SUMMARY OF REMAINDER AND FRAGMENTS:
19 Karlon and pirates
Blackburns walked across the bridge and peered at the limpet drone. All of the small robot’s multiple limbs were outstretched, some extended many metres. About half were bracing it against the control panel and floor, while the other half were pressing a large sheet of metal against the inner side of the canopy, covering up the holes. ‘Does it have to stay there forever?’ huffed the pirate captain.
Behind him, Karlon pulled himself up and wondered whether to salute. The bridge was full of pirates in a variety of dress that ranged from old uniforms to extravagant casualware, all conventionally anchored to the deck with magnetic boots. Even Lixxie was standing upright and relatively still. The exception was Billhook, who had passed out in a corner again, anchored by a magnetic cord attached to his belt. ‘The air pressure is doing most of the work now and I’ve sealed around the outside sir!’ said Karlon. ‘It would be safer to leave the drone in place until the canopy can be replaced though. May I just add, sir, how greatful I am that you did not economise on reserve tanks for repressurising the ship.’
‘I thought I had,’ muttered Blackburns. He reached out a hand as if to prod the plate, then pulled it back. He turned round and took a deep breath. ‘Sucked out all the muck out with the old air. We should have done this ages ago!’
Karlon fidgeted and exchanged looks with Lixxie.
‘On the other hand...’ Blackburns ran a hand through one of his incredibly long sideburns, which dangled down over the armoured chest-plate he wore, ‘...you did let Billhook drink my best whiskey.’
‘We thought we were going to die and he had a gun sir!’ Karlon felt another stab of terror. As an experience, he decided the novelty was definitely wearing off.
‘I suppose so. Throw Billhook out of the airlock, men!’ Pirates moved to obey.
‘Sir,’ said Lixxie, flipping a salute that would not have met naval regulations. ‘It would be much more painful and poetic to let him suffer the hangover first.’
‘True, true.’ The captain’s hand slipped to his chin as if he was expecting to find a beard there. ‘Actually, he might as well suffer it while doing a suicide mission. Hate to do it to you two as well, but this mission also needs people proven to be resourceful and competent. That means you and Karlon.’
‘A suicide mission sir?’ Karlon had a lot of experience keeping reactions off his face when dealing with Thurden, but wasn’t sure he could hide his dismay.
‘Dying isn’t mandatory except for Billhook. That damned Generation Ship blew up half my men and put thousands of creds of damage on my Asp. I want you to get on board it and stop it.’
Rough notes for the remainder of the plot;
20 Arjanna and Thurden
Captain Thurden is being interrogated by the Feds. He refuses to say anything at first until Arjanna shows up. He says she would not dare to torture him. She says that torture is defined legally as something that the captor would find unpleasant. However, she is a Darzian: she is trained to withstand pain, and they like tests of endurance to show off willpower. She holds her hand above a lighter until the air smells of burning, then tells him it is his turn. He cracks and tells what he knows.
Arjanna leaves and reveals that the lighter is a joke item producing holographic flame and a false smell; she remarks people will believe anything about Darzians.
21 Booster and Debra
Debra is shaken by the threatened kidnapping and asks Booster to come with her. She is determined to find out the truth about the generation ship and thinks there is something going on. Being off-duty, Booster agrees to take her to an orbital observatory to find out why it did not see the ship coming. When they arrive (possibly in a later section) they find a murder scene... later on they kill the murderer who was the assistant observer, but wonder why he did this.
22 Arjanna and family
Had this planned out to be a very poignant scene, but it would rather have to be written for this to come across.
Arjanna arrives home, feeds treats to the cat and meets her mother and father. Her mother tells her not to feed the cat as it is an animal to work for its keep, and sentimentality is weakness (charming people, the hardline Darzians). Her father is a little kinder. Her mother tells her that Organiser Tara is looking for her, and reminds about her organised marriage (to Tara’s arsehole bodyguard). Arjanna says she would rather marry a slug, and they argue. It emerges that her parents were dissidents who left the Darz community to marry each other, but who were allowed to re-join after the incredible talents of their daughter became evident. Arjanna says that their programme of breeding for the ultimate warrior is stupid; she was born from a marriage of genes they did NOT want, and her brother is nothing special. They should just admit they can’t outsmart nature and get on with being human beings. The argument leads to her mother storming out.
Her father is a bit more conciliatory; he reminds her that her mother once left the Darz for love, and says that life outside the community was terrible—they struggled to find jobs and friendships, and faced discrimination on both sides. Arjanna says that she remembers being torn out of a school with playtimes and friends and shoved into a cruel military-style academy where they were encouraged to bully each other. Her father says that they did what they thought was best, and he is afraid that some day soon Arjanna will have to choose between being a Darzian and the rest of humanity.
Arjanna goes up to bed, sneaks the cat into her room, and starts crying.
23 Bastle and off-cam Patreus
Count Bastle travels to Eotienses and meets with the representatives of Senator Patreus to ask for advice. The rep tells him that they will not abandon the Imperials on Perabyssos (a latin contraction of “across the abyss” btw) and that as for the prospective colonists on the generation ship, the generous thing to do will be to extend them the care and benefit of Imperial Slavery. Bastle is concerned that the Federation will not be happy about this. The representative says “A confrontation between galactic superpowers is a terrible thing. Even a small clash will mean great loss of life, and every one risks a greater war that would devastate humanity... the senator thinks it’s about time we had one!”
The remainder of the plot:
News arrives from the Federation. President Halsey has declared the planet is to be evacuated and cleared to make space for the colonists. This leads to incredulity; does she never want to be re-elected? Booster resigns in protest.
Arjanna is genuinely shocked by this turn of events. Organiser Tara asks her to remain with the Federation and spy on them, so Arjanna finds herself in the position of being a double agent for both sides at once. Hopefully, the reader will come to believe that she is angling towards the Darzian side for a time.
The Darzian community takes weapons and disappears to hide in the countryside, promising violent resistance to anyone who tries to dislodge them, and assistance to Perabyssans who help.
Dan, who is counselled against resigning by the rest of the flight (he is too early in his career) is moved up to the space station along with Thule, whose place as overall commander is taken by a Supervisor who always seems to take the worst possible decision. On the station, they face severe problems with the security situation. Freelance pilots are flocking in looking for profit whether it is smuggling weapons to the guerillas, being paid to transport evacuees (genuinely or to sell into slavery/extort from) or just piracy. Some of the Federal Navy arrivals prove to be of negative help. What is worse, prominent “griefers” have shown up to answer the call to make trouble. I planned some character assassinations and horrible fates for thinly disguised versions of certain people... and for the in-game characters of my friends and I to appear and give advice on how and when to fart in cockpits, and other humorous stuff.
Karlon, Lixxie and Billhook manage to get on board the generation ship by an ingenious trick I haven’t worked out. Initially in the deserted bowels of the ship, they find themselves hunted by sub-human creatures. Managing to work their way up, they find what appears to be an automated nursery producing children. Lixxie is actually shocked and declares that they have to save them somehow. Karlon unlocks a link to the upper decks.
Things hot up in the system. A Federal taskforce arrives and begins escorting the generation ship with a heavy cruiser, throwing a force shield about it. An Imperial fleet appears and begins a tense standoff. Then a Kumo Crew expeditionary force arrives and starts taking slaves from the evacuation transports. The people who called them realise rapidly that it was a bad idea (and come to bad ends at some point).
Debra and Booster have various misadventures on their way to Earth, and digging up old historical archives once there. There, they discover the truth about the generation ship: it was launched by a fanatical cult that had turned the theories of Darwin and Nietzsche into an extreme creed for a new society... known as “Darzians” for short!
This coincides with Arjanna being told the plan by Tara: when FTL drive was developed, the Darzians left behind travelled prepare for the ship’s arrival. In its centuries of transit, the ship would use accelerated evolution to create millions of perfected super-soldiers. Darzian agents have infiltrated many of the galaxy’s institutions and corporations, preparing for the rise of a new power that will dominate the galaxy. But Arjanna has another motivation: her parents were captured by the Federation in what was initially a well-intentioned move by Thule so that they could not be used as hostages against her. However, the git of a new Federal Supervisor has ordered them to be transported. When the Darzians prepare a raid to take over the space station, Arjanna is in the forefront.
The system breaks into a fierce multi-sided war: Fed vs Imperial vs Kumo vs system security, when it becomes clear that a large fraction of the freelance pilots are in fact working together—they are the Darzian diaspora force. Meanwhile, the planet-based Darz smuggle themselves up to the space station and launch an assault to take it over. Along with their space-based forces, this will guarantee the arrival of the generation ship. There were going to be some spectacular fights in the peculiar physics of the space-station. Arjanna switches sides back to the Federation and foils the attack, although I was toying with the idea of having Thule and/or Arjanna’s brother (a Darzian loyalist?) die. Arjanna beats up her intended husband and takes Tara prisoner. Tara chastises her as weak for not killing her, and Arjanna says she would love to, but that there has to be a leader left to call surrender. Tara says that will never happen.
On the gen-ship itself, Karlon and the pirates make their way to the bridge and find the captain, centuries old in a life-support system. He is insane but able to talk. On the generation ship, the Darzians ruthlessly implemented their “survival of the fittest individual” ideology with the result that only the strongest and most brutal survived. They were soon forced to eliminate females, who died too fast, and create new children in artificial wombs using DNA harvested from the most persistent survivors. The outcome was rapid degeneration into the rabid, sexless, apelike creatures encountered on the lower levels. Blinded by ideology, the captain intends to release them to over-run the planet, convinced they will somehow become intelligent once more. To help this, he will use the terraforming modules the ship was equipped with to devastate the planet and make it a more challenging environment.
Debra and Booster arrive back to the system with what they have discovered. Together with Arjanna’s news, the remaining Imperial and Federal forces combine to attack the generation ship. Unfortunately, it turns out the Federal Supervisor was a Darzian plant (making sense of his previous apparent bullheaded incompetence) and he seizes control of their battle cruiser, making the fight a precarious one. Teddybear flight is reunited, with Arjanna flying an experimental Vulture from the station, and they lead a desperate battle to stop the generation ship. And win, I’ll give that away now.
On it, the pirates and Karlon manage to disable the control systems and the captain. They succeed in herding the children (a throwback batch of normal humans created to do maintence) to a landing pod and eject. When clear, they broadcast a message that there are no more human survivors on the ship, and it can be destroyed. It is then blown up in a desperate last manouver. Arjanna, whose cockpit had been punctured some time before, intends to sacrifice herself doing it but is rescued by Dan.
At the end, peace is restored. Faced with graphic evidence of their ideology’s failure from the generation ship’s black boxes, and the exposure and end of all their plans, the Darzians decide to disband and integrate as best they can. The Empire and Federation return to peaceful relations (for the moment). Arjanna and Dan become a couple, so do Lixxie and Karlon (awwwww!). However, Arjanna’s parents were taken by the Kumo crew during the crisis. At the end of the novel, most of our heroes were mounting up as freelance pilots intending to go and rescue them, just as news of Halsey’s disappearance breaks over Galnet.
Sorry about leaving this unfinished; I had a catastrophic loss of faith in Elite/Frontier and enjoyment of the game; besides, the pro writers all seem to have quit a while ago. Still, this was great fun and I think I've learned some plotting and writing tricks from doing it. Shame it probably wouldn't adapt to be a more general science fiction story...