Leader

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bitcoin Tanking after China Restricts It

Bitcoin hit $1000 a week or so ago, and everyone was hyping it as the greatest even for the cryptocurrency since its inception.  Now, after China's announcement that financial institutions can only trade in the national currency, the Chinese Yuan or Renminbi, the price has dropped to approximately $500, and is experiencing higher than normal volatility.  This brings up some very interesting aspects of the cryptocurrency that I feel deserve comment.

Many of the people I have met online that talk about bitcoin seem to believe (or want others to believe) that it is a magical thing that will always increase in value.  The term "magic" is in reddit's r/bitcoin/ 's advertisements (featuring a horribly drawn wizard and the phrase "magic internet money").  Stories posted in that subreddit also talk frequently about how stores and businesspeople are getting converted, and start accepting bitcoin, often using that same word "magic."   There's nothing "magic" about bitcoin.  Cryptocurrencies have some unique properties compared to other currencies, but bitcoin is not unique in being a cryptocurrency, there are dozens of other coins out there (albeit none as mainstream as bitcoin is).

The way bitcoin is being pushed makes it seem like a ponzi scheme.  For bitcoin to become successful, it needs a wide acceptance.  Currencies are only effective as a means of exchange, and the areas you can exchange them for goods or services are limited.  No major retailers accept them (save through workarounds, like a service that purchases amazon giftcards with cash and takes payment in bitcoin for those cards).  At the moment, then, it is little better than a bartering tool between a relatively small percentage of people.  Currently, its primary value is as an investment and a trading commodity, which means that the more demand created for them, the higher the price will go.  This is why some are pushing so hard to get anyone they can interested in bitcoin.  The more people wanting to buy, the higher the demand, and the higher the coins they own will increase in price.

I see one of several potential futures for bitcoin, none of them good.

1. Bitcoin does not fully recover from this selloff.  It does not rise above $1000, and people lose interest in it, as it will lack the massive profits that got it so much attention.  It will be one or two more significant pieces of bad news away from obscurity (such as the US/EU taxing it heavily or outlawing it).

2. Bitcoin recovers from the selloff, and continues as before.  Eventually a piece of bad news will cause another crash.  Lack of stability will keep bit retailers away, and prevent the currency from becoming mainstream enough to accomplish its goals.

3. Bitcoin doesn't recover at all from this selloff.  Prices plummet, and bitcoin is a goner.

4. Bitcoin recovers, survives all bad news that comes its way, and becomes accepted by some mainstream retailers.  The US/EU/China never accept it as a central currency, but tax and regulate it.  It is legal to use as a means of exchange.  The last coins are mined, and many hashing machines are turned off because it is no longer profitable to run them.  The fast reduction in hashing power causes transactions using bitcoin to lag, taking a long time to process.  People stop using bitcoin as much because of this, which reduces transaction income.  This reduction forces more hashing machines to shut down, causing a downward spiral that kills bitcoin.

I'm thinking that 1 is the most likely scenario.  The price should rebound slightly, but it will not last.  China was a huge market for bitcoin, and unless they reverse their decision, then things will take a long time to get better.

-VG

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 15

                Unpacking took little time, and their quarters was tidy and slightly better decorated than it had been when they arrived.  Prallan stared at a picture Lily had set up on her desk.  It showed both of them in their dress uniforms, standing before a brazier, with Admiral Wintan standing behind it.  Undoubtedly, this was their wedding picture.  Prallan’s memory of that day was still not fully recovered, but he did remember laughing with Lily in a bar.
                “I have to report to Chief Wurstol.” Lily said, having changed from her travel-wrinkled uniform to a clean one.
                “That might be difficult, as she doesn’t know she is Chief of Engineering yet.”  Prallan said, pulling his shirt over his head.  “I have scheduled a meeting for the whole command staff in ten minutes, and the decision will be made final there.”
                “So our interim Chief is who exactly?”
                “Wurstol.  I’ll admit, I just made it final as she seemed to be doing a good job.  At any rate, she will be busy, so you may as well just report to engineering instead of to her specifically.  She should be back down there soon, it won’t be a long meeting.”  Prallan pulled a clean shirt on, and put on his uniform coat.
                “I’d like to make a good impression on her.  Couldn’t you just reschedule the meeting?”  She straightened the collar on his coat.
                “I could, but then you would get a reputation for being the First Officer’s wife who always gets her way.”  He stole a quick kiss.
                “So, I never get my way?” Lily pouted playfully.  “The whole reason I got you drunk an married you was for power, and I won’t even have any of that?”
                “Darling, you know you have all the power over me any woman could want.” He kissed her forehead.  “But the Imperial Navy has rules about that sort of thing.  I can’t abuse my power, even if my wife really wants me to.”
                “Fine…..I’ll just report to engineering, then.”  She smiled, and walked quickly to the door.
                “Lily.”  She stopped at the door.  “I’m very happy to have you here with me.  You are the smartest, funniest, best humored, and most beautiful woman I have ever met.”
                “Trying to sweet talk me out of my lust for power?” She grinned. “It won’t work”
                “No…..its just….” Prallan sighed.  “I was worried this would be an overly complicated mess, and that I had really screwed up and made a drunk mistake that would ruin both our careers….”
                “The beginning of this conversation was better than that second part,” she said, crossing her arms.  “Better finish strong, or have an angry wife.”
                “I’m not worried anymore.  This is right, this feels right, and I know we are going to be happy for a very long time…..I love you, Lily.”

                She was in his arms in a second, with a kiss that nearly knocked him to the ground.  “I really wish you didn’t have a meeting in a few minutes, but I guess rescheduling a meeting so your wife can ravish you for saying lovely things would be against the Imperial Navy’s rules.”

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 14

                His quarters was indeed much larger than the room he shared with three other Ensigns on the Jinar.  The quarters was designed for a married officer, as well, which meant a sizable bed, a closet with two sections, and two desks, each with its own data terminal.  The entire room was currently decorated in varying shades of military gray.  No doubt Lily would add her touch to everything.  Prallan himself had no decorative sense.  His quarters on the Jinar were decorated much like these currently were.  His luggage had been brought aboard, and set on the bed, and a InfoTab was sitting on top of the luggage.  A glance at it told him that it was the personnel report he had asked for.  Noble or not, Lieutenant Itran was efficient.
                Prallan laid down on the bed, and began tabbing through the information on the report.  The Hermus had a maximum crew compliment of eighty-five, but was currently undermanned.  The Jinar’s surviving crew had helped some, but they had seventy-six crew members.  Judging by the manifest, they really needed engineers, they were missing six different specialists in that department.  The other missing personnel were two security mates and a pilot.  They would have to make due for the time being with only two pilots, which would make bridge shifts interesting.  It was hard to precisely fly a starship for eight hours at a time, let alone twelve or with limited rest.
                Officers were another problem.  The Hermus had six departments: Armory, Security, Engineering, Navigation, Operations, and Medical.  In total, they had seven officers: Commander Rickler, himself, Lieutenant Itran, and four Ensigns.  Rickler and Prallan could not, according to tradition, serve as Department Heads, as Prallan was in charge of the Department Heads, and Rickler outranked him.  Itran’s specialization was Command, so he could not effectively lead any department.  The Ensigns all would lead a department.  Ensign Orfil was one of their two pilots, and would head up Navigation.  Ensign Rutgol was an ordnance expert, and would be the Armory Chief.  Ensign Runntin was technically a Sensor Specialist, but she would make a decent Chief of Operations.  That just left Ensign Hutsop, who was ill suited to do much.  He had very low marks on all of his evaluations, with little or no ability to command others….probably a career Ensign.  He had specialized in xeno-biology, so Prallan lumped him in with the Medical staff as Medical Chief.  Doctors were usually self-sufficient anyway, and wouldn’t need much of a head of department.  Engineering and Security would be without officer-level leaders.  Engineering had a Chief Specialist….Vera Wurstol…she would make a decent Chief Engineer.  Security comprised of only three of the five security personnel they should have.  The decision was very easy, as one outranked the other two slightly. Petty Officer Second Class Erfold would be their Chief of Security. 
                Prallan had just finished sorting out the command issues when the door opened.  Lily walked into the room, dragging her large suitcase.  ”Waiting on me to get here to unpack you?”  She asked.
                Prallan stood, and retrieved her other suitcase from the hallway, setting it on the bed.  “No, just assigning Department Heads and sorting out other assignments.  Unpacking would have been more fun.”  Awkwardly, he leaned in and kissed her.   It was strange being married to almost a complete stranger, but they made the best of it. 
                “How was the captain?”  She opened her suitcase, began unpacking her uniforms, hanging them in one of the closets.
                “I’m not sure what to think of him.  He was meditating to the flame when I reported to him, I didn’t think anyone actually did that anymore.”
                “There are cults in the Tirol system that still meditate on the nature of the flaming spirit.  Then again, their sun changes color throughout the solar year, so it isn’t surprising that they would be interested in such things.”  Prallan just stared at his wife with a smile on his lips.  “What?  So I enjoy reading about far off places, you realize we’re on a starship that will jump forty-two trillion miles over the course of a second?  We could be at Tirol like that.” She snapped her fingers.
                “You will always be smarter and more well-read than I ever could be.” Prallan said, unzipping his own suitcase.  “Your Chief of Engineering is a photonic resonance specialist, so you should have no trouble getting along with her.”
                “All they want to talk about is shields and particle weapons, and how if the Empire used particle weapons, the research would benefit our shield generator research as well.”  She made a digusted face.  “None of them are interested in beautiful sunsets.”

                “When this tour is over, and we both have some leave, I’ll take you to Tirol, and we will send the pictures to the Chief, maybe you can convert her.”  Lily laughed at that, and it made Prallan feel a lot better about everything that happened over the last few days.  If he could make this woman….his wife…laugh, then maybe they would be okay.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 13

The bridge was laid out differently than the Jinar's.  Jinar's had been crowded with a variety of stations, but this smaller ship had no need for so many.  There was only one station for each of the major functions of the ship, sometimes combining several into one.  The sensor officer doubled as a weapons officer.  It took Prallan several minutes of looking around before he noticed the whole bridge was standing at attention, waiting for him to say something.

"At ease," he said, and the sound of seven bridge crew returning to duty at the same instant made him keenly aware of the kind of respect they had for him.  He stepped down into the lower level of the bridge, where the helm, sensor officer's station, and the command chair sat.  Unlike the Jinar, there was only the Captain's chair, no chair for the first or second officer, but it was unlikely they would frequently spend long periods on the bridge together.  Standing before the chair now was a young lieutenant, younger even than Prallan.  His ice blue eyes glimmered with youthful exuberance, and he offered his hand to Prallan.

"Lieutenant Itran, sir.  I will be your second officer."  Prallan took his hand.  The boy had a firm grip, and an immaculate uniform.  Had Prallan not replaced his whole wardrobe, this young Lieutenant would be showing him up by the clean lines of his clothing.  The quality of the cloth and brasswork was extremely high, as well, and must have been very expensive.

"What is your specialty, Lieutenant?" Prallan asked.  Every officer who graduated from the Academy had at least one specialization, representing thousands of hours of study and practice to master.  Prallan's own was armaments, which warranted him the gunnery officer's post on the Jinar.

"Command, sir, I am rated E-17 for command of tactical vessels, shuttlecraft, Type A and B droppods, and several classes of escorts and frigates."  The response confirmed Prallan's suspicions.  Itran was not a genius young officer, completing his Academy training at a young age, but a noble-born son of wealthy parents who bought his way into the navy.  No doubt he would be a Captain in a few years.  Most of them ended up patrolling forgotten systems, where only a few pirates caused problems.  When a war broke out, their numbers were reduced swiftly, as few were good commanders, and less had any useful skills in an emergency.

"Promoted to Lieutenant within the last two weeks I imagine?  Or else our roles would be reversed."  Prallan said.  There was no harm in pointing out the fact, and it might do the young noble some good to realize how similar the two of them were in the eyes of the Navy.  "My own specialty is Armaments.  I would appreciate a report on all other officers onboard, as well as Chiefs of Departments.  I would like to meet as many of the same in a formal meeting to discuss shipboard operations within the next day."

"Aye, sir, I will have that report waiting for you in your quarters by the time you are finished with the Captain."

"Where is the Captain?"

"His conference room, sir."  Itran nodded to the door off to the left of the bridge, and Prallan walked to it.  He hit the signal button, and the door opened.

The room was dimly lit, with only a pair of red candles lit on the conference table.  A shadowy figure was sitting before them, and spoke with a soft voice.  "Close the door."

Prallan closed the door, and saluted.  "Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole, reporting for duty, sir."  He set the infotab that held his orders on the table.  "My orders to report aboard and take position as first officer, sir."

"We are going to be working very closely for the next year, Prallan, I'd prefer if you'd keep the sir stuff to a minimum when we are not in front of any crewmen."  The dark figure stood.  "Lights."  The ambient light of the room slowly came up, revealing a middle-aged man, wearing civilian dress.  His dark hair was unkempt, but his short beard was trimmed to perfection.  "Commander Thomlin Rickler, but please call me Tom.  I get enough Sir and Captain out there, I don't need it in here, too."  He picked up the infotab, and scrolled through the data.  "I understand you've been recommended, along with the rest of the surviving crew of the Jinar, for the Medal of Excellence in the Line of Duty.  Not a bad first award for a young officer.  I understand your wife was on the Jinar as well?"

"Yes si.....Tom.  You could say that is how we met."

"I've heard worse stories.  A married couple on my ship, both of whom have earned the MELD.  That is a rarity, I think.  I trust your wife is getting things settled in?"

"She is coming aboard with the crewmen shuttle, so she hasn't come aboard quite yet.  I am hoping to see my cabin before she has a chance to do what she wants with it."

"Married a couple days and she is already running your life?  Well, that is probably for the best.  Worry about your duties, let her worry about the decorations.  I trust you realize how much trust the Admiral is placing in you, making a green officer like yourself a First Officer?"

"Yes, sir."

"You met Lieutenant Itran?"

"Yes, sir."

"What do you think of him?"  The Commander  had put down the infotab, and watched Prallan carefully.

"I don't have a strong opinion of him, yet.  I barely know him."  Prallan lied.  The Academy drilled the difference between those that bought their way into the Navy and those that earned their commissions through hard work and study.

"Even though his family bought him the orange pip you earned in battle?"  The point rankled Prallan a bit.  It was true, that he risked his life and only by chance was promoted, whereas Itran had been given his rank.

"I'll reserve my judgement until I see him handle himself in his duties, sir."

"Hmph, I had thought someone just out of the Academy would have a stronger opinion, but I am glad you do not.  You two will have to work well together.  Just remember, if I am removed from command for any reason, he is your First Officer.  You will have to trust him just as much as I will trust you."

"Yes, sir."

"Go get settled in.  Welcome aboard, Lieutenant."

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Imperial Destiny page 12

Transferring onboard the Hermus was one of the most normal experiences Prallan had since the battle.  The rush to get everything ready for this deployment, and then the surprise wedding, made the mundane activity of checking his and Lily’s baggage with the clerk, signing off one a dozen forms, submitting to a physical at the hands of a strange doctor, and getting into the cramped shuttle seem peaceful.  The only shame of the whole matter was that, as a crewman, his wife would be taking a different shuttle with the rest of the crew compliment.  She said she had a couple friends left among the surviving crew, and no doubt there would be some interesting stories swapped.
On his way up to the Hermus, he got a great view of the ship, orbiting the planet alongside a remnant of the defense fleet that had remained behind.  She was far more elegant than the Jinar, and also far newer.  The Hermus had been completed only seven weeks ago, and was bustling with the latest advancements, which of course merely meant everything would break as soon as they were a few weeks into the mission.  She had the same snub nose as most vessels, but instead of the boxy stern, her lines spread out into sleek wings.  On the back of those wings were a pair of missile launchers, rare weapons for Imperial ships to carry.  Most Imperial ships used Burst Cannons that fired large explosive shells.  Some newer vessels used experimental railguns instead, but the power demands for the electromagnets made carrying explosives to propel the shells easier.  As they turned to dock, Prallan caught sight of the engines.  Four small blue lights lined the back of the ship, seated in large metal housings.  Hermus had a photon thrust drive, which was more efficient and less temperamental than traditional fusion force drives.  Had the Jinar had these engines, they might have gone undamaged from the destroyer’s weapons, and certainly a cut coolant line wouldn’t have rendered them inoperable so fast.
A small thunk and hiss signified they had docked.  The door at the rear of the shuttle opened, and it was at that time the Prallan noticed the three other officers onboard.  They all hurried out, not wanting to get in the way of their new first officer.  Little did they know a few weeks before, he had been an ensign, and at least two of the three would have been senior to him.  He stood, and left the shuttle.  After exiting the airlock, he straightened his uniform, and noticed a fourth ensign with his eyes to the floor, holding a salute that had probably started when the airlock opened.
“Yes, Ensign?” Prallan said, breaking the spell that held the other officer in that uncomfortable position.  The Ensign stood straight, revealing himself to be several inches taller than Prallan, with broad shoulders and a very pale complexion. 
“Sir, the Captain’s compliments, and he would like to see you on the bridge as soon as possible.”  It was a polite courtesy to refer to any officer in command of a ship the honorific of Captain, even if they had not achieved that rank.

“Very well, Ensign, lead the way to the bridge.”

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 11

                “So, we are married.” Prallan said.
                “As of last night, yes.” Lily answered.  She had put on a flowing silk robe that, while covering her, did little to hide what was underneath.  “You saw the Admiral in the bar we were at, asked him for a favor before you shipped out, and he obliged you.  He even took us up to the Flare and his Captain performed the ceremony.  A little rushed, but it was nice.”
                “You remember the whole thing?”
                “Apparently you don’t drink much.  I was raised on Pyrus IV, there are more barrels of Fire Spirits on that planet than there are people.  Off-worlders can get a buzz from breathing the air there, let alone living in it for seventeen years.”  Prallan should have guessed her heritage from her features.  Most of the people from the fourth planet of Pyrus had a dark complexion.  “I remember the whole thing.  We had to get the special permission of the ranking officer of our duty station, that was the good Admiral, and the chief officer of our vessel, since that was you, they temporarily assigned command of the Jinar to some Commander they pulled out of a bulkhead, who gave his permission.  Oaths to each other, Oaths to the Empire, four bottles of Fire Spirits that the Admiral pulled from somewhere, and we came down here to the honeymoon suit for the last night on planet together.”
                “I’m not sure how this is even going to work.  I’m an officer, you’re a crewman.  I ship out tomorrow, and you…”
                “Also ship out tomorrow on the same ship, remember?  Whatever is left of the Jinar’s crew is going with you on your year-long exploration journey.  Besides, you just got promoted to first officer, which means you’ve gone from sharing a room with three others to your own private quarters….our own private quarters.” She flashed him a wry grin.  “We are married now, so you’d best get used to having me around, because I am not going anywhere.”
                The room started to spin again, and Prallan sat down hard on the bed.  “This is all really sudden.  How did we even get started in this whole thing?”
                She sat down next to him, and put her hand in his.  Her hazel eyes stared deep into his.  “Well, first you save my life instead of leaving me to die in a corridor that depressurized.  Then when I found you to thank you for saving my life, you apologized for any discomfort or injury to my pride you may have caused me while saving my life.  You were cute and sweet, and I think I’d have fallen for you without the whole owing you my life thing.”  She gave him another mischievous smile.  “And, of course, you fell in love with me because I am beautiful, smart, charming…”
                “And so modest,” Prallan finished.  “This is very sudden, and I am not sure what this will mean for our life on the Hermus, but I am lucky to have a beautiful, smart, and charming wife.”  She smiled, and rested her head on his chest. 

“Even if I barely know her.” He thought to himself.

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Imperial Destiny Page 10

Chapter 2: Firsts

                Prallan woke up with a splitting headache.  The room spun, and he shut his eyes hard to get it to stop.  He had no memory of what he had done last night, and several days before that were a little hazy.  He recalled getting his new uniforms and other personal effects ready for his transfer to the Hermus, smiling proudly at the single gold flame embroidered on the shoulders and collar where before was a single red flame.  Lucky officers had those flames spread across their uniforms as swiftly as an inferno, but for him, the single golden flame was as glorious as it was the uniform of a Fleet Admiral. 
Something moved beside him in the bed, and he opened his eyes again.  Lying with her face away from him was a woman with dark hair and olive skin.  He felt a wave of panic and embarrassment as he could not remember who she was, and realized they were both naked.  He slowly snuck out of the bed, dressing himself as quickly as he could from the clothes that were strewn about the room.  He had made it to the door when a soft voice called.
“Prallan, where are you going?”  He turned, and saw the woman sitting up in the bed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.  “We have five hours until the Hermus arrives.  Come back to bed.”  It took a minute to process in Prallan’s bewildered brain that this beautiful young woman was the same crewman who he had found burned and bleeding on the way to the Armory.  Panick gripped his heart as the implications got through to his brain.  He had slept with a crewman who, through the technicality of neither of them having taken a new assignment yet, was under his command.  As the most senior surviving officer, it was a major breach of policy and ethics, and his gold flame would wither into a red one at best, if he wasn’t court martialed out of the navy altogether.
“Did we….oh, burning spirits I’m done for.” Prallan moaned, sinking to the floor against the door.  “Career ruined because I couldn’t resist a beautiful woman.”
She smirked at him, and got up out of the bed.  The sheets slid from her naked form, revealing a body that made him think that it might have all been worth it.  He noticed that her arm still had several discolored patches from the regenerative therapy.  It would go away with time, leaving her with unmarred beauty.  “How much of last night do you remember, dear Prallan?” She asked, stepping over to one of the small tables in the room.  There was a stack of papers on it, along with several cards and pictures.
“I don’t even remember much of the last two days, yet.  Once I get my wits together, maybe I can figure it out.”
“That’s a shame, but your memory will return, I hope.”  She picked up one of the cards, and walked towards him.  “This should make you feel considerably better.”  She handed him the card.
He looked it over.  It was a fairly generic congratulations card.  Upon opening it, he saw the bold flowing script that matched the bold flowing personality of its owner.  “I am happy to have signed off on the order allowing your union to Crewman Lily Brishon.  It is my firm belief that every good young officer needs a strong and supportive spouse.  Your courtship may have been short, but I wish you many happy years together.”  It was signed Defense Admiral Hernst Wintan.
Well, at least he knew her name now.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 9

                Prallan stepped nervously into the admiral’s office.  He immediately saluted, placing his closed right fist against his left shoulder and bowing his head.  “Ensign Prallan Tigrole of the IDF Jinar reporting, sir.”  With his head bowed, Prallan could only see the polished wood edifice of the admiral’s desk in front of him.  It was a beautiful desk, which most likely meant the admiral was wealthy, powerful, or both.  Having a heavy piece of furniture on a ship, where every ounce of unnecessary weight was done away with to keep the power draw of artificial gravity down,  was a true extravagance.
                “An Ensign?  I was sure that wreck would have been out of Ensigns, and I’d have to deal with some upstart chief.”  Admiral Wintan said.  He spoke with a slow gravelly voice that reminded Prallan of the way the sea would crash against the shore near his home on Primus.    “At ease, Ensign, would you like something to drink?”
                Prallan raised his head, and say the admiral was very old for the service.  He had short gray hair and a well-trimmer gray goatee.  His uniform was crisp and clean, making Prallan more conscious of his own battered clothes.  Realizing the admiral was waiting his response on the question of the drink, he quickly spoke up.  “No thank you, sir.”
                “Pity.  Don’t they teach you at the academy to never refuse something offered by a superior officer.  I can’t order you to drink, but it wouldn’t be polite for me to drink alone after the battle you have been through.”
                “Very well, sir, if you insist.” Prallan said, and the admiral gave him a small glass of a liquid that seemed to shift colors from orange to deep red and back again.
                “Phoenian Fire Spirits, from the Emperor’s own cellars.  He gave me fifty bottles of it after that terrible border rebellion a few years ago.  I’ve been trying to enjoy the gift as much as possible with the years I have left, but I still have thirty bottles left.”  Admiral Wintan laughed, and Prallan joined him.  They both drank, draining the glasses.  Prallan felt the liquor burn down his throat, and the heat suffuse through his whole body.  His limited experience with alcohol told him this was something finer that he’d ever tasted, and that it was wasted on him.  The admiral refilled the glasses.  “I know how this fight started from the Captain’s report that called us into the system, and I’m away of how it ended, but the middle is where there is confusion.  We traded two dozen fighters and a Defense Frigate to destroy two cruisers and a destroyer.  How the Jinar survived and the colony is undamaged is what interests me, though.”
                “Captain Braton ordered us to intercept the destroyer, which we disabled after a short fight.  We suffered minor damage, and fled for the incomplete defense station while fighters were scrambled.  As the cruisers approached, the fighters swarmed them, and we closed under the cover of the enemy destroyer’s hull.  We blew up the destroyer, and fought a long range battle with the cruisers, trying to occlude ourselves from one cruiser with the other.  We lost communication with most of the ship due to battle damage, and I was ordered to the armory to continue firing.  At some point the bridge was destroyed, and I assumed command in the Armory.  A few crewmen gathered there to provide me with a mediocre bridge crew, and we continued fighting, using everything at our disposal to stay alive.  Towards the end, we lost atmosphere over most of the ship, lost the main battery, and I made the decision to run for the jump point.  One cruiser followed us, the other headed for the planet, but that was a couple minutes before your arrival, so the colony escaped damage.”
                “I’ll want all of that in a formal report, as detailed as possible.  Officially the Jinar has ninety-three dead, thirty-five wounded, and ten missing, alongside the six that emerged uninjured, yourself, the two technicians, three armory personnel and your armory medic.  A frigate surviving in any condition against two cruisers and a destroyer is an impressive feat.  It’s a shame the Jinar is little more than scrap.  I might convince the quartermaster to repair and upgrade her instead of just scrapping her.”
                “She was a plucky ship, sir, kept going until her engines melted.  I think we had one set of guns still firing at the end.”
                “Of your crew, you have twenty total that will be continuing in immediate service.  The rest are too badly injured, and if they survive, they will be laid up for a few months undergoing treatment.  I am writing out a warrant to promote you to Lieutenant, pending completion of an assignment.”
                Prallan’s jaw dropped.  He had been an ensign fresh out of the academy with three months of experience, and a renowned admiral was offering him a promotion that he had no rights to.  “Sir, what is the assignment?”
                “A deep space exploration.  You will be assigned to the Hermus, first officer in fact, under Commander  Rickler.  It is a one year tour of duty through the lesser known systems around here.  After that tour, you will be confirmed as a lieutenant, with one year seniority.  The surviving crew of the Jinar will be transferred aboard as well, as the ship is undermanned at the moment.”
                Prallan felt it must be too good to be true.  Second in command in a vessel, even an exploration ship, was a feat to be proud of.  Even if he messed up in such a bad way that he was discharged, he would have a year experience as first officer of an Imperial Navy Vessel.  That was enough to make any merchant company recruit him as a captain.  They were always short of competent captains.  “When do I ship out, sir?”
                “Glad to see you are happy at the prospect.  You will have two weeks to get any affairs in order, replace your lost gear…your cabin was a loss I’ve been told, along with most of the officer’s quarters.  The Hermus will arrive in system to pick you and the rest of your crew up.  Congratulations, Lieutenant.”  Admiral Wintan raised his glass, and Prallan drank the toast with him.

                “Thank you, sir.  I look forward to the mission.”

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Imperial Destiny Page 8

                The Pyre rounds were the only reason the Jinar continued to exist at all, burning wreck that she was.  The plasma fire unleashed by the exploding shells blinded most sensors, and could overload or fry sensors sometimes.  At any rate, the unfolding waves of plasma fire had severely depleted the damage enemy’s shields.  For some reason, there had been no further missile salvos from the second cruiser, which remained in formation with the forward cruiser.  All three ships had gained some distance on the colony, and the Jinar only needed to continue existing for another few minutes to achieve its mission of saving the colony.  Prallan, obviously, desired the ship to survive until it was relieved, but that wasn’t how the admiral of the fleet would think.  Saving his ship why allowing the colony to be damaged would not be looked on kindly.
                The forward cruiser unleashed a volley that missed wide.  They didn’t have a chance of hitting while the Pyre rounds still burned across their shields.  A return shot by the Jinar shredded the cruiser’s engines.  Not an injury that would make them quit their attack, but a significant turn of events.  The unmaneuverable cruiser would become even more unwieldy missing one of its two engines.  The gunner’s duel continued, the Jinar landing several more shots, and the enemy cruiser missing wide.  The last of the plasma fire cleared, and the enemy cruiser was looking in bad shape.  Large sections of its armor were peeled away, along with some of the weaponry and sensor pylons.   Battle damage hadn’t significantly reduced its ability to fight, as another salvo hit the Jinar squarely, causing the power to flicker off for a chilling two seconds. 
                “Sir, the Medical Bay has depressurized, along with the bottom half of the ship….deck 5 and down.  We’ve lost engineering, all lower guns, ammunition locker C and D…”
                “That’s enough, Technician.  Engines are still operating, and we still have the main turret, so we keep fighting.”  Prallan made a sharp maneuver, turning the Jinar’s bow towards the enemy, narrowing their profile.  With most of the lower guns no longer firing, there was no need to keep a broad firing arc.  With the narrow approach it would be harder for the enemy to hit her, but her main guns could still target forward.  If she had had any shields left, they could focus them forward and help weather the assault.  The maneuver was rewarded with a volley from the enemy missing wide, passing through empty space where they would have been.
                “That maneuver shook loose some thruster couplings, sir.  Port thrusters are down.”
                Prallan’s mind didn’t even register the reports anymore.  The ship was sluggish in rolls to starboard, but rolls to port were normal.  The engines were starting to lose power, a sign that something was wrong in engineering, but with two minutes until help arrived, and no atmosphere in the engineering bay, let alone the corridors leading to it, it wouldn’t matter.  The range between the three ships closed quickly.  The forward enemy cruiser was no longer firing broadsides, but individual guns were firing as they could.  Most missed, but a few were hitting the ship’s battered bow hard.  After one hit, the gunners started yelling frantically, and the main battery stopped.  The barrel of one of the guns was damaged, and had fouled its sister.  Now only a handful of popguns along the top two decks of the ship were firing.  Guns meant to handle fighters would not do much to the rapidly closing cruisers.
                Reluctantly, Prallan vectored off his attack, setting a course for the jump point that a friendly fleet should be arriving in any moment.  If the cruisers took the bait, he could get them in close enough for the fleet to destroy or capture.  The clock on his console counted down the last minute, as several shots impacted the hull around the engines.  One luck shot would end this battle.  The second cruiser had peeled off and headed for the colony, but it wouldn’t be in range to do any damage for several minutes, long enough for the fleet to arrive and scare it off.  The Jinar shuddered, as warning lights lit up his screen.  The main coolant lines were perforated, and the engines were overheating now.  He ran them as hard as possible, shunting all available power into the engines.  The warning lights increased on his screen, and an alarm sounded.  The engine shut down, whatever was left of it would be an unrecognizable heap of metal.  The Jinar drifted through space, barely under control by damaged thrusters.
                The cruiser fired, and they braced for the inevitable impact of the shots.  The Jinar shuddered, and began spinning from the force of the impact.  As the cruiser lined up the killing blow, dozens of ships jumped through the nearby jump point.  Two Imperial Defense Cruisers opened fire on the cruiser immediately, explosive shots tearing through the hull.  Those captains had been reckless, as it was incredibly dangerous to jump with loaded guns.  Several frigates and a battleship arrived next, the frigate flying towards the colony to head off the other cruiser.  As more and more ships of the Core Defense Fleet jumped into the system, the battle was surely won.  Only then did Prallan realize how tightly he had been holding on to the console.  His hands and arms were cramped.
                “Report.” He said to the two technicians, even though he could see the sorry state of the ship for himself.
                “Deck 2 is the only deck with atmosphere.  Some isolated cabins and compartments may have breathable air, but no idea for how long.  I have communication with ten crewmen, not including ourselves, in various sections of the ship.  Medical Bay, Engineering, Bridge, Launch Bay, are all depressurized at best, and gone at worst.  Casualty estimate is one hundred twenty two.”
                “Send a message to the flagship.  Request immediate aid to rescue trapped crewmen.”  He looked over to the medic.  “How are those three?”
                “These two are badly burned, the sooner we can get them to a proper medical facility the better.”  He said, nodding to the two burn victims.  “She will be alright, as soon as she gets a transfusion.  She lost a lot of blood and will be light-headed, but I patched her up.  A surgeon will need to look at the lacerations to ensure they heal properly, but ten minutes with a Regeneration Beam and she will heal up properly.  Should be on her feet again in a day or so at the most.”
                Prallan felt relieved.  At least he managed to save a handful of his crew.  It had been a hopeless battle from the beginning, but they had survived.  Even now, tugs bearing repair crews from the battleship were coming aboard to restore atmosphere, seal off any breaches, and get main power back running.  The Jinar was probably a loss, destined for the scrapheap, but such measures were necessary to rescue stranded crew.  A message came through the console from the flagship, it read simply “Captain of IDF Jinar, report to Admiral Wintan immediately onboard IBS Flare.”  Prallan looked down at his shabby uniform, tattered from crawling under the consoles, stained with blood, sweat, and grease.  Then he realized his quarters were probably still isolated by depressurized hallway, if they still existed at all.  The admiral would just have to come to terms with being reported to by a shabby Ensign.  

                “Jinar to Flare, will come aboard immediately.”

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 7

                The ship shook as the guns fired, causing Prallan to bang his head against the side of the console he was rewiring.  A small jolt ran through his fingers, and the entire console came alive again.  He crawled out from underneath it as the screen lit up.  The default information for the gunner’s station loaded, and Prallan quickly closed those screens down, and tried to bring up a communication stream with the bridge.  The main pathway hit a wall.  After trying several alternate routes for the data to flow, he gave up, and instead turned to the sensor data.  The Jinar was continuing her closing orbit of the larger vessels, but it was a very calculated course, with none of the random movement that a pilot usually would have.  He had to hold on to the console to keep from falling over as the guns thundered again.  The room was noticeably hotter now, whether from some failure of the environmental systems or because of the constant firing of the heavy guns.
                “Last Pyre rounds being loaded now, sir.  Going back to High Explosive.”  The Armory Chief said.  Prallan nodded at him, and continued to work at the console.
  The chronometer in the corner of the screen noted that they had six minutes until the fleet arrived.  Prallan pulled up the sensors, and scanned the Jinar to see how bad the damage was, and saw the charred remains of the bridge and forward sections.  The bridge itself was gone, and a large section of the forward corridor was open to space, as was the officer’s mess and some of the forward officer’s quarters.  Most of the senior staff would have been on the bridge or in the mess or their quarters.  The Ensign’s quarters were a little further along the corridor, but with it venting into space, they would be inaccessible for the time being.  One man could not replicate all the operations of the ship’s bridge, especially not from the armory.  Engineering was the appropriate place for such an operation, but the corridors outside engineering were compromised, venting atmosphere to space.  It was a miracle that the ship had any air left in it with the number of hull breaches.  At least he still had internal communications.
“All available hands to the Armory.  All available hands to the Armory.”  He called over the ship’s speakers.  That call would echo throughout the ship, and hopefully would bring any crew that it could to the bridge.  Prallan moved to another console, tapping it into the newly repaired power circuit.  It turned on immediately, and he began reprogramming it to function as helm control.  One of the few benefits of his recent graduation from the Academy is that he had a number of tricks up his sleeves.  Reprogramming stock consoles was a hobby of the entire Academy student body, as the systems provided by the school were woefully inadequate and in need of customization.  As he finished, a ragged group of four crewmen entered the Armory.  Two had severe burns, and were barely ambulatory, but the other two seemed reluctant to leave them.
“Engineer’s Mate first class Litrun, sir,” Said one of the burned men.  He nodded to the burned woman.  “Crewman Trilan,” then he nodded to the two men that had helped them in.  “Technician Praskow and Technician Brunnen.”

“Medic, take care of those two,” Prallan said needlessly.  The medic was already looking Crewman Trilan over.  “Technicians, have either of you operated helm control before?”  Both shook their heads.  “Fine, Praskow, take that station and let me know what’s going on with those cruisers.  Brunnen, see if you can get that third console online and get the engineering readouts on it.”  Prallan took the helm, and began minor course corrections to keep their path unpredictable.  The enemy gunners, blinded by the Pyre rounds, wouldn’t have an easy shot at them.  They had to hold on for four more minutes.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lessons From a Skyrim Klepto

Watching my brother-in-law play Skyrim lately, I'm left wondering how he manages to get anything done in the game with his playstyle.  He almost always plays a nord using heavy armor and a 2h weapon, and bashes the crap out of everything around, drinking healing potions like they are water.  Its effective, but I run the numbers through my head and I keep thinking how effective his playstyle could be if he just tried the crafting part of the game too.  He laughs at me when I play, stopping to pick flowers and harvest buterflies, and spending a half hour crafting potions, enchanting stuff, and smithing armor, but then he sees how much more effective my archery with a frost-enchanted, blacksmith-upgraded bow is, after I drank one of my fortify archery potions.  For the cost of one soulgem, some iron and a few ingredients that I found for free, I was doing more damage that he was with his 2h weapon, and out of range of taking damage.

Comparing the two characters as they reached level ten, my sneak skill was around 50, while my crafting skills were in the high 20s, low 30s.  Archery was pretty good, and my only other remarkable skill was destruction at 40.  His character had gotten 2h weapons, heavy armor, restoration (after I convinced him healing himself was a good use of the magicka he never used) and archery to a good level.  The real difference was in the matter of gold.

He earned gold by completing quests, and looting the gold off of corpses and out of chests.  He would keep any high value stuff and sell it, but often spent all his money on potions, and weapon and armor upgrades.  On the other hand, I play like a klepto.  I pick up everything until I'm overburdened, and drop something.  Then I slowly replace less valuable items with more valuable ones, until I can sell it all off.  Add in the fact I'm in light armor, and I can carry a lot.  Finally, because I make my own potions, enchant my own equipment, and can make my own weapons and armor, I don't have to pay outrageous prices for them.

Oh, also....potion of speechcraft.....YES PLEASE!

Equipment was another big difference.  His gear was plain, unenchanted or enhanced, He had armor, and a weapon, no other slots filled.  On the other hand, my character had an enchanted necklace and ring she had made, enchanted boots, and all her armor was enhanced (and until it had been replaced by found elven armor pieces, made herself).

Now I will say this, in a straight fight between the two, his character would probably win at this level.  More HP and better armor would sieze the day.  But, allow me a chance to sneak around and critical hit with my enchanted bow, followed by a firebolt.....now that would make things decidedly in my favor.

I strongly recommend not ignoring the crafting parts of Skyrim.  Sure, they can be boring if that's not your thing, but they make you powerful.  And power is all that matters in the realm of adventuring.

-VG

Bitcoins Again and Donations

So a couple interesting things I thought I'd mention.  First, the usual busy with work/busy with school plague hit, and I've stopped posting for a little bit.  Might be harder on anyone actually interested in the Imperial Destiny project, as serials are so hard to be patient on.  I'm going to try for a minimum of one update on that a week, but we'll see how that goes.  I really need to build a dedicated site to it and pre-write a bunch of updates when I have time, and schedule them to post regularly.  Anyway, thoughts for the future.

Next, I'm adding my bitcoin address to the side bar.  If anyone wishes to donate some bitcoins to me, feel free.  Shoot me an email at tigerus2004 at gmail.com with your bitcoin address and donation amount and I will throw a special thankyou out.  I do not have any other forms of donation open at the moment just so I don't have to think about taxes and declaring it all.  Bitcoin donations will go towards my tinkering around with the notion of cryptocurrency, so don't think that I'm going to cash them out immediately.  Cryptocurrency is quite an interesting thing, even if I am very uncertain about its sustainability in a world where some bankers are the biggest criminals.

Speaking of bitcoins, in my efforts to figure them out a bit, I've come across numerous sites that offer occasional free coins.  One I visit fairly often and that is fairly unobtrusive is bitvisitor  You won't get rich off this site, but its nice to earn a few bitmils with almost no effort.  Now, I've earned more off of statues in dragon's tale, but free is free.

If you'd like my bitcoin address it is 19PVQcD5RBmVZMEwcz5QxEQPeWxX6M7Khm   Like I said, also posting it to the side.

-VG

Friday, August 2, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 6

                Prallan was thrown from his chair by the force of the impact, the world going dark for a moment.  Someone helped him to his feet, and he got a view of the damage the last volley had done.  Several other officers were picking themselves up off of the deck, and the main lights were off, shrouding the bridge in the dim haze of the emergency lighting.  Several of the bridge stations were dark, including his own console.
                “Damage report.” Braton said, helping the helmsmen up and to his station, which thankfully was still active.
                “Shield generators are down, ma’am.  Some of our comm lines were shattered by that last volley.  Communication with the medical bay and engineering section are down.”  Potole reported.
                “Weapons station is down, ma’am.  We have no communications with the armory.”  Prallan tried to get the console restarted, but it was beyond hope of a field repair.
                “Ensign, get to the armory and continue firing from there.  Give them everything we’ve got.”
                “Yes, ma’am.”  Prallan headed for the main corridor.  During battle, everyone was at their stations, and the corridor was empty.  He jogged down to the lift section.  Standard procedure was to shut down the lifts during battle, and utilize the accessways built into each deck.  It was a minor inconvenience on a small ship with only seven decks, but on a battleship with forty or fifty decks, it became a good reason to stay in peak physical shape.  With one turret, the armory was located on B deck, in close proximity to the guns, but below several inches of armor plates that would prevent a lucky shot from exploding the magazine.  Prallan took hold of the ladder, and began his climb up.  The ship shuddered violently as he climbed.  The impact wasn’t nearly as hard as the one that threw him to the floor on the bridge, and he hoped that meant it was a near miss rather than an actual hit.  Without shields and with damaged engines, it was unlikely.
                Stepping off onto B deck, Prallan spotted a crewman slumped down against the bulkhead.  Her left arm was covered in blood and cuts covered her face and exposed skin.  A panel had been removed from the wall opposite of her, and the circuit housing was charred.  He grabbed a medical kit out of the accessway hatch, and knelt beside her.  Her skin was very pale, a sign that she had already lost a lot of blood.  “Crewman, can you hear me?  I need you to tell me what happened.”  Her head moved a little as he talked to her.  Prallan retrieved a pressure bandage from the medical kit and wrapped it around the gash on her arm, activating the pressure seal once it was in place.  “Crewman, wake up.  That is an order.”
                Her eyes opened, and she looked around the room.  “I…what…what happened?”
                “I was hoping you could tell me.  Do you think you can stand?  I need to get to the armory.”
                With some struggle, he helped her to her feet.  As she tried to put weight on her right leg, she nearly fell.  “I don’t think I can walk.  I think my leg is broken.  Leave me, I can wait for a medical team.”
                “You’ll be safer and someone can start treating you in the Armory.”  Against her protests, he picked her up and carried her, apologizing whenever he jarred her leg or arm.  The armory was only a few hundred feet down the corridor.  As they reached it, he set her down in one of the chairs, motioning over a medic standing nearby.  “The medic will take care of you.”  He said before heading over to the armory chief.
                “Sir, communications are cut off from the bridge.  We have been able to shoot down some of the incoming missiles from the second cruiser.  Main guns are ready at your command.”  The chief was old to still be serving, but in times of peace it was as difficult for an enlisted man to reach the rank of specialist chief as it was an ensign to get promoted to Captain.  The chief would soon be in his forties and, unless some miracle allowed him a promotion to the officer corps, mandatory retirement.

                “Return fire.  Load Pyre rounds and fire when ready.  Aim dead center, their shields are down and I don’t want a wasted shot.”  The chief nodded and ordered his crew to adjust and fire the gun.  Prallan moved to one of the terminals nearby, trying to establish communications with the bridge.  The ship shuddered again as the frigate’s guns returned fire.  This close to the turret, the recoil was as violent as the direct hit suffered earlier, except that these shots would be causing damage to the enemy.  “Chief, I want those guns loaded like your life depends on it.  Load and fire as fast as possible.”

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

What's With The Creative Writing?

Some of you may have noticed that there's a lot more creative writing on the blog than usual, and the video game bits have fallen to the wayside.  Well, first, you should be glad I had the time to update at all with my busy schedule (Joking aside, I'd be grateful if there are readers who are actually mad I'm not posting more video game stuff, that means I have some impact, even if it is a small one).  This blog will return to regular video game bits, but in reality, I haven't had time to play very many video games or spend time thinking about them much (but I am working on a few things, so they will return).

Anyway, Imperial Destiny is here to stay as a regular portion of the blog, as will other creative writing projects as they come along.  Why?  Because I have always been a creative writer at heart, and I might as well put it somewhere, and since story is, from my perspective, one of the most important parts of video games, it seems appropriate.  So you should take a look, and leave comments so I can improve my writing.  Also, tell your friends, as the more popular this blog becomes, the more time I can devote to it.

Have fun,
-VG

Imperial Destiny Page 5

                The Jinar screamed towards the drifting destroyer.  Over half of the enemy running lights were out, and plasma fires burnt in several places.  Prallan hoped that their weapon relays were damaged.  The plucky frigate couldn’t take much more and hope to keep fighting.
                “Time” Braton said, leaning over the helmsmen’s station, watching the navigational readout.
                “Fifteen minutes, ma’am.”
                The plan they had formed seemed as suicidal as a direct charge, but while planning they had lost half of the fighters that were swarming over the enemy cruisers.  That had forced them into this desperate move.  While the Jinar, like most Imperial ships, was sleek and much longer than she was wide, the enemy vessels were more boxlike, almost as wide as they were long, with long spikes poking out of every side where weapons and sensors were located.  The enemy destroyer’s shields were down, so the plan was for the Jinar to approach from the side opposite of the cruisers, using the destroyer as a shield, blocking the view of their approach and preventing any direct fire from the cruisers.  The smaller guns would open up on those spikes, blowing out any weapons remaining on the approaching side.  The larger guns would hit the reactor as hard as possible as the Jinar passed, and hopefully outrun the explosion it caused.  That maneuver would only get them two-thirds of the way to the cruisers, and the last sprint would be within the enemy’s optimum range.
                The Jinar’s guns fired, shredding many of the destroyer’s spikes, causing another fire to burst out.  One of the surviving spikes pulsed with energy, arcing purple lightning along the front shield.
                “Burn it, Prallan, kill that gun, we can’t waste shield power.”
                “Yes, ma’am.” Prallan aimed one of the main guns at the base of the spike, and fired.  The shot shredded the armor, and sent the spike spinning off into space.  The energy pulse died, but the force of the explosion caused the destroyer to drift.  An indicator lit up on the console.  “Ma’am, the shot caused the destroyer to drift, and one of the cruisers is trying to lock on to us.”
                “Helm, increase our transversal velocity.  Ensign, how long until we are in range?”
                “On our new course, two minutes,” Prallan reported.  “Blowing the destroyer.”  He unloaded the rest of the ready guns into the destroyer, as the Jinar flew away from it.  Secondary explosions triggered throughout the hull, spelling the end of the ship. 
                “Time.”
                “Thirteen minutes, ma’am.”
                The ship shuddered as long-range shots began coming in from the forward cruiser.  Only one hit, sending blue lightning along the starboard shield.  They couldn’t afford to get hit more than a few times.
                “Helm, we need to get into gunnery range as quickly as possible.  I don’t like getting shot at and not being able to fire back.”
                Prallan watched the distance counter tick down towards the main guns maximum effective range.  Another volley of enemy shots landed in the meantime, but none hit the frigate.  The effect of their new course had confused the enemy gunners enough to avoid damage but that luck would not hold out.  The gun indicators went green, indicating their reloading was complete, almost the same instant that the range indicator ticked down into range.  “Guns ready, ma’am.”
                “FIRE!”
                The two heavy guns thundered, shaking the frigate.  The shots streamed towards the heavier ship, and exploded dead-center.  At maximum range, their sensors didn’t have the resolution to see the damage, but there were no fires, and the enemy shields still held.  The cruiser returned fire, and two blue energy bolts struck home.  The starboard shields collapsed, and lightning arced along the hull of the Jinar.  A heavy explosion rocked the ship.
                “Report.” Braton commanded, eyes not leaving the sensor display.
                “Damage reports coming in from E deck.  There’s a fire in the secondary fuel storage bunker, and two corridors are depressurized.  Emergency bulkheads are closed around those sections, and we are venting the fuel out of that bunker.  Medical bay reporting main power failure, they are operating on backups.” Potole was working the command console on his chair vigorously, issuing orders to deal with the damage.
                “Are the corridors to the medical bay pressurized?”
                “The main corridor is not, but the secondary corridor is.”
                “Get engineering teams to seal those breaches.  We can’t lose access to the medical bay.”
                The Jinar shuddered again as Prallan fired the main battery again.  The shots landed dead center again, and when the flame from the explosion dissipated, a smaller flame remained.  At least part of the explosion had breached the enemy shield.
                “Helm, roll the ship, give them our port shields to play with.  That will give us a chance to seal the breaches and reestablish the starboard shields.”  Before the helmsman could comply with the order, the cruiser fired again, and blue lightning headed for their unshielded starboard side.

                “Brace for impact!” Potole yelled.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 4

                The Jinar approached the hulk of the partially constructed defense station.  The destroyer was keeping pace with her, but the smaller ship danced just out of range of its energy-draining beams. A volley of missiles from the smaller cruiser exploded nearby, shaking the Jinar violently.  She fired back, hitting the destroyer with pair of heavy shells, that exploded across her stern.  The destroyer’s engines flickered out and she drifted in space.
                “Captain, the destroyer is dead in space.  That missile salvo did a number on G deck.  Multiple fires and heavy casualties, ma’am.  Sealing off those sections now.”
                “Time.” Captain Braton said, still pacing along the forward viewscreen.
                “Twenty minutes until the fleet arrives, ma’am.”
                “Comms, tell those fighters to swarm as soon as we reach the station.”
                “Captain,” Commander Potole said, looking up from the console on his chair.  “I have something interesting.  A destroyer matching that design was spotted two months ago in the Jirus sector.  Very little information was recorded before it jumped out at the Arcton Jump Point, but the hull design is identical, and power signature is very close.  If it isn’t the same ship, it is definitely of the same class and origin.”
                Braton walked over to the Commander’s chair and looked down at the screen.  “Do we know anyone that uses energy draining weapons and missiles?  It is an odd combination, but effective.”
                “No, ma’am, at least not that I’m aware of.  Most alien species we have encountered outfit ships similar to ours: conventional firepower with perhaps a few tricks.  Like us, they don’t waste an entire ship on one trick.”
                “That one trick may very well win this battle.  A small ship should be able to avoid anything these larger vessels can throw at us.  With this engine damage….it makes things uncertain.  Comms, tell the fighters their priority target is the enemy engines, followed by their bridge and sensors.  We will slow them down, then blind them.”
                The Jinar reached the defense station, sliding past the mass of girders and partially-finished armor plates.  A look out the viewport showed that it was nowhere near finished, but the enemy cruisers were still giving it a wide berth, perhaps looking for a trick.  Their patience was rewarded with a swarm of fighters.  A mass of QT-2 fast attack fighters flew through the empty space between the station and the two cruisers, their afterburners lighting up the dark emptiness.  As they closed the gap, the void was filled with bright energy from dozens of guns on the cruisers that had yet to be fired.  Pinpricks of explosive force dotted the void, but once the fighters got in close, the explosions became a rarity. 
                The QT-2 fast attack fighter was a cheap alternative to mainstream military fightercraft.  Cheap to produce, and ideal for stopping pirate raiders, it was a standard garrison force on new colonies, like Lo-Lorrane.  What it lacked in firepower and durability it made up for in raw speed.  It had closed the gap between the station and the enemy vessels in mere moments, a speed a standard fighter couldn’t hope to match, and when a fighter meets the energy beam of a cruiser, no amount of extra armor would save it.  Speed had kept those pilots alive, and their work had just begun.  The dozens of fighters that survived now poured shots into the enemy’s shields, hoping to get a shot through them to hit the engines or other critical systems. 
                “Engineering, status on the engine repairs.” Braton called over the comm system.
                “We’ve restored partial power, ma’am” A void called over the comm.  There was a lot of static, and no image appeared on the screen, implying damage to the relays across the ship.  “There aren’t a lot of other repairs we can make to the engines without going EV.  If you can get me twenty minutes of enemies not firing at us, and the ship not moving, I can get you full power.”
                “If I had twenty minutes I wouldn’t need the repairs.  Repair what you can with the engines, then get me as much shield power as possible.”  Braton turned to the Commander.  “Got any ideas?  Those fighters aren’t going to last long without our help, and they are the only thing stopping the cruisers from firing on the planet.”
                “We are in no condition to charge two cruisers, Captain,” Potole said dryly. “There doesn’t seem to be many other options, though.”

                “Find me one.”

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 3

                Two large shells flew through space, accelerated to high speed by the explosive force of the IDF Jinar’s main guns.  The vessel’s smaller guns were still out of range, but these two shells slammed against the enemy destroyer’s shield, exploding in a brilliant fireball of flame and shrapnel.  The destoyer’s shields shimmered, but held through the initial blast.  It did not return fire, and continued to close on the smaller vessel.  The two cruisers loomed behind it, lumbering along at a slow pace.  The Jinar’s main guns fired again, along with several of her smaller guns.  The second salvo hit the destroyer head-on, and their front shield shattered into an arc of lightning.  Several of the smaller shells arrived late, passing through the collapsed shield and exploding along the hull.  Armor plates blew off into space, and a fire started along the ventral hull.
                “All guns, fire at will.  Focus fire on their bridge.  Helm, keep the destroyer between us and those cruisers.  Make them risk hitting their own ship if they want to strike at us.”  The Captain stood in front of the main viewscreen.  She paced back and forth, like a caged animal.  Suddenly space lit up around the Jinar, several heavy shockwaves rocking her.  Power flickered on the bridge, and Prallan felt his weight shift as the artificial gravity shifted.   “Damage report.”
                “Shields holding, ma’am.  Receiving reports of minor injuries throughout the ship.  All systems operational.”
                “What hit us?  The destroyer?”
                “No, ma’am, she still hasn’t fired a shot.  The Light Cruiser behind her fired a salvo of missiles, but they had some trouble tracking around the destroyer.  They shook her up more than us.”
                “Keep close to that destroyer and keep lighting her up.  We need them to waste as much time playing with us as possible.”
                The Jinar poured salvo after salvo into the destroyer, ripping its hull open with each shot.  The battle was looking more hopeful.  Then the destroyer opened fire.  Purple beams of energy converged on the forward shields of the Jinar.  Prallan heard the engines scream as power was pulled from them.  The console in front of him seared his hands, the surface of it hot from the electrical flow being pulled into it.  The beams stopped as suddenly as they had started.
                “Report.”  The Captain said, picking herself off the floor.
                “It was some sort of energy drain, ma’am.  Main power is at thirty percent, forward shields are down, but coming back up now.  Tying in auxiliary power systems into the mains to get the shields back up.”
                “How are the engines?”
                “Badly damaged.  Top speed has been cut down by twenty percent, maneuvering by thirty.  I don’t think we can keep the destroyer between us and the cruisers anymore, ma’am.”
                “I don’t think we want to.  Whatever the cruisers have, it can’t be worse than that.”  She paused for a moment, in thought.  “Put that auxiliary power into the engines, and reinforce rear shields.  We’re going to make a run for it.”  The helmsmen stared at her in disbelief.  “Weapons, keep firing at that destroyer, I don’t want to give it an opportunity to use those guns again.  Helm, set a course for the defense station.”
                “Captain,” the Commander interjected, “The defense station is just a hulk in space.  The outer shell isn’t finished yet.”
                “Yes, but they don’t know that, and I have something better in mind as well.  Comms, tell those fighters to scramble and take up a position near the defense station.  Tell them they better be ready for a fight.”

                Prallan looked down at the chronometer.  Four minutes had passed since the message had been received from fleet command.  Now, engines damaged and horribly outgunned, they had to hold off three larger ships for another twenty-six minutes.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 2

                “Are you certain it isn’t just a sensor fluctuation?”  Commander Potole asked, looking over the sensor officer’s shoulder.  “Have you checked with the communications satellite in the Jirus sector?  Is it reporting anything unusual?”
                “No, sir, I’m not getting any readings from it.  It has gone completely silent.”  Several red lights lit up on the displays.  “Confirmed, sir, another vessel just jumped in.  It’s fairly small sir, destroyer or light cruiser at best, maybe some kind of light transport ship.”
                “Comms, hail them.  Does the specification match anything in the database?”
                “No, sir, but we are having trouble with the sensors.  We are tying in telemetry from the space traffic control on the surface, but their sensors aren’t calibrated for much more than telling that something is there.”  Another set of lights lit up.  “Sir, another ship just jumped in…cruiser class or better.  They are both approaching our position at a high rate of speed.  Intercept in five minutes.”
                The Commander hit a button on the console.  “Captain to the bridge.”  Releasing the button, he returned to the middle of the bridge.  “Keep monitoring those incoming ships.  Let me know when they are close enough to get a read with our own sensors.  Comms, contact space traffic control and have them scramble whatever fighters they have available.”  The doors to the Captain’s quarters opened, and Captain Braton stepped onto the bridge.
                “Commander, report” she said, taking her seat.
                “Two unknown contacts just jumped in from Jirus Sector, ma’am.  We haven’t been able to get a read on them.”
                “Sir, a third ship has jumped in.  Cruiser class, and it is giving off some strange readings.”
                “Comms, send a message to fleet command, tell them that we need assistance.  Raise shields and load all weapons.  I have a bad feeling about this.”
                The main viewscreen showed a grainy image of the three vessels closing in.  The front vessel became clearer by the minute, revealing itself to be a destroyer of an unknown type.  A shimmer around the ship belied that it had shields and that they were up.  Prallan looked down at his console, and saw the frigate’s own sensor data start to stream in.  He ran the same mental calculations that he was certain the Commander and Captain were running in their own minds.  The IDF Jinar might be an even match for the destroyer, but with two other ships it was looking hopeless.
                “Still nothing from the unknown vessels, ma’am.  Fleet command reports that they can have a support fleet here in thirty minutes.  We have been ordered to hold and defend the colony until then.”
                “Sensors, where is the main settlement relative our location in orbit?”
                “One quarter rotation behind us, ma’am, in synch with the defense station that is under construction.”
                “Is that station operational yet?”
                “No, ma’am, it is an empty shell in space.”
                “Space traffic control reports four squadrons of QT-2 fast attack fighters are launching in the next two minutes.”
                The destroyer was quite clear in the viewscreen.  In another minute it would be in firing range.
                “Weapons, fire as soon as they are in range.  If we can’t hold them off, then they will have free reign on the colony below.  Let’s show them how soldiers of the Imperial Navy fight.  For the Emperor!”

                “For the Emperor!” The rest of the bridge crew shouted.  Prallan watched the range count down on his console, finger raised above the button that would fire the frigate’s main battery, waiting for the destroyer to come into range.  The console lit up, and he hit the button.  Two large cannons on the forward turret fired, shaking the entire frigate.  The battle had begun.

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