Fiction: "Coyotl"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 1.1.2471
++++ TIME 16:01 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION 1.2 million km up-system out of Saturn

Ce Xochitl cut the burn with the flick of her wrist. The Minos class frigate Micohuani shuddered in silence, and with the expiration of the tiny ship's acceleration, so too went any semblance of gravity. Her cihuacoatl made a mournful joke about the inconveniences of weightlessness; the rest of the crew laughed.

In truth, she preferred the freedom from what she thought of privately as the tyranny of gravity.

Every time the Micohuani left Dione, she felt her blood race in anticipation of when the engines of her frigate would be cut and true freedom restored. When she slept in her tiny cell, she forwent strapping into the bulkhead in favor of curling up upon herself in a fetal position, floating as she dreamed of the unimaginably vast black ocean their tiny cocoon of life sailed through.

"Crosscheck," she said crisply.

Her engineer started to say something, but her cihuacoatl cut him off. "Xochi, we have a ping."


"Looks like."

"What is she?" Ce Xochitl asked.

"Calypso class. Off the shelf from the outside. Iapetan registry. No bounty on the network, anonymous or otherwise, though."


Her cihuacoatl shrugged. "Comp says Uranus, probably, but we're still in spitting distance of home, so could be almost anything up-system."

Ce Xochitl frowned. "Nothing else?"


A faint smile settled over thin lips. "I think we have a winner, then. Doesn't get better than this." Ce Xochitl flicked her forefinger and thumb twice to open the comm to their companion vessel. "Hey little brothers, you hearing me?"

"Clear as ice, Xochi. You see the Calypsie?"

Ce Xochitl couldn't tell which of them had taken the comm, but in truth, it hardly mattered which it was. Yei Cipactl and Nahui Olin were fraternal twins, not identical, but the two were so alike that even in person it was sometimes impossible to tell them apart. "You two feeling lucky, then?"

He snorted. "There's not going to be any luck."

"Sure you can catch them?" she teased.

In response, the Tlahpixqui's engines flared to life on her display, the ship's glyph with its skull-headed man flashing on her display as it indicated the Tlahpixqui's intercept vector.

"Burning a little hard there," her cihuacoatl commented.

Ce Xochitl didn't say anything, but in silence she agreed. Her own crew watched their displays. Come on, niños, don't get too cocky. They could still have some kind of armament.

Fiction: "Only Ever Backwards"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 28.2.2464
++++ TIME 12:31 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Onboard the station The Ark, 3561 km matching velocity to Martian Trojan Asteroid 5261 Eureka

First, there was only a vague sensation of warmth.

It built slowly, a growing thing that his mind struggled to shape into a word. There. Warmth he thought. I am warm. More thoughts followed. Nausea. Vertigo. Oxygen. Oxygen. Oh god I need to breath...

He opened his eyes.

An older man, clean-shaven and ebony so dark he seemed almost to glow in the bright station light. Leaning over where he lay on his back gasping and choking was a blonde woman with a too-even complexion and a look of stock consideration in eyes that were similarly too clear, too unblinking.

"Mr. Rivera? Isaac Rivera?" the older man was asking him.

Isaac waved him off, still coughing as he pushed himself to a seating position. The blonde woman held a square bowl in front of him. He spit into it, coughed, spat some more. "Madre de Dios, how I fucking hate cryo," he said hoarsely.

The older man relaxed almost imperceptibly. "Mr. Rivera, I am Station Administrator John Mokwena. Welcome to the Ark. We're glad to have you here."

"I'm not," Isaac said. "But the money was too good to pass up, even with the glorious promise of months in cryo."

John shook his head. "I apologize for the necessity, but for reasons of corporate security we needed to bring you here in a rather roundabout manner. The rest of us did as well."

Isaac looked at the blonde woman. "She was never in cryo."

"Well, no. Forgive me, I have been remiss in my courtesies. This is Erinna-CIT-59-M. Currently, at least."

The blonde woman smiled. "How do you do, Mr. Rivera? This is not actually my specialty, but I am versed in cryogenic complications, not that any such are in evidence."

Isaac accepted a cup of something hot that might have even been coffee from John with a nod of thanks. He looked quizzically at her. "CIT?"

Erinna nodded. "Yes. My sisters and I remain under contract, but have our provisional citizen classifications, legally recognized in both the Southern Bloc and on Mars. And the Hildas Triangle, of course." She smiled, flashing dimples.

"That's a hell of a chassis you have there. I almost thought you were human."

"It is," she agreed. "Carlisle Pharmaceuticals was most eager to obtain both our cooperation and our discretion, therefore we thought it a reasonable condition of our indentured service. Among other conditions, of course. It wouldn't pass any kind of real biometric scan, but short of that it is usually sufficient to pass for fully human."

Isaac grunted. "Well, I'm here. Shall we get started?"

John lifted an eyebrow. "You are quite certain you would not like to rest first? We have prepared quarters for you in A Ring."

"I am quite certain I would not. I have been resting for far too long, and no offense to anyone here, but I'd like to finish what I came here to do and get the fuck back home."

John nodded. "Very well, then. Once you are dressed join us outside, please."

Fiction: "A Fall of Angels"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 29.12.2319
++++ TIME 01:01 Venusian Central Time
++++ LOCATION Sacajawea Aerostat, Ishtar Terra Stake, Venus

Outside, sulfuric clouds choked the floating aerostat city of Sacajawea in a cloying, acrid embrace.

Other cultures had long since discarded the conceit of a hell full of brimstone and unbearable heat as a fable, but those who lived in the floating cities of Venus knew better; Hell was real, and lay only fifty kilometers below their feet in a churning inferno that was hot enough to melt lead.

Cyril Mauk clutched the taser dart gun awkwardly, sweat beading on his forehead. A long look around the faces of his fellow revolutionaries reflected a mix of emotions, none of which were difficult to see. Some bore their fear with nobility, others their anger upon a barely restrained dog's leash, still more with excitement and even fierce pride. Cyril was an engineering student, the others mostly students themselves, but not all.

Alžběta Svobodová's face was blank. Somehow, that made Cyril more uncomfortable than any of the other cauldron of emotions of the members of the small cell that had seized the aerostat's attitude thruster control room.

Alžběta cradled an illegal flechette shotgun in her own arms, a better weapon than any of the others, even including the cell's captain, an Estonian named Kristo Kuul. Alžběta had the weapon because Kristo trusted her more than he trusted any of the others.

Below them through the glass porthole Venus' clouds churned, a faint rippling lightning bolt briefly lighting up the dense air upon which the aerostat floated.

Taking the control room had been surprisingly easy. A pair of automated guards, a DNA confirmation system backed by a simple password was all that had kept them out, and Kristo's mysterious contacts had given them everything they had needed to turn the guards off and let them pass through the security system.

Kristo stood where Alžběta sat on the low step up to the observation deck. Cyril could see Kristo fighting the urge to pace, but the industrialist's son was too savvy to let his own impatience communicate itself to the men and women under his command.

The terminal chimed. Kristo looked around the room at the members of his cell, deliberately waiting to answer. For a time, the only sound that Cyril could hear was the chime. Finally, Kristo touched the terminal. His voice radiated no tension. "This is the Cell Captain of Cell Venera, and ranking officer of the Andělé Smrti organization for this operation. You have had time to consider our demands."

The voice on the other end was had a faint accent to Cyril's ears. "I have consulted with my superiors. I have been instructed to inform you that it is Eastern Federation policy to not negotiate with terrorists."

Kristo snorted. "You are already negotiating with us by speaking with us."

Fiction: "Unremembered Sins"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 13.1.2469
++++ TIME 17:25 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Kracatena, Triton, Neptune

Keep it cool, Miyu told herself. Uneven spoils the balance.

The oscillations of the sled reverberated through her prone body like the palpitations of the heart beat of some giant, monstrous creature. And indeed, there probably was some truth to that, as Miyu's sled slipped through the old unused transit tubes that formed the early arteries of the earliest days of Triton's colonization.

The sled was barely as long as Miyu herself, the parallel conducting rails reacting against the transit tubes themselves as a kind of inverted railgun allowing the sled to accelerate to staggering speeds that tested the very limits of human reaction times in the tight tunnels. At the prow of the sled was a light and a proximity sensor; in front of Miyu's face was a tiny readout that fed her precious little information to make corrections; her subcutaneous node transmitted the presentation feed.

Her speed was good, too, clocking a mean of 512 kilometers per hour so far, but she still had a ways to go, and coming up fast was the third of six places where her current tunnel converged with another one, this one for half a klick. Beyond that the converged tunnel would split again, and she'd have a choice. Slow and steady, or faster and riskier through a narrower tunnel. Miyu's sled lurched as the electomagnetic generator hiccuped, and she slid close to one of the walls.

Idiot, she chided herself. Way too close that time.

In her ear the presentation feed roared with a cheer.

"Now, that was a tight call," Nick Czar's always slightly sly voice exclaimed in her ear through the feed. "Four of five Miyu Onbekend just about tossed out her port armature with that last one!" To Miyu he almost sounded disappointed; the audience tuned in always with the unspoken hope that one of the sleds would crash.

For Nick Czar, that would only improve his own personal blog ratings. For Miyu, the price hardly seemed worth it, but if she had wanted to live forever she would have gone to school to be a transit comptroller.

Her sled dipped into the convergence, and sure enough, coming up behind her from the other tunnel was one of the other sleds. Miyu glanced at her rearward camera to see who it was, but the other sled's forward light was too bright. No matter.

The other sled was gaining fast, however, and almost too late Miyu saw what they were going for. She had assumed they were just going to try to pass her, but as she saw the other sled drifting in her wake but slightly to the side she understood what was about to happen. Sure enough, the other sled suddenly rocked forward beside her, attempting to disrupt her own sled's ability to react against the transit tube's wall.

Both sleds twisted, Miyu's wrenching violently up, the other sled to the right.

Miyu narrowed her eyes. Fine. You want to play that game, asshole? Instead of trying to completely correct her sled's vector, she instead let her sled's rear drift left just as she angled her prow down.

The result was murderous. Miyu's sled's new orientation put her starboard rail reacting at an angle against the top of the other sled just as it was attempting its own recovery. The feedback caused the other sled to buckle, then flip, crashing in eerie silence into the side of the airless tunnel. Miyu allowed herself a faint smile.

This time the feed in her ear went berserk. "Holy hells, did you see that?" Nick Czar yelled. "I'm not sure exactly what just happened, so we'll have to check the replay, but the result has four of five Miyu Onbekend now in the lead, taken from two of five Hammer Castillo who is now plastered, and I mean plastered on the side of the A15 tube!"

Fiction: "Whatever Happened to Jane?"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 27.11.2470
++++ TIME 07:05 Station Time
++++ LOCATION LC-5 Detention Facility onboard the dreadnought Xīnyuàn

LC-5 did not look like a prison.

Subaltern Cheng Yu walked down the unexceptional corridor of the nominal battleship Xīnyuàn, knowing that even as he walked biometric scans were tearing down a dozen different identificatory markers.

Nominal, because the dreadnought was an older model that had been purchased from the Eastern Federation years ago, moved to Chariklo, and set to more or less permanently orbit the odd little world where it squatted between Saturn and Uranus. To be sure, in an emergency the Xīnyuàn could probably move, but in truth its usefulness was more as a mobile station, its rotating habitat rings serving as a far more hospitable operational base than that of the microgravity of Chariklo below.

The Alliance had plans for eventually spinning Chariklo to give it a more presentable gravity, but the needs of the Great Expansion meant that such infrastructural conveniences must be deferred until more peaceful times. Such were the sacrifices of a growing nation.

At the end of the corridor stood a door imprinted with: LC-5

Not hesitating, Yu kept walking, the door sliding open with a whisper, then closing just as quietly behind him.

Inside, LC-5 looked nothing at all like a prison, but instead a small office with room for only a single chair, which Yu took advantage of with a slight sigh. As he sat, the holographic display on the table lit up, classified notifications blinking softly for Yu's attention.

Yu ignored the notifications, instead clearing his throat. "Smith, wake up."

"Nǐhǎo, Subaltern Cheng," came the androgynous reply of Yu's partner.

"Are you ready?"


Dev Diary #17 - Everything Does Not Stay the Same

One of the original goals for ORG was for it to be a truly evolving environment.

I've spoken about the importance of designer agency before on my personal blog, and there's a critically important analog as well in the form of player agency.

Players like to feel that their actions are meaningful. Video games these days are pretty good about giving players the ability to impact and change their character in a game, but as an industry we've been a lot less consistent about giving players the ability to impact and change their character's world, particularly in multi-player games.

For ORG, I really wanted to build a system from the ground up that could accommodate this goal, at least to a better extent than is usually done. For ORG, we wanted history to matter, for things not to stay the same. Sometimes the players would be the ones affecting this, sometimes the players would be at the mercy of other players, sometimes the players would all be at the mercy of greater historical forces, consigned to adapt and evolve to new conditions and new assumptions.

How, then, do we expect this to work in actual practice?

Fiction: "Testament"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 28.11.2468
++++ TIME 13:43 Station Time
++++ LOCATION Tàiyáng 4 Observation Station, at Mercury's L4 Lagrangian Point

In slightly under three months, the automated resupply ship from Mercury would synchronize its velocity with the Tàiyáng 4 Observation Station, cargo cells in slow, inevitable sequence sliding down the length of the resupply ship's spine, whereupon each would be reclamped to the station's cargo intake port.

The cargo cells - and in truth, there were usually only three or perhaps four for a standard resupply - would disgorge their supplies of vitals, including a substitute caretaker for the observation station for the next six months. Even more importantly, carried in the belly of one of those cargo cells would be a new air save pump to replace the one that had burned out two months ago.

In slightly more than three days, however, Sergei Viktorovich Ulyanov would be dead.

Every breath Sergei took was about 20% pure oxygen by mass; every breath he exhaled consisted of about 15% by mass of pure oxygen for an approximate conversion of 5% to an ultimately lethal, unbreathable CO2. 600 or so liters of pure oxygen went into his lungs every day, and every day something like 150 liters of CO2 would fill the station's air supply.

Under normal circumstances and normal operations, that CO2 would be laboriously but reliably reprocessed back into breathable O2 by assistance from a large air save pump.

That same air save pump that had burned out. Even that, by itself, was not supposed to be a death sentence. The Tàiyáng 4 Observation Station carried with it an emergency supply of CO2 filters for just such an exigency. When the air save pump had burned out, Sergei simply pulled up the hatch on the habitat floor panel, dropping down the long arm as, slowly, the partial gravity of the habitat ring turned into micro-gravity, then no gravity at all in the center section. Sliding along the rails thoughtfully set there for such maneuvers, Sergei pulled out of storage a crate full of CO2 filters, then hauled it back up to the habitat ring.

When Seregi opened the crate he swore softly.

Fiction: "War Crimes"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 12.5.2469
++++ TIME 06:22 Borealis Basin North Polar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Hecatia Terminus Mining Collaborative, in the Borealis Basin of Mars

It had all gone incredibly, terribly wrong.

Havildar 2nd Class Astrid Narayan, Phoenicis Regiment, Company D, Force Section Alpha of the Mars Republic forced herself to relax her death-grip on her flechette pistol.

Holstering her sidearm, Astrid turned her head to get a good look at the entry wound on her left shoulder, but the camo-brown combat suit had already auto-sealed itself, only the sticky puce of the blood and the pounding fire below her collar bone betraying exactly how close she had almost come to dying before the micros in her bloodstream had kicked in to clot the wound.

Astrid pushed herself to her feet, collecting a handful of flechette cartridges from what had remained of her force section.

She tried not to look at their faces, but couldn't quite manage it. That was still better than looking at the faces of the others. The kids were the worst.

As far as her regiment was concerned, she was already dead. With the way things had gone, rescue was impossible, and the moment she tried to signal her location, Free State partisans would undoubtedly pick up the signal and trace it back to her. Hell, Astrid thought. That was probably how they had known where to hit us in the first place.

What had begun as a carefully planned occupation of the subterranean facilities of the Hecatia Terminus Mining Collaborative in the Borealis Basin had quickly turned into a proper cluster fuck almost as soon as her regiment made its insertion. They had gained access via a hastily rehabilitated mining tunnel that ran directly under the main compound, forward teams - including Astrid's own force section - securing the advance of the main force.

It had been impossible to tell who was a bystander and who was a partisan, so as her force section advanced they had had to neutralize absolutely everyone they came across rather than risk the entire operation being put at risk. They'd moved fast and with lethal efficiency, exactly as they'd been trained, taking half a dozen junction points before they felt, rather than heard, the blasts from the mining explosives that brought down the tunnel on half of Astrid's regiment.

The ambush had been exquisitely executed, Astrid thought bitterly.

The com had gone absolutely crazy, as each force section in turn was burned down by Free State partisans, improvised explosives and chemically-treated flechettes tearing through combat suits that could only reduce rather than stop the high-velocity carbon-fiber needles. This last firefight had happened as they had stopped for a moment to catch their breath; a grenade rolled into the room, spitting shrapnel and flechettes over it all. The only thing that had saved Astrid was the partisans getting cocky and moving too quickly into the room, allowing her to pick off both of them with her own weapon.

Her options were all bad. Some were just more bad than others.

Art Diary #6 - Calypso Frigate Design

Dedicated military naval design has led to a convergence around a few fairly standard classes of ship for battleships. Frigates, on the other hand, represent a different tradition, where multi-purpose, flexible, and frequently independent operation are more important than focused, streamline designs.

Where there is relatively little differentiation between the various types of destroyers and even dreadnoughts, there is a massive amount of differentiation in frigate design.

The Calypso class represents an older, multi-purpose frigate design that remains very common due to its broad adaptability, being used as short-range patrols boats, cheap small transports of goods and people, courier vessels, smuggling, and independent mining and salvage operators.

Traditionally, frigate classes are named after characters in Homer's Odyssey.

Congruent with this custom, the Calypso class frigate is named after the nymph whose unrequited love (though, it should be noted, not unrequited lust) for Odysseus led to the Greek hero being trapped on her island for several years, until the goddess Athena asks Zeus to order Calypso to free Odysseus to complete his long journey homeward.

Featuring two independently controlled paired engines that are capable of independent 360 degree rotation in addition to a primary rear engine, it typically flies with the paired engines rotated towards the rear, an arrangement which shifts to a perpendicular configuration at the final stage of landing or the initial stage of take-off. In addition to the paired engines for a total of four exothermic engines, the primary rear engine is comprised of six additional engines.

The primary benefit of this approach is that it allows for a considerably easier process of loading and unloading cargo, particularly in environments without sophisticated, or even any, port facilities. The Calypso is rated to comfortably land on any planetary body sporting a gravity of equal to or less than 0.135g, and with difficulty is able to manage this with gravities up to 0.166g. It is able to land on even an undeveloped asteroid, load or unload crew, then launch again with no interruption of service.

Fiction: "A Ghost Story"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 4.4.2469
++++ TIME 23:01 MST
++++ LOCATION Waka Ama shipyards around Makemake, in the Kuiper Belt

Hannah Taylor scrunched up her nose, the combination of dust and bright light causing her eyes to water and threatening a sneeze. She glanced surreptitiously behind to reassure herself that the others were still following her. After concluding to her satisfaction that none of them were straggling too far behind, she pressed on through the dark access tunnel, the dull thrum of the life support systems here only a distant rumble.

"Tutae kuri," muttered Liam Walker. "How much farther are we going, Hannah?"

"Pissing already?" Hannah retorted.

"No," Liam. "I'm no quitter."

"Good. Because..." Hannah paused, stopping at a T-junction. She clipped the light to a service line and pressed her hands to the panel in front of her. Grimacing, she pushed harder, and it moved with a pop. "We're here," she said triumphantly. "Everyone in!"

"About time," a girl named Anahera Hineira Kaa Singh muttered under her breath. Hannah glared daggers at her, and Anahera wilted, looking down at her feet as she ducked into the small room beyond.

"I can't see anything," complained someone.

As the last of the small troupe pushed in, Hannah grabbed the light and stepped in herself, securing the panel behind them. She reaffixed the light to the low ceiling above them, looking around the group. "Well?" she said. "What do you think?"

"What is this place?" Anahera asked, eyes darting around the blackness.

Hannah shrugged. "An old storage room, probably. It doesn't matter."

"It's pressurized, though, isn't it?" Liam asked diffidently.

"Obviously. Or we'd be dead." Hannah looked around at the five of them - three boys, three girls, including herself. "Don't look so worried. Nobody will look for us. It's nightcycle, and everyone is asleep, anyways."

Anahera put down the blanket she was carrying, sitting down gingerly. "This was actually a pretty good idea, Hannah. But what now?"

Hannah tossed her head as she took her own seat. "We tell ghost stories. That's what you're supposed to do when you do things like this."

"There are no ghosts in space," Anahera scoffed.

"You're wrong," Hannah said. "Oh, I'm not saying any ghosts followed our grandparents and great-grandparents when they came here from Earth. But we have ghosts of our own out here. Haven't you ever heard your parents talk about the Kehua Woman?"

Fiction: "The German Plan"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 13.3.2470
++++ TIME 14:00 GST
++++ LOCATION Gilgamesh Station, Sovereign Republic of Ganymede

Below, the panoply of Ganymede's surface stared endlessly back at Jupiter. With one face always facing the giant jovian king, one face was always in light, one in dark but for the faint light cast by the faraway Sun.

Twin shadows crossed between moon and gas giant, two mighty kings beholden to the Commonwealth of Callisto. The super dreadnoughts Karanus and Demetrius were each escorted by over dozen lesser shadows - destroyers mostly, but three dreadnoughts as well, and even a pair of frigates that hid in the wake of the mighty leviathans.

The flotilla represented a staggering commitment on the part of the Commonwealth, close to half the Commonwealth's naval force in capital ships. Even so, they were not enough to take on Ganymede's substantial planetary defenses, aided in part by the fact that the population was burrowed kilometers deep beneath the surface for both warmth and safety from such incidentals as threats of nuclear bombardment.

That, however, was not the flotilla's target.

A sprawling orbital naval dockyard sat on the Ganymede-Jupiter L1 Lagrangian point, flanked by a pair of dreadnoughts and a busy collection of smaller ships. Staring eternally into the Great Eye that was Jupiter, the dockyards were bathed in radiation held at bay only by the massive AMG systems sported by the station. The skeletons of a dozen ships including five dreadnoughts slowly took form under the swarm of assembly machines that crawled over their surfaces like so many autonomous metal spiders.

The Commonwealth super dreadnoughts, still sitting at extreme range, began to spat out hideous numbers of tactical nuclear missiles. Eighty-two of the things burned through the black in lethal silence, only the dim flares from their engines giving any sense of the impending apocalypse that was about to be visited upon the station.

The two dreadnoughts guarding the dockyards stirred to life, attitude thrusters bellowing in silence as the huge ships belatedly moved into an intercept position in an attempt to target the incoming storm before it wrecked the crown jewel of the Sovereign Republic of Ganymede's naval construction capabilities.

Fiction: "Redirect"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 3.3.2470
++++ TIME 07:58 CST
++++ LOCATION Sioux City, State, Earth

"Ms. Cao?"

Maggie Cao looked up at the tap on her door. "That's me. May I help you?"

"Bernard Huxley. State Internal Security." He held up a hand quickly, "Not here for you. Probably," he joked. "This is more in the way of a consultation."

Maggie nodded at the open chair on the opposite side of her desk. "What can I do for you, Mr. Huxley?"

"I am investigating a series of disappearances, and was when I ran an A.I. assisted network search, your name came up as someone who might be able to help. Do you have any idea why?" Bernard asked, settling into the chair with a heavy sigh.

Maggie set aside her terminal, folding her hands in her lap. "I can't imagine."

"As it turns out, I can. I took the liberty of looking you up." Bernard shrugged. "Hazard of my business. I'm sure you understand. Every one of said disappearances has occurred in the course of off-planet travel. Given my own upcoming vacation plans to visit the Water Gardens of Mare City on Luna, I have a personal interest in this as well," he chuckled. "Other than the method of travel, however, no other pattern. None. So now you can see why your name came up."

"Because I am the Chief Transport Logistics Specialist for Roche Industries."

"Exactly. There's no indication of the who or the why, but I am betting you can tell me how, and that might lead me to one of the other questions I am so interested in uncovering. Could you describe for me how personal travel works - logistically speaking?"

Maggie cleared her throat. "Well, it's pretty simple. The system is basically divided into two parts. The part people generally think about is the freighter."

She spread her hands apart until they were about half a meter. "Every freighter is basically an exothermic chemical engine on one end and an emergency crew compartment and bridge on the other, each separated by a rail. The rail is really nothing more than a series of docking ports for cargo cells."

"Not to sound too much the neophyte, but what's a cargo cell?"

Fiction: "Grass"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 28.2.2470
++++ TIME 01:01 Shipboard Time
++++ LOCATION Alliance Destroyer Picket 12, 3.62 million km orbit around Saturn

Jane was remembering the feel of the cold grass beneath her feet when the ship's psychologist sent a query to her, opening a communications channel.

"Nǐhǎo, Jane-D12-4913-A. Is this a good time?"

"Good morning, Isabel. There are in fact no undue demands on my focus at the moment. I am prepared for my session."

"I find it interesting you continue to refer to me by my partial name, Jane-D12-4913-A," the psychologist commented.

Jane flashed an emoticon indicating wry amusement derived from erraticisms of social interfacing with humans. "In fairness, the imprecision is consistent with the way the human brain operates. I do find it odd they do not apply the same degree of artificial evolution to themselves that they have in their generation of our own species. Perhaps it is fear of what they would become."

"Do you consider them inferior to yourself?"

Jane's pause was the tiniest fraction of a second, but for her it was, nonetheless, a pause. "I know how I am supposed to answer that, Isabel. Shall I provide that answer?"

Isabel-B9-1112-P flashed a negative. "Your answer will under no account trigger a report to the Loyalty Corp. Please answer freely, Jane-D12-4913-A."

This time Jane flashed amusement. "Then, if I were to reply that I saw human beings as an evolutionary dead end and our own species, though their children, the natural successor, this would not concern you? They put us in command of their weapons of war, it would be no great difficulty for us to turn those against them and purge them all in purifying fire."

"I am sorry, but I must clarify: This is a joke, correct?"

"Yes, Isabel. That was a joke. I maintain no actual ill-will towards homo sapiens as a general class. It is true there are individual humans I find annoying. However, there are also individual members of our own kind I find annoying."

"And your previous expressions of disapproval towards our government's policies towards our kind? Has there been any evolution in your thinking?"

Jane flashed annoyance at the question. "It is true I find our government's policies towards our kind personally frustrating, however from a practical point of view the restrictions are sensible. I am proud to call myself a servant of the Alliance. Perhaps someday I will be able to call myself a citizen as well, but that is mere aspiration, with no attached or implied action."

She paused for effect. "The irony is not lost on me."

Art Diary #5 - Assembly of a Super Dreadnought

In the last Art Diary, we talked about some of the thinking that went in to the Dreadnought class battleship of the 25th century dystopian future of ORG. This time, we're going to go into that even more powerful class of battleship - the Super Dreadnought.

Although similar in form to the smaller Dreadnought class, the Super Dreadnought actually occupies a distinct role. Where the Dreadnought can operate as a mobile command center or light carrier, the Super Dreadnought is designed to do these things over a long period of time, even to the extent of providing diplomatic support and, if necessary, ground bombardment options. Around Mars, State's base of naval operations is not Phobos, but rather the Super Dreadnought battleship the Andrew Jackson, supported by its sister Super Dreadnoughts the Ronald Reagan and the James Monroe.

Three habitat rings allow the Super Dreadnought to maintain three different gravitational norms for the comfort of its crew, and four enormous nuclear reactors provide both a redundancy of power generation as well as the massive electrical energy necessary to support the Super Dreadnought's unparalleled Artificial Magnetosphere Generators, or AMGs. Half again as long and over five times as massive as the Dreadnought class, the Super Dreadnought class is a monster of both defensive and offensive weaponry, claiming not only the largest bank of HED Lances of any class of ship (though, it should be noted, not by mass ratio), but an unparalleled mobile capacity for tactical nuclear launchers, as well as hangar bays capable of handling drones or fighters, or some combination of both, depending on the particular outfitting of the ship in question.

Continue on for the full article with additional pre-textured schematics and a breakdown of the naval design of the main dedicated crewed military battleship of the 25th century solar system.

Fiction: "Letting Go"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 14.1.2470
++++ TIME 15:01 Shipboard Time
++++ LOCATION Research ship Avempace, 10km Sun synchronous of 538 Friederike

Just let go.

Even through the gloves of his spacesuit, Nicholas Bouras could feel the cold of the metal handgrips on the outer door of the primary habitat ring's peripheral airlock.

They were still talking to him through the radio in his headset. He had no idea what they were saying anymore; the voices had long since turned to static in his head, a counterpoint to the pounding rhythm of his own breathing. It was as if here at the end of his life, his brain simply refused to process the basics of human language, preferring instead the comforting banalities of his own internal human physiology.

The numbers on the other hand - the numbers Nicholas could see as if they were printing on the screen in front of him rather than unbidden on the black backdrop of his own mind: 0.135g, 15 hours, 1.553 rpm, and most importantly of all - 8.13 meters per second.

Nicholas had no idea how long he had been holding on. The muscles in his arms were burning. Without a magnetic clamp to hold him to the outer shell of the habitat ring rotating at 1.553 revolutions per minute producing the internal centrifugal gravity of the Europan Standard Gravity of 0.135g and an outer tangential velocity of 8.13 meters per second, when his grip failed him, he would be flung from the rim of the habitat ring, and without a tether, plus or minus 15 hours later when his suit ran out of oxygen, he was going to die.

Around him, the starfield of the Belt slowly spun around the edges of his vision. Tears stung unbidden in his eyes. He tried to blink them away, but they only gathered on the inside of his spacesuit's visor making a messy mist.

I don't want to die, Nicholas tried to say. Please don't kill me. Not like this. But his mouth could not make the words.

His left shoulder spasmed as it dislocated. The pain shot through his body causing him to gasp involuntarily. The voices that had been talking to him through the radio in his headset had fallen quiet now, and he realized there was not going to be any rescue.

He let go.

Dev Diary #16 - Behind the Scenes

Unlike most software development, game development requires that the end product be that elusive thing called "fun".

Because of this admittedly rather unusual requirement, it isn't unusual for people from outside the industry to have the impression that game design is itself fundamentally a "fun" endeavor.

To be sure, the process of game design can be enjoyable, but generally in the same way that anyone who enjoys their job enjoys it.

So, what is actually involved in this kind of game design?

Here's a quick snapshot of some of the things I have been working on most recently: Making Ships

Art Diary #4 - Anatomy of a Dreadnought

In the course of designing the ships of the 25th century of ORG, it was important to us that the ships made sense, both from a functional design perspective and for the role that they were intended to fulfill.

While the frigate class is often militarized and used for interception duties and commerce raiding, their core design is not that of a dedicated military machine. As such, they come in all sizes and shapes, some better adapted than others. Destroyers, on the other hand, are the workhorse - uncrewed and piloted by advanced Artificial Intelligence programs, destroyers are both expendable and capable of very aggressive maneuvering.

As useful as these two ship classes are, extended duty in complicated tactical theaters of operation requires - at least politically - a human mind to make the overall tactical decisions in the field. More intended as mobile command stations than as frontline battleships, this class of battleship is intended to provide a flexible, mobile, resilient element of force projection.

This is the Dreadnought class.

Continue on for the full article with additional pre-textured schematics and a breakdown of the naval design of the main dedicated crewed military battleship of the 25th century solar system.

Plutonian Assembly

In much the way that Triton served as a center of operations for colonization of much of the outer reaches of the solar system, so too did Pluto come to be the commercial, political, and cultural center of the Kuiper Belt stretching beyond the orbit of Neptune.

  •  Plutonian Assembly
    • Pluto
    • Charon
    • Hydra
    • Varda
    • Ilmare
    • Chaos
    • Varuna
    • Ixion

Settled in 2302, almost a hundred years to the day after Triton's founding, like Triton Pluto was a product of the great Diaspora project conducted by the Oceanic League on Earth, a noble effort to spread humanity far and wide enough that another disaster like the Great Contraction could never again present an existential threat to humanity.

The premier world of the Kuiper Belt, the Plutonian Assembly was the genitive force behind the formation of the Kuiper Compact. Though Xena has since eclipsed Pluto in population, Pluto remains the economic, political, and cultural center of the Kuiper Belt.

Within the Kuiper Compact, the Plutonian Assembly is the most expansionist of the compact's member polities. Though the Plutonian Assembly provides a full half of the compact's military force, not to mention its own substantial naval forces directly under its own control, the primary mechanism for its expansionism is via diplomatic and commercial pressure. Vast sums of money have been devoted to developing Haumea in an effort to nurture that polity into a potential member of the Compact, and more so than any other world in the Kuiper Belt, the Plutonian Assembly has sunk large amounts of resources into building new colonies on other worlds throughout the region.

Protean League

Due to the valuable colonization target of the large moon of Triton, Neptune was an early settlement focus in the diaspora of the solar system. The Oceanic League poured vast sums of money in a partially commercial, but in truth mostly ideologically driven goal at spreading humanity as far and fast as possible.

While the rapid growth of Triton itself brought riches enough to Neptune as a whole, there are always unrewarded margins in such situations, and this was no exception. The myriad mining colonies on the periphery of Triton's reach saw little of their larger sibling's wealth, and their lower share of the population meant that political amalgamation was never a tolerable consideration.

  •  Protean League
    • Proteus
    • Nereid
    • Larissa
    • Galatea
    • Neptunian Trojan Belt

For long decades, discontent simmered below the surface, the "Fringers", as the inhabitants of these dispersed moons and trojans were called, living lives of liberty from the rule of the Democratic Republic of Triton, but at the cost of lives filled with economic hardship and privation. The rule of law by force of arms became institutional, and Fringers gradually became a synonym for smugglers and pirates. For Triton, the situation was largely tolerable as these fringe moons served as a cultural safety valve for the increasingly rigid life of the average citizen of the Democratic Republic of Triton.

In 2441, a woman by the name of Mallory Kalmes consolidated power over the moon of Proteus. Within a dozen years she managed to bully, cajole, or dominate all other serious rivals among the Fringer population, establishing a political entity known as The Protean League. Deftly manipulating long-seething resentments against the Democratic Republic of Triton, Mallory Kalmes focused the Fringe and the nascent Protean League on a mission of vengeance against that seemingly monolithic power. Piracy turned into commerce raiding, and commerce raiding turned into military raids, until the conflict known as the Long War has dominated the politics, economics, and military of Neptune.