went on within the Hades had spooked GTVI for decades, and the result was an operations status known as Code Black.

She stopped pacing.  Enough with the stress.  Time to do her job.

"Incomms, XO", she announced, to the stuffy air.

It took a moment for the familiar robotic tones of her XO's vocoder to reply.  "Commander."

"Khal.  Get the Major, his guest, Hill and our acting CAG to Conference at 13:00 VST.  As of now we are operating at Condition Black."

There was another a longer pause.  Gears were turning.  "I understand.  XO, out."

A flick of a wrist brought up what passed for a system map of their operations theatre.  Scattered settlements nested in ruined planetary belts.  Major corp presence in the closely nested dense material field.  Solar collectors sun side.  A lot of mining operations - it was an old star, in the wake of an old supernova.  Heavy export traffic.  No habitable planets.  A workers hell.  Six days to get across the system safely.  Three if they winged it.  Not advisable in a system filled with dense debris belts around an old flare star.  Could end up becoming heavy elements to fuse in its waning core.  Fortunately, they had a few leads to work with.

Unfortunately, the nearest IRF reinforcements were two weeks away.  If they had a genuine Code Black, it could vanish into nothingness in some corporate lab and sit there being inert, or it could become an outbreak and threaten the Petrarch.  No one really knew, because they were working with hypotheticals.

A Block 1 Diomedes, her attendant patrol cruiser, a Rapid Jump Ship, 12 fighters against an entire system full of civilians on a Code Black.

Her pilots were going to have to roll the hardest sixes of their lives.


Doing two things atm.  One - I'll parse through and organise these stories into their own thread which will be fun - I enjoy writing, and I enjoy editing my old writing to make it more interesting.  Secondly, I'm writing a campaign based on the last few stories here, involving the aforementioned Code Black incident.  Planning 8 missions.  Minimal mod requirements, mostly renamed Blue Planet elements with the remnants of some of the game design I originally planned for Ephesus.  As much as I enjoyed writing new mechanics and so on, I'm intending to prove to myself I can deliver a minimalist, stylish experience focusing on tightly scripted missions, and to actually complete something for a change.

It follows the 425th Iron Divers, the GTCv Roma and the GTPC Capellan Melody as they battle to confiscate and destroy highly dangerous Shivan technological contraband far from help.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2020, 02:01:28 pm by Rheyah »


Offline deathspeed

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Welcome back!!

Your stories are amazing.  Hard to believe it's been three years since I read the last one.  I am looking forward to re-reading them in the new thread. 

Maybe someday God will give you a little pink toaster of your own.

Will release something one day. Promise.

So that promise is alive? ;7


Offline Rheyah

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Will release something one day. Promise.

So that promise is alive? ;7

Yeah it turns out executive function disorder (both of them :/) mess up your ability to be completionist while causing relentless feature creep.  The only way around it is to tightly and forcefully constrain yourself.  It's like having a monkey in your head.

At least my monkey likes writing.  Unfortunately it also likes explaining things, so all I will be doing updates wise is posting when I have something concrete to show, like missions, and stories.

No large game design changes beyond some armour decisions.  That was a rabbit hole for me.  I'm inclined to get this out in a month or two.  Will see how I get on.  Also yeah - I'm aware I've been down this road before.  It sucks, but what can you do but keep trying :)
« Last Edit: February 13, 2020, 11:44:12 am by Rheyah »

Good luck with that! :nod: :yes:


Offline Rheyah

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Good luck with that! :nod: :yes:

Yeah :(

But you know what, I wrote 14 pages worth of story thread and all manner of nonsense in this thread.  People liked reading it.  I liked writing it.  I program for a living now (well, sort of, a data scientist).  So it can't be completely beyond my capability to finish an 8 mission campaign in FRED.

Well unlike a different individual that managed to fill more than 35 pages with stuff that everybody hates, filling 14 pages with things that people consider interesting is certainly the right direction.

Welcome back, Rheyah!  We missed you, and I see your writing is still in top form.  I very much like the direction you are taking with this!
"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day to day living that wears you out." – Anton Chekhov


Offline Rheyah

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I have started a new thread with just stories in it.  I may have missed a few, but that's because they didn't really make the cut and will get rewritten eventually.

Fleet Command Voice:  The thread is located here -

How do the storys in the other thread correlate to the stuff posted here? Is it a "clean" (w/o all the comments) version of the material here, is it updated or how does it relate?


Offline Rheyah

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They are stories describing the aftermath of Capella and how the GTVA reacted to their phyrric victory.   It then expands and gives a small amount of backstory about the setting, the setup of the GTVA, the role of the Petrarch nodes and the Red Zones, indicating Shivan contingencies.

There are stories from the Red Zones and its inhabitants, as well as the IRF fleets who handle those unbound systems.

There is also a bit of faux academic storytelling discussing discoveries found regarding the power and extent of the Shivans, a bit of historical fluff about the state of sub-Tev technology, and some Bosch.

I did my best with that last one.

I like to keep chronology deliberately vague because it gives me leaway to write new material, but most of the modern stories happen in the year before the setting of Contraband.

As for changes - I removed the stories regarding the Ephesus, because I wanted to set the narrative in one period of time.  I like the idea of a campaign based around a doomed destroyer on the eve of the NTF rebellion, but I am focusing on one particular period of time right now.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2020, 12:14:50 pm by Rheyah »