Advocacy Archive: As Good As Dunn

As Good As Dunn

ADVOCACY ARCHIVE
INTRAAGENCY MESSAGES

2948-12-14_19:07 SET
TO: SSA LAKODA IWATA
FROM: SA JULIE NADIR
SUBJECT: DUNN INVESTIGATIONACTIONABLE

Sir –

Just wanted to give you an update. The op’s good to go. I’ll set up on an overlook above the Dunn Scrapyard and will watch it for a few hours before paying them a visit. I’ll use an Argo SRV to tow in a busted 325a. Both have clean regtags so there shouldn’t be any reason for them not to process it. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to verify my confidential informant’s claims about this place being a front for organized crime.

I’ll be on comms if you need me.

Julie Nadir
Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2948-12-15_06:22 SET
TO: SA JULIE NADIR
FROM: SSA LAKODA IWATA
RE: DUNN INVESTIGATIONACTIONABLE

Keep me posted. We need a big win on this in order to maintain the investigation on Dunn. If the op doesn’t uncover anything, the Haubert case is heating up and might require your attention.

Lakoda Iwata
Supervisory Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2948-12-15_22:09 SET
TO: SSA LAKODA IWATA
FROM: SA JULIE NADIR
RE: DUNN INVESTIGATIONACTIONABLE

Sir –

Today didn’t quite go as planned. I’m drafting the full incident report, but I still think there’s enough suspicious activity to warrant further investigation. You’ll have all the details in the report, but the big takeaways are below:

The scrapyard refused to take the 325a, claiming they didn’t have the capacity to process it. When I pointed out that there was space in the scrapyard, the story changed to the problem being a mechanical issue with their compactor. I sang them a sob story about needing creds fast, even offered to take just below market value for it. They still rejected my offer and did everything in their power to have me leave the premises as fast as possible.

Several other peculiarities presented themselves during the day, which add to the theory that the scrapyard is a front. While there I clocked 20 employees, most without safety gear. Some just sitting around looking bored. Others were involved in a rowdy Trigger game happening in one of the hangars. The shop definitely didn’t look or feel like the bustling business it is on paper, which was substantiated by my surveillance.

I logged all activity that occurred at the scrapyard today and it was significantly lower than expected. Exact numbers will be attached, along with a detailed explanation about why they’re red flags. I think we may be on to something big here.

I’ll be back in the office tomorrow. Let me know when you’re free.

Julie Nadir
Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2948-12-16_07:13 SET
TO: SA JULIE NADIR
FROM: SSA LAKODA IWATA
RE: DUNN INVESTIGATIONACTIONABLE

Refusing to scrap a ship isn’t a crime. While the behavior you’ve outlined is indeed suspicious, there’s not enough evidence to back up your CI’s claims. With our current caseload, I cannot justify any additional hours being spent on this.

Come by tomorrow at 15:00 for a debrief. Before then, familiarize yourself with the attached Haubert case file.

Lakoda Iwata
Supervisory Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

Attachment: CaseFile_NH81315E.tbf

2948-12-16_08:40 SET
TO: SSA LAKODA IWATA
FROM: SA JULIE NADIR
RE: DUNN INVESTIGATIONACTIONABLE

Understood. See you then.

Julie Nadir
Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2949-01-24_23:03 SET
TO: SSA LAKODA IWATA
FROM: SA JULIE NADIR
SUBJECT: DUNN INVESTIGATION— NEW EVIDENCE

Sir,

Last month, although my attention was focused on the Haubert sting, something still wasn’t sitting right with the Dunn case. To be clear, I dedicated my work hours to resolving the Haubert investigation, but I kept an eye on the scrapyard off the clock, meticulously noting everyone coming and going. I poured over the scrapyard’s public records and tax filings three times.

Thankfully, I finally managed to make contact with local law enforcement. Turns out a former detective had opened a case on Dunn last year. They received a tip about potential contraband moving through the business, but once word of the investigation was made official, there was pressure from higher-up to shut it down. All files related to the case were transferred and vanished. The detective had backups of some of the case files before they got wiped and sent them along.

The files document Dunn using a long list of fake SRV regtags to inflate their profits. It’s proof they’re scrapping way more ships on paper than in reality to launder millions of creds. I got curious and ran a few of these fake SRV regtags through the system. Each of these fake ships “towed” wrecks to the same few scrapyards, which includes Dunn and even one on Castor. I compared the fiscal reports for each of these companies and found them be almost identical. It has to be a system-wide money laundering operation for one of Corel’s major players.

The report and all related documents will be ready for your review tomorrow morning.

Julie Nadir
Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2949-1-25_06:36 SET
TO: SA JULIE NADIR
FROM: SSA LAKODA IWATA
RE: DUNN INVESTIGATION— NEW EVIDENCE

Find me when you get in. I need you to debrief me on everything, including exactly how you obtained these files. The legitimacy of the entire case hinges on it.

Lakoda Iwata
Supervisory Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2949-1-26_13:22 SET
TO: SA JULIE NADIR
FROM: SSA LAKODA IWATA
RE: DUNN INVESTIGATION— NEW EVIDENCE

Nadir, where are you?

Lakoda Iwata
Supervisory Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

2949-1-29_04:37 SET
TO: SC LEN TEXIERA, ASC FREDDY AGUILAR
FROM: SSA LAKODA IWATA
SUBJECT: URGENT — SA NADIR

SA Julie Nadir was found dead in her apartment last night of a single gunshot to the head. This was a professional execution.

To give you a clearer context, SA Nadir recently revealed to me that she caught a big break related to an old investigation of the Dunn scrapyard. As you’ll see in the attached comms, SA Nadir continued to pursue her investigation in an unofficial capacity, during off hours, and not under my direction. Upon hearing this, I arranged SA Nadir to debrief me immediately. After several days passed where she was unaccounted for, I paid a visit to her apartment. That’s when I discovered SA Nadir’s body.

Her home terminal was still on, with all her findings on the Dunn investigation sitting on screen. I’ve gone through the files, and Nadir’s ultimate conclusion was that the scrapyards tied to Dunn through fake SRV regtags are a front for the Benini clan. Taking down these shops would be a significant blow to their ops throughout the system. While this might explain why she was targeted, it doesn’t explain why the Benini clan would just leave her terminal and case work untouched.

Which got me thinking, who would serve SA Nadir this case on a platter?

It’s too clean. Too convenient. I can’t back this up yet, but in my opinion, I think a new syndicate might be making a move into the system. Getting rid of the Benini clan’s cash flow would be a huge win for the Advocacy, but would equally benefit a criminal rival looking to carve out space for themselves in the underworld.

I’ve attached the case file, which includes all comms between myself and SA Nadir related to the case. I’d recommend reading SA Nadir’s report first. The case is laid out beautifully. The Advocacy lost a good investigator today.

Lakoda Iwata
Supervisory Special Agent
Office of the Advocacy
New Junction, Lo, Corel

Attachment: CaseFile_WI57421S.tbf

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch/16955-Advocacy-Archive-As-Good-As-Dunn

Australia Day Gladius Free-Fly

Australia Day Gladius Free-Fly

Celebrate the founding of Australia (and domination of the Vanduul)

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Featured Ship

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Created as part of the ‘Masters of Flight’ series in conjunction with the flight sim Arena Commander, the Valiant pays tribute to famed defense pilot Condi Hillard for being the first Human on record to defeat a Vanduul ship in combat. This Gladius comes equipped with a specialized dogfighting-focused loadout and special-edition livery honoring her iconic ship.

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Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/16946-Australia-Day-Gladius-Free-Fly

Brothers In Arms: Part One

Writer’s Note: Brothers In Arms: Part One was published originally in Jump Point 3.5.

The heads-up display on Gavin Rhedd’s Cutlass dimmed at the edges. Green triangles representing the members of his security team distorted to form horizontal spikes of flickering static. He smacked the side of his helmet. It was a practiced move, and one that had snapped the HUD back into focus in the past. This time, the display flickered, faded and then died.

A heavy breath sent a thin veil of vapor climbing the visor of his helmet. Condensation obscured the view of black, empty space ahead.

Empty like the dead heads-up display.

Empty just like it had been for weeks.

There were brigands and marauders plaguing every planet in the ’verse and he couldn’t find one damned gang. Nothing was working out like he’d planned.

On the navsat, the other three members of Rhedd Alert Security fanned out to either side. His brother Walt was locked into position directly to port. Jazza and Boomer were painfully out of position.

Sloppy.

Everyone was getting bored and careless.

Boomer was the first to break radio silence this time.

“Hey, guys?”

“What’s up, Boomer?” Walt was the first to respond.

“I’m cold.”

Jazza didn’t follow orders better than any of the others, and her banter had the comfortable cadence of friendly rivalry. “Then put on a sweater.”

“Hey, Jazz?” Boomer fired back at her.

“Yeah?”

“Take your helmet off for a tick.”

“Why’s that, old man? You want a kiss?”

“Nope. I’m hoping you get sucked out and die when I shoot a hole through your cockpit.”

Gavin sighed into his helmet before triggering his mic. “Come on, gang. I want comms dark. The miners on Oberon hired us to take care of their pirate problem. And the three of you chattering on an open channel won’t help us find them any faster.”

“I’m starting to hate this system,” Walt muttered.

They were all tired and strung out from weeks of long hours and no action. But Walt was killing their morale by giving voice to that frustration. This whole thing — Rhedd Alert Security, abandoning smuggling to go clean, applying for Citizenship — was something they’d agreed to do together. Gavin and Walt. Brothers. Going legit and starting a business.

It seemed a good idea when they were dodging system alerts and dumping a fortune into forged tags. But some things don’t change, and Walt was the same old Walt — all talk and no follow through. It wouldn’t be long before he came up with some excuse to move on to clearer skies.

“What’s wrong, Boomer?”

“Cold, Gavin. Think the heat’s out.”

Wonderful. Something else to fix. Maybe Walt wouldn’t be the first to quit after all. Dell would leave if Gavin let her father freeze to death over this rock.

Jazza barked a laugh, “Yep. That sounds about right for this outfit.”

“Jazza, will you shut up already? Which part are you having trouble with? Comms or dark?”

“Yes sir, Big Boss Man.”

“Jesus. I got more respect from you guys when we were criminals. Boomer, by all the Banu gods, why didn’t you tell me you were having trouble before we left the hangar?”

“I, uh . . . I figured to keep quiet until after the mission. Until we got paid, you know?”

This should have been a quick in and out job. But after weeks of fruitless hunting, even if they eventually drove off the pirates, the job would be a net loss.

“Hey, guys?” Jazza was really starting to get on his nerves. He told her as much. “Shut your hole, Gavin. I just wanted to let you know I found something.”

Gavin quickly studied the navsat console. The area looked empty other than the four of them, so whatever she’d found wasn’t showing up on any of his feeds. He smacked his helmet again in mute hope that the HUD would spring back to life.

“It’s a hull,” Jazza said. “Big one. Looks like a stripped Idris. Looks dead.”

“I’m not seeing you on . . . crap,” Walt said. “There you are. How’d you get way the hell out there?”

“Easy, folks,” Gavin said. “Boomer? You head toward Jazza. Walt and I will hold position.”

“Copy that.”

An Idris represented a fair chunk of creds as salvage. Strange that no one had claimed it. They were in Oberon to chase off pirates, but a little scrap job on the side was a welcome bonus.

“Jazza,” Gavin said, “I’ve got nothing near you on sensors. You think it’s just some floating junk?”

“I think so,” she spoke slowly, uncertain. “I thought I saw a heat trace, but I’m not seeing it now. Going in for a closer — Jesus!”

“Jazz,” Boomer’s voice was flat. The old man was all business. “Break right, I’ll pull this one off you and lead them back to the boys.”

“Can’t shake him.”

The navsat showed three new ships. A 325a with scrambled tags closed in on Jazza. Walt streaked past, already accelerating toward the fray, and Gavin turned to follow.

“Pull up hard,” Boomer said. “Bring him back around — Damn it.”

“Talk to us, Boomer,” Walt said.

“Jazza took a big hit. These guys are each sporting a Tarantula — the big one.”

“Hold tight,” Gavin said. “We’re nearly there. Walt, my HUD’s out. I need visual to fight, can you engage?”

“On it.”

“Hold on, Boomer. We’re coming.”

Walt was an incandescent streak ahead of him. The nearby space seemed deceptively empty without the visualizations that his HUD instrumentation would normally project. Only Oberon IV, looming beneath them, gave him any sense of perspective.

Walt’s voice crackled into the oppressive silence. “Boomer. I’m coming in low at your three o’clock.”

“Copy that.”

“I’m going to strafe with the repeaters to get their attention. You give that 325 a broadside he can’t resist. I’ll shove a missile somewhere the sun don’t shine.”

“Hurry, Walt. I’m too old for a three-on-one.”

“On you in five. Four. Three. Break now!”

Up ahead, razor thin beams of red slashed across space. The lasers streaked straight and then abruptly fanned out as Walt yawed around a pirate ship.

“Boomer!” Walt’s words tumbled out in a rush. “I can’t take a missile shot with you between us.”

“Can’t shake him.”

“Well that Tarantula is going to shake you plenty if you don’t.”

A missile streaked toward one of the pirate ships. Gavin saw a stuttering series of small flashes inside the cockpit, then the 325a vented a blazing ball of burning oxygen and went dark.

Gavin dropped into the swirling tangle of ships and added his own laser fire to the melee. Rippling blossoms of dispersed energy glowed against a pirate’s shields.

“That’s done it,” Walt said, “they’re gonna run.”

He was right. Realizing they were outnumbered, the remaining pirates turned together and accelerated past Jazza’s drifting ship.

And with them would go any hope of a profitable job. “Pen them in and stitch them up, guys.”

“Screw that,” Walt pulled up, quickly falling behind. “Let them run. They won’t operate here once we steal their hideout. We win, Gav.”

“This job won’t even cover our fuel costs, Walt. We need those ships.”

“I got ’em.” Boomer yawed around to pin the fleeing ships between them.

“Boomer,” Walt cried, “don’t!”

The pirate pair turned nose to nose with Boomer. Their guns sparked twice, muzzles flashing, and Boomer’s Avenger bucked from the impact. Most of the starboard wing spun away in a blaze of erupting oxygen. The pirates flew straight through the floating wreckage and streaked away at full acceleration.

Gavin cursed and slowed. Without his HUD, the fleeing pirates quickly faded from view. “Boomer? Talk to me, buddy.”

Boomer’s Avenger drifted slowly away toward the black. Then it burped, venting air and Boomer’s survival suit out into open space.

A new, flashing red icon reflected up and off the canopy of Gavin’s cockpit. He didn’t have to check the console to know it was Boomer’s recovery beacon.

He let his hands fall away from the controls, closed his eyes and let his head slump backwards. His helmet struck the headrest with an audible clunk. Colored lights sprang up to swim in front of his closed eyes.

Resigned, he cracked one heavy lid to peek out at the intruding light source. His HUD had decided to grace him with a reappearance.

“What. The hell. Was that?” Walt pronounced his words biting precision.

“Tarantula GT-870 Mk3,” Gavin recited in detail.

“I know about the damn guns, Gavin. I mean sending Boomer after them. We won. We had them on the run.”

“These ships don’t repair themselves, Walt. Maybe you haven’t done the math, but we’re broke. We need the salvage.”

“Salvage is nice, but Dell is going to kill you if Boomer is hurt again.”

“I’ll deal with Dell.” Gavin rolled his shoulders and settled his hands back on the controls. “Put a call in to Oberon. Let them know we took care of their pest problem and that we’ll tow away the clever little base the pests were hiding in to block scans. Then get Jazza patched up. Assuming the pirate survived, the two of you can drop him off before towing the salvage home.”

“Got it,” Walt’s voice was caustic, “money first. Good job keeping our priorities straight”

“Damn it, Walt. Will you stow the lip for two minutes so we can pack up and get everyone home.”

“Fine.”

“I’ll get Boomer. Can you please go see if you can get Jazza back up and running?”

“You’re the boss, little brother.”

Gavin pushed his family troubles to the back of his mind. Prioritize. First things first, take care of the crew. Get Boomer home. Repair the ships. Pay down some debt. He rattled off a painfully long list of critical next steps and one item kept rapidly, forcefully climbing its way to the top.

They really needed to get another job.

Walt beat the others back to the hangar. He matched rotation with Goss system’s Vista Landing and drifted along its length until he reached the Rhedd Alert hangar. He slowed and then stopped at three sets of wide double doors, each painted an alarming shade of red.

Hazard beacons floated in front of the first set of doors. Short bursts from tiny thrusters kept them in place a dozen meters out while a work crew applied high-pressure, ghost-grey paint over stencils of the Rhedd Alert logo.

Walt drew in a proud breath that pressed his chest against the confines of his flight suit. It looked cool having their name up in big letters on the side of the complex.

Then the moment soured.

The hangar and support staff were dead weight around their necks. The painting crew and logo were all part of the lease agreement with the station, but they served as a pointed reminder of the permanence of the commitment. Walt gnawed at his bottom lip, uncomfortable with the weight of the obligation.

He tried to put the sense of buyer’s remorse aside, but it sat heavy and rekindled his anger at Gavin. His brother wanted this company so much. Dell did, too.

Success — legit success — meant they could leave the old routines behind, forever. No more hiding. No more flipping tags every couple weeks to stay ahead of the Advocacy. Starting a company and working toward Citizenship was a big deal, but at what price?

Employing folks and applying for Citizenship was fine, but it started to lose luster in a hurry if success meant getting someone killed. Walt had to make sure Gavin saw that. They were all tired, but this was too important to wait.

“Knock knock, Dell,” Walt said. “Open up.”

D’lilah’s voice came over the comm immediately. She’d been waiting. “Bay 3, Walt. And mind the paint crew.”

“I see ’em. Glad to be home, Dell.”

Gavin touched down last, and Walt was waiting at the foot of the ladder when his brother slid down to the deck.

“Don’t start with me,” were the first words out of Gavin’s mouth.

“Listen,” Walt said, “Maybe I was out of line to second guess you during a fight, but we need to talk about what happened out there.”

“We won, okay? Right now I need to get Boomer to the med techs, and then contact Barry about another job.”

“Barry got us this job, Gav. I’m not sure if you noticed, but it really didn’t end so well.”

“We got sucker-punched by some thugs. That’s what happens when you get sloppy.”

He was talking about procedures and performance. Two of their ships got shot up, Boomer wounded and Gavin was grumbling about tight flight formations. Walt stretched his fingers, willing them not to form fists. His brother tucked his helmet under one arm and stepped to the side to move around him.

“Damn it, Gavin,” Walt grabbed the shorter man’s shoulder and pressed him back against the ladder. “Would you slow down for two seconds?”

He’d caught Gavin by surprise, but his younger brother was fast. Gavin slapped the hand from his shoulder, threw his helmet to the hangar deck and planted a two-handed shove of his own into Walt’s chest. “What’s your problem, Walt?”

The hangar grew quiet. A quick glance to either side showed the rest of the staff looking very hard for something productive to do, as far from the brothers as possible. Walt leaned in and hissed, “I’m trying to keep you from getting someone hurt. What’s the point of Rhedd Alert if we get everyone killed for one crappy job?”

“One crappy . . . ?” Gavin’s eyes were wide, showing white all around the edges. “You need to wake up, Walt. This was our only job. I got half the ships in the squad with parts falling off. I got Boomer freezing his junk off in nothing more than his flight suit. We can’t jump systems to hijack the next ship that comes along any more. This is what we signed up for, man.”

Walt was getting hot again. He knew he should walk away, but Gavin was still missing his point. “I know what I signed up for.” He knew that they had to make good on jobs, but why die trying just to pay the bill collectors? “And I remember why I signed up, too.”

Gavin stepped in again. Closer. “Oh yeah? And why’s that?”

“You, Gavin.”

“So everything’s my fault? Because I made you join up.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“I know I screwed up the bid on this job. I should have priced it higher. But guess what? I didn’t. And this is all we had.”

Walt lowered his voice, getting right in Gavin’s face. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. I’m here because you want this.” He jabbed a stiff finger into Gavin’s chest. “You want it for Dell. Because you’re afraid she’ll leave if you can’t pull it off.”

And then Gavin was on him.

They went down hard and Walt’s head cracked against the deck when they landed. Gavin was compact and built like a Sataball defenseman, but Walt had length and leverage. It was a dichotomy they had put to the test a hundred times since they were boys, with nearly uniform results. But Gavin just didn’t know when to give up.

The tussle was short and ugly. In seconds, Walt had one forearm jammed into the back of his brother’s neck, with the other propping himself up off the deck. Gavin’s face was pressed into the cold steel of the hangar floor.

Then the scuffed toe of a black work boot crunched down painfully on Walt’s fingers. His stranglehold on Gavin relaxed, and the smaller man started to squirm free. That was, at least, until the socketed head of a heavy wrench dropped on Gavin’s shoulder, pushing him back down, face first and flat onto the deck.

“Oomph.”

“Now, now, boys,” Dell said. “What are the neighbors gonna think?”

Walt winced, gritting his teeth as she ground his fingers against the steel deck. He craned his neck around to look at her. D’lilah’s boots were cinched tight by pink laces with a white skull-and-crossbones pattern stitched into them. She wore worn, canvas coveralls that hugged strong legs, pockets bulging with tools and spare parts. Her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail that hung over one shoulder, and she’d dyed the last couple inches a bright, electric blue. The color was new since they’d left for Oberon. It was a playful accent that wasn’t echoed in the angry blue of her eyes.

“Oh. Hey there, Dell.” Walt struggled to keep a pinched note of pain from his voice. “Hello to you, too.”

“Unless the next words out of your mouth tell me where my dad is, you’re going to be working your stick left-handed.”

Gavin answered her. “Ease up, Dell.”

“Who’s got him?”

“I do.” Gavin nodded back toward his ship.

“Well then.” She lifted her foot and Walt yanked his hand back to rub at aching knuckles. He glared at her, as sour a look as he could manage while kneeling on the deck. Her smile feigned a sweetness that did nothing to thaw the frozen fury in her eyes. “I’ll fetch the buggy. If you two are done snuggling, it sounds like my dad has a date with the techs in the med center.”

Dell swung the wrench up to rest over one shoulder, spun on the balls of her feet, and strode away.

Gavin rolled over onto his back with a groan. “That woman is going to kill us one of these days.”

“Think we could outrun her?”

“You, maybe. There’s not a dark enough hole in the ’verse for me to hide.”

“Yeah, well,” Walt pushed himself to his feet with a grunt, “that’s your own damn fault for marrying her.”

Several systems away, on a station much larger and better appointed than Vista Landing, Morgan Brock scowled at a set of numbers on her mobiGlas. She lifted her eyes, shifting her gaze over the top edge of the screen to stare at Riebeld. The salesman sprawled casually in what Brock knew to be an uncomfortable chair. She made sure that it was uncomfortable, so no one felt confident when sitting opposite her desk.

Riebeld somehow pulled it off, though. It was that braggadocio that made him such a good breadwinner for her company. Irritating, yes. But good for business.

She powered down the mobiGlas. “The net profits on this estimate are based off a twelve percent commission.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I think we both know that your negotiated commission is ten, Riebeld.”

“And I think we also both know that this job could double the size of the company within two years.” He sat forward then and leaned on her desk. “I want twelve if I bring it in.”

“And you think I’m going to just give it to you?”

“I know you will.”

It was her turn to lean forward. It put her too close to him, and he should have backed off. He didn’t. “And why,” she asked, “is that?”

“Because I know that you’re not going to let principle stand in the way of profit.” His toothy grin was bright enough to deflect lasers. She was used to predatory smiles from men, but with men like Riebeld, it only meant there was money on the line. His mobiGlas chirped beside them. Riebeld had an incoming call.

He ignored it.

She waited for the incoming alert to stop.

It did.

“You get twelve,” she said. “But anyone who helps bring it in gets paid out of your cut, not mine. And I want three options for one-year extensions. Not one. Bring it to me with three or I won’t sign it.”

“Done.”

“Fine. Now get out.”

He did and Brock leaned back in her chair. She was going to need more ships. Riebeld would get the extensions or he wouldn’t. They gave him something to work toward, and he’d get sloppy if he didn’t have a challenge.

Good sales guys were like racehorses, high maintenance and temperamental. Most days, they were nothing more than a pain in the ass. Come race day, though – you always wanted one in your stable.

There was a quick knock on her door. Riebeld didn’t wait for her to answer before he shoved his head in.

“I won’t budge on the options, Riebeld. I want three or no deal.”

“No,” he said. “It’s not that. Navy SysCom just put our Tyrol contract up for rebid.”

“What?”

“Yeah. We’re allowed to rebid, but they’re putting it out for open competition.”

“Why the hell would they do that?” Escorting UEE scientists to the research facilities in Tyrol wasn’t their biggest job, but she’d put a lot of work into it. They’d spent years clearing the shipping lanes in the Charon system — lucrative years, admittedly — and now the missions were pure profit and promised future growth.

“I don’t have the full story yet, but apparently they are trying to push low-risk contract work out to local companies. Some brainiac in accounting identified the Tyrol run as a candidate and boom, Major Greely pulled the contract.”

“See what you can find out,” she said. “And get to work on the rebid.”

“Already got it covered.”

“And Riebeld?”

“Yeah?”

“Find me the name of that accountant.”

It was late when Gavin left the station. By way of apology, he invited Walt to join him on the short trip to Cassel to meet with Barry Lidst. Whether Walt came along as reconciliation or simply to avoid another run-in with Dell was unclear. Regardless, he didn’t seem inclined to talk about the argument as they flew, and Gavin saw no reason to bring it up.

Barry, a Navy SysCom accountant by trade and freelance rainmaker by inclination, had grown up with the brothers. He had left Goss to join the Navy while the Rhedd boys stayed to work the smuggling routes with Boomer and their father before he passed.

Officially, Barry was responsible for negotiating contracts between the UEE Navy and private vendors, but he also managed to broker a few off-the-record jobs on the side. He was, if anything, an opportunist, and Gavin trusted him about as much as he trusted any of the shady characters they’d worked with in the past. Which is to say, not at all.

The fact that Barry was involved with Dell before leaving to join the Navy didn’t factor into his opinion at all. Nope, not in the slightest. Still, Barry had come through with their first legitimate job. With luck, he’d have more.

Gavin swallowed hard, focusing on the fact that they needed work. Walt kept quiet. By the time Cassel swelled, massive, blue and inviting against the gold and turquoise bands of the Olympus Pool, Gavin could feel his brows drawing down into a scowl.

The brothers landed and made their way to a club that catered to the resort world’s local crowd. It was busy, of course, but Barry was waiting and had managed to find an open table.

“I was beginning to think you two bought it in Oberon.” Barry’s naval uniform was cut from some shiny material that was either freshly pressed or engineered to be wrinkle-free. It looked tragically uncomfortable, but did a reasonable job of hiding a rounded gut.

“Oberon took a bit longer than we thought,” Gavin forced a smile, “but we got them.”

“Everything go okay?”

“Absolutely.” He injected confidence into his words and hoped it sounded genuine. Walt looked at him sharply, but Gavin ignored him. They had to appear capable or better jobs were going to be in short supply. “Pirates are not a problem.”

Barry motioned them to sit and his voice took on a somber note. “Word is that Dell’s dad got busted up. He okay?”

“Jesus, Barry,” Walt said. “How’d you even hear about that?”

“I’m the government. We’ve got our eyes and ears everywhere.” Gavin stared at him and raised an eyebrow, waiting. “Yeah. Well,” Barry shrugged and took a sip of his drink, “those miners on Oberon might have mentioned something.”

“Boomer’s fine. Our ships took more of a beating than he did,” Gavin turned the subject away from his team getting shot up on the job. “I was surprised to hear you were in Goss system.”

“Mom retired here on Cassel,” Barry cast a sour glare around the room when he said it. “I’m just here visiting. Can’t stand it with all the tourist traffic, but she loves the shows and exhibits and stuff. Anyway, I’m glad you guys were able to help out in Oberon.”

“Happy to.”

“Stuff like this comes up from time to time,” Barry said. “It’s not like we don’t want to take care of it ourselves or anything. We do. But the Navy can’t send troops after every brigand and thug in the ’verse, you know? Particularly when they’re camped out in an unclaimed system. So, yeah. No one minds if we feed these jobs to indies like you guys.”

“Well,” Gavin said, “we’re light on work right now. Got anything for us?”

“I might have something — not UEE work, but still a decent job. And I know the client will be happy with your rates.”

Gavin’s heart sank a bit, but maybe they could increase their price without chasing Barry away. He encouraged the accountant to keep talking.

“The job is close, just a couple hops away. It’s hard work, but I can hook you up if you’re interested.”

“What’s the job?” Walt asked.

“You ever heard of molybdenum?” Gavin’s face must have looked as blank as Walt’s. “No? It’s a rare metal used in electronics and stuff. You find it near copper deposits. You know what? Doesn’t matter. A friend of mine knows a guy who just got his hands on the mining rights to a moon.”

“Mining,” Walt muttered. “Why is it always mining?”

“I guess the whole moon is riddled with tunnels and caverns. Apparently there used to be a bunch of copper there, but now all that stuff is gone. The only thing left is the molybdenum. This guy, he’s got three weeks to start producing or he loses his lease to the next prospector in line.”

“Barry,” Gavin said, “if you’re looking for a team to wear hardhats and swing pickaxes, you’ve got the wrong guys.”

“Naw, it’s nothing like that. They’re empty now, but someone set the caves up as a fortified base. Smugglers, probably. They put auto-targeting turrets in there. My guy told me they’re all over the place. Around every corner. Anyway, it’s all Banu tech. A group of them must have hopped over from Bacchus.”

“So what’s the job?”

“They need someone to comb through the whole thing and take out the turrets. They can’t send mining equipment and operators in there until it’s clear. Those guys don’t have shields.”

“That’s it?” Gavin asked.

“Yup. That’s it.”

Walt watched Barry across the table with a bemused tilt to one eyebrow. “That’s the most boring job I’ve ever heard of.”

“Hey,” Barry said, “if you want something with a little higher chance of combat, I’ve got a UEE escort contract up for bid. We were getting absolutely fleeced by the incumbent contractor. I finally convinced the major to rebid the job.”

Now that sounded exactly like the job Rhedd Alert needed.

“Tell me more about that,” Gavin said. “About the escort job, I mean.”

“I, uh listen,” Barry said. “I wasn’t really serious about that. No offense, but that is an armed escort through some pretty rough systems.”

This was it. The chance they needed. “Our guys can do it,” Gavin said.

“It’s a small job now, but it’s scheduled to mature into something big. I don’t even know if you have enough ships to meet the contract requirements.”

“Give us a shot. If we perform, I’ll find the extra ships and pilots.”

“The outfits that sign on for gigs like this are generally ex-military. Highly trained. Lots of contacts in Navy SysCom. Most of the contractors we use are actually based right next to the Navy in Kilian System. I was joking, guys. Forget I mentioned it.”

“No, we can do this. What’s the run? How many —”

“Gav,” Walt interrupted, “we’re talking naval flight formations and tactics. Superior weapons systems. Maybe we should get more info on the turret thing in the mulberry mine.”

“Molybdenum.”

“Whatever.”

“Come on, Walt. This sounds perfect for us. And I’d put you or Jazza up against an ex-Navy pilot in a heartbeat. Any system, any time.”

“Fellas . . . hey, listen,” Barry said. “The UEE is trying to push local work to local contractors. The big defense companies are fighting it. If you feel like sticking your hand in the middle of that fire, I’ll forward you the RFP. Good enough? In the meantime . . . about my buddy with the moon mine?”

Gavin half-heartedly followed along while Walt and Barry discussed the turret job, but in his mind they were already escorting UEE ships through hostile space. Walt startled him out of his reverie when he hushed a surprised Barry into silence.

“Wait,” Walt said, “back up a second. These Banu weapon systems. Did you say this stuff came out of Bacchus?”

“Probably. Why?”

“This moon . . . Barry, where is it?”

“Oberon VI, why?”

Gavin’s heart sank again. A glance at Walt did nothing to reassure him. His brother’s smile looked fantastically strained.

“Ah, come on,” Barry said. “You’ve already done good work for these guys.”

“They’ll kill us,” Walt said.

“Naw,” Barry waved at them dismissively, “They love Rhedd Alert.”

“No,” Walt said, “not the miners.”

“Who?” Barry looked concerned now. “Who’ll kill you?”

Gavin answered. “Our team is going to kill us if we drag them back to Oberon.”

“Hey,” Barry relaxed, “it’s a small ’verse. You’re going to end up passing through there sooner or later. Might as well get paid for it. Am I right?”

“Yeah,” Walt said, “but Oberon?”

“I did mention it pays, didn’t I?” Barry keyed something up on his mobiGlas. He turned it so they could read the projected display. At the bottom was a number. A not-insignificant number. Gavin stared at his hands as Walt absorbed the figures.

Walt’s head made an audible clunk when it struck the table. He groaned something muffled and to the effect of, “I can’t believe we’re going back to Oberon.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/serialized-fiction/16942-Brothers-In-Arms-Part-One

Spectrum Spectator: One Step Back

Daisy Wences: Welcome once again to your show of shows, Spectrum Spectator. Where we take everything broadcast during the past week and blend it into a concentrated, easy-to-digest paste. I’m your entertainment emissary, Daisy Wences, and with me as always is this other person.

Lars Gonall: Why do I feel like the job title ‘Paste Purveyor’ would go over better with my parents than ‘Spectrum Critic?’

Daisy Wences: Because even though you’re a grown adult, you still live your life seeking your parents’ approval?

Lars Gonall: Once again, thanks to Daisy, I’m going to have some deep thinking to do after this show.

Daisy Wences: That’s why we’re all here, right? Profound self-epiphanies.

Lars Gonall: Profound epiphanies through the prism of spectrum are the perfect medium for self-reflection.

Daisy Wences: Which reminds me, have you caught Far From Home yet?

Lars Gonall: I have…

Daisy Wences: Yes! How many episodes have you done? Ten? Twenty?

Lars Gonall: Daisy has been begging me to check it out since she discovered it last week and I gotta say… it’s not for me.

Daisy Wences: What?!

Lars Gonall: For those of you unfamiliar, Far From Home is this personal diary and advice show that a solo pilot puts out from his Freelancer. It’s basically like when you get seated next to your friend’s uncle at a dinner party and they just want to talk about how good ships used to be in the old days.

Daisy Wences: You did not just compare Old Jegger to someone’s random uncle.

Lars Gonall: Later, when you go back and check the recording, you will see that I, in fact, did exactly that.

Daisy Wences: Despite what Lars says, I still think that this is a show worth checking out. I heard about it on a DIY forum when I was trying to fix a glitchy heater in my hab. Of course, instead of actually fixing the stupid thing, I wound up spending the rest of the night consuming every Far From Home episode I could find. Maybe because part of me always wondered what it would be like on the drift. Hearing him talk, you start to understand the difference between a solitary life and a lonely one.

Lars Gonall: I will say that I appreciated how he seemed very much about everyone finding their own best way to live. It wasn’t just him preaching about how we should all be space hermits. And I’ll also give it a few more points now that there’s that rumor circulating that he’s dead.

Daisy Wences: Wait? What?

Lars Gonall: You didn’t see this? It was on the Galactapedia page. Turns out he hasn’t put out an episode since the last one he did from Charon. People are speculating that something might have happened to him. A bunch of fans have started trying to organize a search for him.

Daisy Wences: He is a hermit, right? I bet he’s simply staying off the grid for a bit. I’m sure this is just one of those dumb spectrum rumors and he’ll show up in a week or two with a great story to tell. At least, I really hope that’s what’ll happen.

Lars Gonall: Yeah. You’re probably right. Just promise me that you’re not gonna run away to join the search.

Daisy Wences: Don’t worry, Lars. I’m not leaving the show… yet.

Lars Gonall: Since we got to talk about one of your new favorite shows, you want to talk about my new crush that you can’t stand?

Daisy Wences: Fine. Go ahead.

Lars Gonall: From the makers of such fine reality vids like Kid Empire and Weapon Wars: Shoot-Out Edition comes my brand new obsession, Face to Face, a dating show with a brilliant premise.

Daisy Wences: You mean an insanely creepy premise.

Lars Gonall: Oh, yeah. Won’t argue with you there. This is definitely a show for people who love cringe binging. All the contestants are sent into one of those new and really expensive BiotiCorp machines and given identical faces.

Daisy Wences: Want to know how they picked what that face would look like? They created a composite head from all the main single person’s exes. How messed up is that?

Lars Gonall: The show claims they’re trying to create an ideal partner for the selector by looking at their previous romantic choices. The lucky –

Daisy Wences: I guess that’s how they could be described…

Lars Gonall: The lucky bachelor is a fitness instructor from New Babbage named Eris who goes on dates with all the contestants and eliminates anyone they don’t like. Once eliminated, the candidates are reverted back to their original face.

Daisy Wences: I swear it’s like some bizarre cult. One of the contestants who got cut was sobbing because they didn’t want their old face back. I know it’s pretty common these days to adjust how you look, but the way they were all losing their identity while trying to become someone else’s fantasy made me really uncomfortable.

Lars Gonall: You had a much darker take than I did. For me, it was fun to watch people get to know each other in a situation where their looks didn’t matter. Eris couldn’t judge people on who was attractive or not, it was all about if they had a connection. What’s really going to be interesting is that the winning contestant gets to reconstruct their face however they want. Do they go with their original? An ‘improved’ version of themselves? Keep their new face? So many choices.

Daisy Wences: Do you think the people at BiotiCorp would have made the Calliope if they knew that this was how their amazing invention was going to be used?

Lars Gonall: I assume all scientists hope for a day when their discovery or invention can be used to help strangers pretend to be in love on spectrum.

Daisy Wences: Shall we move on to a show that we were actually scheduled to review this week?

Lars Gonall: Even better, a show that we both actually liked.

Daisy Wences: Last Friday saw the premiere of the much-heralded docu-series One Step Back. Filmed on Asura, it’s a hard look at what life is like for former criminals trying to re-enter society. The first episode focuses on Liz ‘Necro’ Salguero, a convicted shipjacker who was released from Quarterdeck last year.

Lars Gonall: You get a real sense of what it must be like to have this criminal reputation hanging over your head. At one point, she goes through a checkpoint on her way to sell some scrap and seeing how security swarms all over her to do a deep scan was really surprising to me. Maybe this is just my naïveté talking, but I always figured that serving time was enough to clear your record. It turns out though that the Advocacy keeps you flagged as a person of interest for a long time after you’ve been incarcerated, and a lot of people get access to those records.

Daisy Wences: One of the people they interview is a criminal rights advocate who is trying to change the law so that once your crime is atoned for, your records remained sealed unless you are charged with a crime again. We expect these people to be able to make a life for themselves, but with their past available to potential employers, many can’t find work and even when they do, it’s a long hard road to earning trust and respectability again.

Lars Gonall: This isn’t exactly the same thing, but I do remember this one time growing up when my dad accidentally clipped a ship that was rising out of hangar bay. He got flagged and until he paid off the fine, we weren’t allowed to use a lot of public landing areas. It was only a week, but still.

Daisy Wences: I had no idea you came from an outlaw family. It’ll be interesting to see what the show does to help forward the dialogue about all this. Apparently, since the episode was released, Liz has been overwhelmed with job offers and people looking to help her out. Pretty touching really. Of course, that’s just one person.

Lars Gonall: Strongly recommend you give this show a try. It’s not exactly lighthearted, but it’s doing some important things.

Daisy Wences: All right, on that surprisingly serious note, we have to take our first break. When Spectrum Spectators returns, we’ll be discussing the new Tavi Arteaga comedy, One Mann’s Treasure, about a young woman named Aleria Mann who leaves her bustling life in Prime to run her sick mother’s salvaging business out in the far reaches of Corel.

Lars Gonall: I’m pretty excited because we haven’t reviewed a ‘the character’s name is a title pun’ show in a long time, so be sure to stick around and we’ll be right back.

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch/16930-Spectrum-Spectator-One-Step-Back

January 2949 Subscriber Flair

January 2949 Subscriber Flair

Subscribers

Everyone knows that RSI’s Venture Explorer Suit is top-notch light armor, perfectly suited for plunging headlong into the unknown. This exclusive undersuit has been specially designed for the Rust Society, sporting a red and tan color scheme that naturally hides dirt, wear, and tear. Look good while working hard.

Imperator Subscribers

Imperator-level subscribers get this RSI Beacon flight suit in addition to the Venture edition. Celebrate the blue-collar legacy of the Rust Society with two stylish, functional options.

If you’re an active subscriber, these items will be added to your account on January 14th.

If you aren’t a subscriber yet but want to sport this Flight Suit, make sure you subscribe no later than January 13th.

More information about subscriptions can be found here

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/16932-January-2949-Subscriber-Flair

Galactic Guide: Kabal System

This Galactic Guide originally appeared in Jump Point 4.12.

After nearly six years of work as a stellar surveyor for the Imperial Cartography Center, Usuni Colo had never taken as much as a sick day. By 2941, his supervisor hadn’t suggested that Colo take a vacation, she mandated it. Faced with three weeks of nothing to do, Colo knew there was only one place he wanted to go. Fascinated by the Outsiders, he traveled to Mya in the Leir system to see firsthand how isolationism had affected the planet and its people.

Unfortunately for Colo, his attempts to talk his way past the traveler zone to get the ‘real experience’ got him expelled from the planet. Still faced with a couple weeks of enforced downtime, Colo took his time returning home to the Elysium system. And as a member of an ICC Stellar Surveyor team, he was in the habit of scanning for jump points even when off-duty.

So on 2941.03.11 when his scanners hit an anomaly that looked like a new jump point leaving the Leir system, Usuni Colo was professional rather than surprised. What would ultimately surprise him would be what lay on the other side. He’d learn that he hadn’t discovered this system at all. Only rediscovered it.

Exploration Excitement


Colo took a number of initial scans of what became known as the Kabal system, which Colo named in honor of the famous 27th century musical group. The scans found a F-type main sequence star, three planets, and an asteroid cluster. Upon returning to UEE space, he immediately reported the discovery and logged a special request that his ICC unit be assigned to scan and explore the system he discovered. The UEE granted Colo’s petition, and he returned to the system with the rest of his team shortly thereafter.

Their initial assessment of the system was overwhelmingly positive. Kabal II and Kabal III were located within the habitable zone, and Kabal III’s oxygen-based atmosphere meant it had the potential to be a turnkey planet. Excitement swelled among government officials, since finding a naturally habitable world would provide incredible benefits and resources without the expense of terraforming. Colo and the rest of his team were immediately deployed to take more detailed scans of Kabal III.

The ICC’s standard protocol is to keep the initial assessment of systems confidential until further evaluations have been made and details verified. Yet, somehow Kabal’s assessment leaked. News about the existence of a planet that might be immediately habitable caused a media sensation.

Critics of Imperator Costigan were suspicious; they claimed the leak was a calculated move on the part of his administration. Only weeks prior, the Historical Truth Act of 2941 declassified a trove of documents, many of which were from the Messer era and revealed many of the propaganda techniques Messer’s government used to manipulate the public. Although this was hardly a new revelation and obviously none of the released documents directly related to Costigan’s administration, columnists and critics drew tenuous comparisons between the tactics previously used and actions of the current administration, which had been mired in a series of embarrassing gaffes. The leak of Kabal’s initial assessment was seen by some as a way to get the populace to focus on the UEE’s future instead of the past.

Once the confidential report leaked, the ICC decided to embrace the buzz being generated. Usuni Colo was even scheduled to tell his incredible discovery story to Beck Russum for an Empire Report exclusive. The event was hyped across the spectrum for days, then abruptly canceled. When no official explanation was given for the interview getting canned, rumors started to swirl. After the official assessment of the Kabal system was delayed, also for unspecified reasons, the Senate Subcommittee of the Interior decided to get involved.

The Known Unknown


In October of 2941, Rebecca Alves, chair of the ICC, was summoned before the Senate Subcommittee of the Interior to discuss her stewardship of the agency. Senators focused their inquiries on Kabal III and wondered why the system‘s official report was late. Alves dodged most questions, claiming she couldn’t discuss specifics until the official report was released. When pressed, Alves became more evasive. This drew ire from Senators, who openly wondered who was really running the ICC if its director couldn’t provide a timeline.

Alves’ appearance before the Senate subcommittee was considered a disaster. It re-energized the debate over Kabal and reinforced the claim that the Imperator was really controlling the release of information. Faced with mounting public pressure the ICC finally published their official assessment of the Kabal system in early November of 2941. Suddenly, it became obvious why there was so much secrecy surrounding the system.

The report revealed that ancient, abandoned Tevarin cities, believed to predate the First Tevarin War, were discovered on Kabal III. So, even though the planet was Human-habitable, no settlements would be established for the foreseeable future. Following the release of this report, the UEE government classified the entire system off limits to the public to maintain the integrity of this important archaeological site. It has remained restricted ever since.

Kabal I


This small, lumpy protoplanet sits so close to the system’s sun that it only takes 34 standard days to complete its orbit.

Kabal II


The ICC’s initial report on Kabal II drew comparison to Mars. It’s a terrestrial desert planet situated smack dab in the middle of the habitable zone, making it an ideal terraforming candidate. Yet, the Tevarin never mastered terraforming technology, so it remained uninhabited while the system was under their control.

Kabal III


Kabal III was the system’s clear gem when it was (re)discovered. Yet the hope of the UEE establishing settlements on the planet was quickly squashed after abandoned Tevarin cities were uncovered, turning the planet into an archaeological site.

Beneath a thick layer of native plant life that had reclaimed the cities, this Tevarin world was stuck in time. Buildings and houses were filled with various common goods. Ships sat quietly on landing pads. The sacred codices of Rijora still hung in the temples. All this evidence suggested that the population either left quickly or planned to come back. Either way, Kabal III opened a window into a culture that had tried to erase itself in the Purge after the Second Tevarin War.

The UEE military invited Esperia, the noted ship replica manufacturer, to visit the planet to catalogue and appraise the ships that were found. After comparing them with the few remaining historical records, Esperia estimated that the planet was abandoned prior to the First Tevarin War. Despite providing a treasure trove of historical information on the Tevarin, these cities raised more questions than answers. One in particular remained elusive: why did the Tevarin leave?

Many still wonder how an entire system could have been forgotten by the Tevarin. Most believe a confluence of calamitous events over two centuries — the First & Second Tevarin Wars followed by the Purge — erased the system’s existence from the Tevarin cultural consciousness. Others insist its existence was a closely guarded secret among Tevarin radicals. Acutely aware of how little they know, UEE researchers have taken a cautious approach with the system. Despite repeated requests from the Tevarin Cultural Preservation Society and the Tevarin advocacy group Nerriva Alle, the UEE has maintained a tightly restricted access to the planet.

TRAVEL WARNING

Since Kabal can only be accessed through the unclaimed Leir system, some have tried to camp out and stalk government convoys to discover the exact coordinates of the jump point. UEE ships have been known to engage suspicious ships in the Leir system that are deemed a threat to the confidentiality of the jump point’s location. So, if a government sends you a warning comm, obey their orders or suffer the consequences.

HEARD IN THE WIND


“If you elect me as your Senator, I will work to help bring my people out of the shadows by rebuilding the beauty of Tevarin culture. This includes designating the lost cities on Kabal III as historical sites, and establishing cultural centers on the planet that will educate future generations of both Human and Tevarin alike.”

– Senator Suj Kossi, campaign speech, Jalan, Elysium, 2946

“The Kabal system is an interesting case. How could an entire system be forgotten about in only a few centuries? Could collective cultural amnesia really run this deep, or is there something else going on here? To be honest, I don’t know what answer scares me more.”

– Professor Vincent Fontana, excerpt from a speech to the Tevarin Cultural Preservation Society, 2943

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch/16926-Galactic-Guide-Kabal-System

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: December 2018

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: December 2018

This is a cross-post of the report that was recently sent out via the monthly Squadron 42 newsletter. We’re publishing this a second time as a Comm-Link to make it easier for the community to reference back to, and plan on following this process for future Squadron 42 Monthly Reports.

Attention Recruits,

What you are about to read is the latest information on the continuing development of Squadron 42.

Read on for pertinent details from our planet-wide operations on Squadron 42-related work over the last month, as well as intel on an exciting new dispatch. The information contained in this communication is extremely sensitive and it is of paramount importance that it does not fall into the wrong hands. Purge all records after reading.

Over and out,

UEE Naval High Command

The Road to Glory


Today sees the unveiling of our Squadron 42 roadmap, a useful piece of intel that tracks the progress of development in detail. Much like the Persistent Universe roadmap, this is linked to our JIRA tracking system, and thus lets you see at a glance the work remaining on the game as we thunder on toward the finish line. Of course, also like its Star Citizen counterpart, the Squadron 42 roadmap is not necessarily exhaustive and may be changed or updated as development continues. Make sure you read the caveats, and enjoy this insight into the process.

This monthly project update will work as something of a companion piece, shedding more light on specific work done by each development team, while the roadmap will provide dynamic real-time tracking of progress weekly.

Without further adiue, let’s see what the devs fighting the good fight on the frontlines have been up to…

AI


This month, Ship AI’s focus was on optimizing the Tactical Point System. They now have multiple queries bundled together in a batch from different threads, which allows more control over the cost of the overall system. They submitted several optimizations for the character movement system, which can now update all the components in a multithreaded batch approach and will utilize the maximum the CPU resources during the game update. A pass for thread safety of several subsystems was performed, including the attention target component and communication system. This is required to eventually move the Subsumption component update to the multithreaded batch update step.

In FPS Combat, the ‘Defend Area’ assignment was introduced; correctly achieving this behavior requires monitoring the mastergraph transitions to evaluate if the recipients of the Subsumption event can actually process it. In the Defend Area example, they might be executing any regular behavior when receiving the assignment. If the behavior can handle the request in a specific way, great. If not, then the mastergraph takes care of selecting one that can. Alongside this, they’re adding new behaviors to improve combat and patrol to respect this assignment.

New behaviors and functionality to support stealth gameplay were implemented, with new audio and visual stimuli being added to allow players to draw the attention of guards, prepare traps, and open up otherwise blocked paths.

Work also continued on the bartender for Lorville. To achieve several functionalities of his behavior, they implemented the first pass of UseChannel routing and are continuing to expand the usable functionalities.

The Usable Builder Tool received a new feature too: it’s now able to correctly preview different characters using different usables so that designers, animators, and programmers can easily test and verify the content as it’s delivered.

Animation


On the Story front, the Animation kicked-off production passes on a handful of Squadron 42 scenes. They’re also working to finalize the Armorer character for SQ42 – itself a large and intricate task.

Audio


Audio worked closely with the SQ42 composer Geoff Zanelli to establish themes for the game’s different races and important characters. This, combined with the second round of music implementation, allowed the team to better support pacing and overall development.

The Dialogue Team worked to ensure animation and design had all the assets required to successfully implement their conversations, comms, and cinematics.

Character Art


The Character Art Team polished the Vanduul armor and concepted the Navy Gunner’s outfit.

Cinematics


After completing the CitizenCon SQ42 teaser trailer, Cinematics took time to verify that each scene was functioning correctly from start to finish. This mainly involved the Shubin Station art pocket, but also other things like the battleground around Vega II. Once complete, they worked on a pivotal scene for the game featuring a key character not revealed yet. This involved using a new method of character hair and skin creation (tweaked for more realism), and small modification to costumes.

The Cinematic Animation Team carried on with regular scene work. Having completed first passes for much of the game’s narrative, they transitioned to scenes where a full implementation pass with a state machine is required. They also supported the engineers working on key workflow tools.

Along with navspline improvements, new functionality was added to allow the team to edit multiple cinematic sequences at once. Previously, TrackView only supported a master and child sequence and didn’t allow editing of the master if the child was edited, or vice versa. Some SQ42 scenes feature characters on capital ship bridges reacting to things they see through windows, which requires the team to split sequences between interior and exterior. The new multi-sequence workflow allows multiple sequences to be open and active at once and syncs the timelines for both the master and child.

Engine Tools


The Engine Team resumed work on GPU skinning. They added vertex velocity support (motion blur), completed several optimizations to skip zero weights (improved throughput), prepared background data, and made the first pass on memory layout and LOD support.

They also made the execution of ray collision checks and the defragmentation of grids run concurrently. This achieved a 30-50% speedup for physics planet terrain computation, reduced the number of cell queries on planets, and improved proxy mesh generation of terrain ground volumes.

Terrain rendering improvements were added (glow forward pass) as well as fixes for water volume and ocean rendering. The existing hair shader was improved, and a new depth of field algorithm was created to improve quality, performance, and fix halos around silhouettes.

Part of the team worked on additional culling refinements in the zone system to submit fewer objects to the renderer, as well as various low-level optimizations to reduce load on the render thread.

Engineering


Engineering actualized a system to allow variable limits on how far players can move their heads when looking around. The default amount is overridden by the outfit and helmet, so wearing heavy armor will restrict how far they can look.

Pickup and Carry was finished off, including the solving of an issue when interacting with items in EVA.

Developments on the female character continues. Because of her different sized skeleton, the team implemented animation-driven inverse kinematics to allow her to reach a ship’s controls without the need for new animation sets.

Progress has been made on the usables builder tool, which allows the content creators to drop in a character and play all the related usable animations, move locators around, and generally test a setup without having to go into the game.

As part of comms, a ‘Tannoy’ system can now pump audio to multiple parts of an environment. For example, an announcement to a single ship’s hangar or a more global ship-wide announcement.

The ship AI Team helped out with the new Intelligent Flight Control System (IFCS), tweaking ship behavior to better utilize these new flight controls for a better dogfighting experience.

Environment Art


Art began using their new hard surface shader and new blending features for wear and tear. This enables a more realistic appearance of localized damage without a jarring transition between worn and pristine areas. They’re paying particular attention to make sure wear looks natural and unforced. One of the high-level goals for SQ42 is for every asset and its features to sit in a scene naturally, feel unforced, and for the lighting to have a slightly softer, more realistic feel (except for some areas where the intensity is cranked up to 11).

Lighting focused on the Javelin found in an early campaign level, taking into account the emphasis on making one key light do more of the work. This new approach looks great and is less demanding on the engine too. Tweaks to a control room seen close to the end of the campaign progressed, with the aim being to set the correct tone for the narrative and gameplay moments that spread from it.

Props seen throughout the campaign (including monitors, screens, wiring looms, hatch covers, ropes, destructible lights, and pressurized items) all received attention, this time to determine how they break or deform when damaged. Several key events take place where these assets need to react correctly to gravity, decompression, damage, pulse, etc.

The vast Shubin mining station gained more detail to the supporting structures around it. Development of the facility’s Bridge (as first seen in the CitizenCon 2948 trailer) continued, which comes in at around three times the size of a Bengal’s.

Gameplay Story


The Gameplay Story Team made swift progress throughout November and continuously added more scenes to their Q4 list. They are currently working on 38 scenes for the quarter and are expecting to add several more by the end of the year.

Graphics


The Graphics Team worked on several shader effects, including the resurrection of the caustics water effect, which is needed in several locations throughout SQ42. The new hard surface shader was rolled out to the entire team and should improve performance, allow new surface shading features, and enable more dynamic wear & dirt effects.

Performance was also a focus, with most attention on the low-level texture and mesh streaming systems to help squeeze as much content in with as little performance impact as possible.

Level Design


The Level Design Team converted the older sables inside the Idris to a more efficient and flexible system, which also incorporates crew behaviors for things like ‘off-duty’ and ‘mess hall’. Level work is an ongoing collaboration with the Art Team and is constantly reviewed at senior level.

“It’s all going well and now that we have almost all the scenes in the levels you really get a great feel for the story flow and pacing.”

Cockpit scenes are coming to life thanks to ‘Render to Texture’ technology, while the new IFCS system is fully implemented into SQ42 and making a huge difference to dogfighting. Regular feedback and suggested improvements mean spline technology and flight controls are constantly refined.

Narrative


The Narrative Team continued plugging away at [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] as well as [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and that was a lot of fun.

Props


The Props Team continued work on the assets required for NPS interactions and activities by creating additional sub items used by the engineering crew and the storage cases to house them. The larger maintenance machinery assets are now ready for the animation and cinematic departments to use in their work, too.

System Design


The System Design Team integrated the New Flight Model into enemy ship AI, ensuring that they are still engaging to fight against and don’t become unbalanced. They noticed that the new IFCS currently causes too much unwanted ‘jousting’ behavior, so are currently looking into ways to modify it.

Dialogue wildlines for the ship/FPS/social AI were reworked to unify them within the same overall structure. Collaboration with the audio & writing teams ensured the system works properly for all systemic dialogue in the game. The team is also working to develop tools to automate the setup of dialogue lines.

Stealth gameplay elements continue to be developed, which require the AI perception to be upgraded to cater for peripheral vision, as well as various audio events and stimuli from environmental sources, such as throwing a pebble to distract enemies.

Tech Animation


The Technical Animation department progressed with the initial batch transfer of male animations to the female skeleton. This included updating low-level assets for animation database referencing to ensure she can run around and fire weapons. It has been successful and handed off to animation for further review and polish.

Some much-needed toolsets for authoring skinning data on the many different costumes were finished. Used in conjunction with the existing toolsets, these will make skin authoring a more efficient process.

An interesting dilemma was presented recently, whereby the team needed to show some sort of fluid dynamics, which usually require intensive calculations The Technical Animation department came into its own and used the existing physics solution to create a dynamic yet economic fake for the various glasses & cups in the bar scenes.

Multiple animations for cinematics and gameplay were added, as were several new tools to the animation pipeline along with bug fixes and additions to existing tools. Time was also spent fixing several smaller bugs like animation compilation errors, missing integrations, weapon entities, and DBA setups.

Tech Art


The Tech Art Team analyzed the full requirements of the character ‘DNA gene pool’. In order for the next-gen facial customizer to work most effectively, a limited pool of heads with specific and unique shapes is required. Relevant factors are gender, ethnic origin, age, physical constitution, and distinct facial features such as hooked vs. pointy nose, thin vs. full lips, and so forth. Several scenarios with varying pool sizes were created to determine the mid-to-long-term plans for populating the pool. The planned release of the new customizer will initially use as many heads as possible from the selection scanned, providing they fulfill requirements.

The team also worked on the asset authoring tools and pipeline for the new cloth/softbody solver, which was first showcased at CitizenCon. Optimal simulation mesh topology and vertex density are key to making it work efficiently and fast enough while yielding high-fidelity visual results. Another important factor is creating the best possible binding between the high and low res simulation mesh – this can only be fully automated for simpler cloth asset types and requires artistic ‘guidance’ and fine-grained control in more complex cases. The team went to great lengths to ensure the authoring tools provide this capability in a convenient, easy-to-use way.

UI


Last month, the SQ42 team specced-out improvements to how AR mission objectives are displayed to the player. For both the PU and SQ42, they’re aiming to create a common unified methodology for how important information is imparted regarding type, position, whether it’s obstructed, etc. They’re also looking at the long-term requirements of missions and building a system to help to surface important information when it’s contextually needed.

Another major feature worked on is the area map. Pre-visualizations of how the map could be were built procedurally using existing underlying systems, such as the room system. This informs not only the overall layout but also how it becomes more defined as the player traverses the environment for the first time.

Vehicle Features


The team spent the month on Vehicle Scanning improvements. The groundwork necessary to allow ships to aim at the engines on target ships has been completed, and the feature itself is nearly ready to be rolled out. Scanning nav points for destination info have been completed and are also ready for implementation.

VFX


VFX continued to iterate on lightning effects by putting the new texture noise functionality through its paces, which will allow them to create much finer detail up close at a fraction of the previous cost. They also developed a tool to allow artists to create VDBs (including gas clouds) more quickly and with more control over the finer details.

Thruster improvements were made to more closely match the VFX. They gained new effects and functionality including damage, overheat, and misfire options.

R&D for a Xi’an missile launcher kicked off too.

Weapons


The Weapon Art Team carried on with the Multi-Tool rework and made progress with the Kastak Arms Ravager-212 and the level two and three upgrades for the Hurston Dynamics Laser Repeaters. They also made minor adjustments to the iron sights on a handful of weapons to improve the sight picture and to make them more user-friendly when no optics are attached.

Covert Intel


Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH

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   Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/16919-Squadron-42-Monthly-Report-December-2018