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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 5. / Issue Number 1.
October - December 2007


Table of Contents

Editors Note: ][avok
Tidbits: Various News From The Cluster
Site of the Quarter: ][avok
NAPs, Alliances & MAD: TheAdmin
Developer Profile: ][avok Interviews Chris Holz
Fan Fiction - The Gorn Gambit - Chapter 3: Desert-Fox



Editors Note

Tis The Season…

Here we are again. The end of the year and time for a warm winters nap.

To say that 2007 wasn't a busy year would be an understatement. I've tried several times to get a newsletter out before now and just either haven't had the time, or new content to give you. I would like to thank Desert-Fox for his continuing contributions to the newsletter and also want to welcome Erik from TheStarbase.net who is contributing this issues feature article titled "NAPs, Alliances and MAD".

Also in this issue we have tidbits from the later half of 2007, the Site of the Quarter and a new Developer Profile featuring add-on and utility designer creator Chris Holz. The 3rd chapter of Desert-Fox's "Gorn Gambit" rounds it out.

We are always looking for participation from any and everyone interested (that means players, hosts & lurkers alike) to provide new and original content for each issue of the Echocluster Newsletter. If you have a though, an idea, a story, a tidbit, etc... Send it in. The more you contribute helps us accumulate data faster, and encourages a regular publication of the newsletter.

I wish you all a safe and very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Until next issue,
][avok



Tidbits

VGA Planets Rumble Is Going Offline
Due to some equipment issues and a new addition to the family, Ville is taking the VGA Planets Rumble offline after the remaining games conclude. Best of luck to you Ville


PHost 4.1a / 3.5a Released - Stefan Reuther
This is mainly a bug-fix release. Due to the many bug fixes, it is recommend everyone upgrade.


PCC 1.1.15 Released - Stefan Reuther
Just released PCC 1.1.15. has a handful new features and some fixes. You can get a copy from the PCC Homepage.

        • navigation starchart ([A]) learned a few new tricks
        • supports PHost's new StarbaseCost, MaximumFightersOnBase, etc. options
        • supports PHost 4.1's new mining formula
        • hull function support was updated. The function assignments can now be accessed from a script as well.

VPA 3.63 Beta 1 - Stefan Reuther
As you probably know, the last official VPA release is already over a year old. My personal goal for a new release was when it catches up with current PHost. The last thing missing was support for StarbaseCost, MaximumFightersOnBase, etc. I finally found the time to implement that.

I hope I found all places that need to be changed to allow VPA to generate correct turn files. But because I do not use VPA for playing, I don't know for sure. Therefore I ask all you VPA addicts to test it a bit more thoroughly than I can do it: create pconfig.src's with different values (e.g. BaseFighterCost=$0, StarbaseCost=T1000, etc.), and try whether you can "break" it, or find other anomalies (NOTE: a turn file where one of these parameters differs from what PHost thinks will not be accepted, so only try this on test data, i.e. copies of your actual games!). Please post and/or mail me your findings.

The current .exe files are available at:
  <http://phost.de/~stefan/vpa/vpa-3.63-beta1.zip>
  <http://phost.de/~stefan/vpa/vpamm-3.63-beta1.zip>

If they work well, they will become VPA 3.63.

High Command Returns
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, High Command has returned from a break that has lasted almost 2 years. High Command as you may or may not know was originally launched back in 2000 and is run by Matthias. New games are joining now, so stop by and say hello.


PLIST 3.1 Now Available - Vagabond Team
The Vagabond team has updated PLIST 3.0 to 3.1.

The new features are:

 

  • [Bug] Some clients do not support hull picture numbers > 151.
  • New hullfuncs were added (HardenedCloak, Commander, IonShield, AdvancedAntiCloak).
  • Federation's Special Feature: At Level 1 crew is experienced enough to equip alls ships with an IonShield.
  • New engine type (Transshield Generator) provides high EngineShieldBonus at low tech level.
  • Adjusted beam (Desintegrator) and tube (Fusion Bomb) type with high recharge rate at low tech level.
  • Based on the experiences of several games and an intensive discussion during PHost convent 2006 races were re-balanced slightly.

Generally, PLIST 3 is based on PLIST 2. Vagabond reports "We did our best to keep its basic character: same races and similar race specific shiplists, ships, equipment types, and pconfig.src settings. However, due to the new PHost 4 features PLIST 3 became much more complex and sophisticated. Playability without a PHost4 supporting client, like VPA, PCC and Echoview, could be challenging."

For PLIST 3.0 newbies, it is recommended that you at least read the PHost 4.1 chapters: Crew Experience, Hull Functions, and pconfig.src settings before starting a game.



Site of the Quarter

Every quarter we give a VGA Planets website special recognition for their contribution to the community. This quarter we have set our eyes on High Command.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, High Command returned in 2007 from a break that lasted almost 2 years. High Command as you may or may not know was originally launched in 2000 and is run by Matthias. New games are joining now, so stop by and say hello.



NAPs, Alliances and MAD: By TheAdmin

For new players there can be much confusion on what is a Non-Aggression Pact. For that matter, there are even differences of opinion between experienced players on the differences between Alliances and Non-Aggression Pacts. The only thing that appears to be consistent is that when an agreement is broken a vendetta of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is applied to the offending party! It is my hope this article can both clarify what these agreements are and to supply some guidelines on what the agreements should encompass in the hope of avoiding MAD.

To simplify the discussion I believe there are 4 levels of political interactivity. From most cooperative to least they are:

  1. Alliance
  2. NAP
  3. Neutral
  4. War

Alliances encompass a wide range of cooperation ranging from an exchange of minerals for MCs to complete sharing of information and RSTs.  This would represent Limited and Full Alliances. Additionally I would propose there is a state of ceased hostilities that does not really encompass either Neutral or NAP. This is the period of time where the warring factions are trying to work towards peace or they have a something else they temporarily need to focus on other than each other. This agreement could be called a Blood Truce. So now the Political “Friendly” scale looks like this:

  1. Full-Alliance
  2. Limited-Alliance
  3. NAP
  4. Blood Truce
  5. Neutral
  6. War

This article does not address the definitions of War or Neutrality. Suffice it to say that in these two states there are no agreements between the parties so there is nothing to break or violate. In all the other states some agreement exists between the parties hence each has an obligation to the other.

The key to any agreement is communication. Things run afoul when one player’s interpretation of the agreement does not match the other’s expectations; 99% of failed agreements fail because there wasn’t a complete understanding of what was expected to begin with. The other 1% fail because someone actually intended to break the agreement. This means communication is VERY important. If you think an action of yours may be misinterpreted by the other party it is better to ask first or you may find yourself subject to MAD.

A player entering into an agreement assumes certain responsibilities to that agreement. Not abiding by these can result in a player being accused of breaking the agreement. I call these the Golden Rules and all parties should respect them:

  1. During the term of the agreement neither party will do anything to proactively undermine the other.
  2. There is implied confidentiality relating to any information exchanged during the agreement. This information may not be shared with races outside of the agreement and remains confidential for the duration of the game, even if the agreement terminates.

A couple of caveats are appropriate to mention here. Neglecting to do something is not necessarily a violation of an agreement. Also, information garnered from sources outside the agreement is not necessarily confidential and may be shared but the onus is on the player to show the information came from outside the alliance, and even then the offended party may still subject you to MAD.

All agreements should contain at a minimum a Statement of Expectation along with the duration for the term of the agreement.

A Blood Truce is a very simple agreement. The Statement of Expectation is “The parties will not attack each other for a specified period of time.” The only violations of such an agreement would be to break the Golden Rules listed above or if one party attacks the other during the time of the agreement. Once the specified period of time expires the parties become Neutral unless some other type of arrangement has been entered.

Now for some definitions: Wikipedia defines an alliance as “An agreement between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests.” A NAP is defined as “ … an international treaty between two or more states, agreeing to avoid war or armed conflict between them and resolve their disputes through peaceful negotiations. Sometimes such a pact may include a pledge of avoiding armed conflict even if participants find themselves fighting third countries, including allies of one the participants.” The fundamental difference between an alliance and NAP is that the alliance is a cooperative effort to “advance common goals and secure mutual interests”. The common goals and mutual interests are the reason the two have allied. Conversely, a NAP is an agreement not to interfere in the interests of the other, no cooperation is implied. An alliance ends when the goal has been achieved or the item of interest is no longer relevant. A NAP ends when the parties cannot find agreement or when the specified time expires.

When players enter into an agreement they need to state if they are going to strive for a common goal or mutual interests (ally) or stay out of each other’s way (NAP). If players enter into a NAP the Statement of Expectation is “The parties will not encroach into each other’s territory or interfere with each other’s assets.” Other required items needed to be agreed upon are:

  • Description of the boundary. This area becomes the “no-fly” zone and encroachment is considered a violation of the NAP.  For purposes of fairness this area should not contain areas of space where the player has not populated the majority of the planets within the zone.
  • Duration: a time frame for the agreement, usually the remainder of the game.
  • Escape Clause. This is a statement that describes how either party may terminate the agreement without violation. A typical example is, “Either party may terminate this agreement by providing notice to the other. The agreement will terminate 10 turns following the notification.”
  • An agreement to continue ongoing negotiations on the borders of the no-fly zone as each player’s territory expands.

So what happens when player A and player B have agreed to a NAP in the following scenarios?

  • Player A knows of a cloaked ship that is entering into B’s territory. Since there is no obligation of cooperation A does not have to notify B of the encroachment.
  • Player A provides information to player C about player B’s boundaries (planets, ships, etc). This is in violation since it breaks one of the Golden Rules.
  • Player A orbits a planet owned by player B outside of the no-fly zone. Player A is not in violation of the agreement but the players may want to discuss what their next actions may be.
  • Player A provides player C with a ship that is used against player B. Not in violation of the NAP if Player A did not know what the ship was to be used for.

From this last example it should be obvious there could be some misinterpretation of the intents of Player B but without supportive evidence of deceit it should be assumed Player B was honest in his or her intent of honoring the NAP. These examples also point out what a NAP does not do. A NAP is fundamentally a Non-Aggression agreement. A NAP is not an agreement of cooperation. Therefore a NAP does not promise communications concerning other races activities or a promise to defend each other’s space. Actions requiring cooperation imply the agreement this is no longer a NAP but an Alliance.

An alliance requires further definition. To restate, an alliance is formed for some common goal or mutual interest. Alliances can be broken into three types:

  • “one-shot” alliance. These are alliances used for one-time transactions like ship exchanges, minerals for cash, etc.
  • Full Alliance. This is sort of like a Pact of Brotherhood with complete information exchange, intelligence reports and each other’s RSTs. These could also include a best effort promise to intercept and destroy enemy ships encroaching on each other’s territory and efforts to come to each other’s aid.
  • Limited Alliance. This would be an alliance formed for a specific goal or interest.

Items to be discussed for an alliance are:

  • Statement of Intent for common goal or mutual interest. For a full alliance the statement may be “To squash everyone else”. If it is a Limited Alliance then it may be “Until the Privateer Threat is eliminated” or “For mutually beneficial mineral exchange”. This Statement is the most important part of the agreement since it describes the intent of the alliance. If a party accuses the other of a violation of agreement that is not specifically spelled out in the expectations and restrictions then determination of if a violation has been made will have to be determined by if the action was in violation of then intent statement.
  • Duration: when does the alliance end? In the case of a Full Alliance the agreement most likely will end when the game ends. For alliances directed at a specific goal the termination gets a little tricky. If the goal is the elimination of the Privateers it should be stated when that goal has been satisfied. Is it when the Privateers have lost their last Starbase? Is it when their score drops below 1%? This should be clearly and definitively stated.
  • Escape Clause: Things change. Minerals can dry up or the agreement becomes antiquated and is of no value to one party or the other. A way to gracefully exit the agreement should be stated. As previously discussed it usually is a time frame but it can also be “upon payment of 1,000,000MC, 5 planets, 1 Homeworld and your first born.” The important thing is to have one else the only way out is to violate it which allows the other person to claim a defense of enslavement.

The next two items help to clarify what is expected, is allowed and is not allowed as a result of the alliance.

  • Expectations & Exceptions Clause: Do you expect information regarding where the minerals are you wish to trade? How much are you getting for the minerals? What ship do you want and when do you expect it? How much does the ship cost? The advantage of stating the expectations is if it is stated the alliance is for information then the other party shouldn’t be expecting you do come to their defense if you get attacked. This clause can also set up exceptions. Let’s say the alliance states each party must come to the aid of the other but you already have setup a NAP with the Rebels. You could state an exception stating you will remain neutral in any situation involving the Rebels.
  • Allowance & Restrictions Clause: What may each party do or not do as part of the alliance. Is the other party allowed to freely cross your boundaries? Do they need to stay 500ly away from Disney World? Can they only take minerals from a specific set of planets?

Finally, I’d like to discuss No-Alliance and One-Alliance options. These are add-ons the host may place into a game resulting in enforcement by the host software so that information and RSTs are not exchanged as part of the Host run-process. This add-on only applies a small part of what could constitute a No-Ally or One-Ally game, additional clarification should also be provided by the host. For example, are all communications between races prohibited? Is providing intelligence about other races prohibited? How about the exchange of RST information? In a One-Alliance game may the players enter into a number of alliances as long as they are not at the same time (exiting one before entering another), or only an alliance with one race for the duration of the game? Is a Non-Aggression Pact allowed in a No-Alliance game? These are questions each Host should address to help their players understand the requirements of the game.

As with any agreement an element of trust must come into play. How do you know you can trust someone you are entering an agreement with? Fundamentally, you don’t! The good news is that most experienced players report a very low number of players that back-stab and break their agreements, and the few that did have been remembered for time-eternity. This is a small community and memories run long. The players at a true disadvantage are the new ones. To new players I would advise to enter NAPs and alliances with any player that would be beneficial to your situation and honor that arrangement! The majority of players are honorable and they want to help new players to learn the game so you may even benefit from free advice. To experienced players I would ask them to give the new players the benefit of doubt. At best you’ll be grooming a new player into one of the greatest strategy games around. At worst you’ll have a memorable experience to talk about and a chance to practice your MAD tactics.

Acknowledgements:

The material for this article was derived from a lively discussion on theStarbase Forum. I would like to thank everyone that participated. Without their valuable input and opinions this article would have been incomplete. The full thread is viewable at
http://www.thestarbase.net/Forum/index.php?topic=243.0



Developer Profiles

This quarter we have interview Chris Holz. Chris is the author of several popular VGA Planets Host and Player utilities such as Interceptor, Flag Ship, Cloakers Patch & GScore. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to talk with us.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what you have been up to with your VGA Planets utilities.

I’ve been programming since high school, which was 18 years ago now.  It was the dim dark ages in PC computing, where math co-processors were optional, and the language of the time was Basic.

Since that time, I’ve been writing small app's and utilities for one game or another.  Perhaps the most famous of which is DOOMEDt.  It was a doom (DOOM 1, not 3) save file editor.  There are probably hundreds of copies of it floating about the internet now.

What are your favorite computer / board games and how have they affected the development of your projects?

Natural Selection.  It’s a full modification of the HalfLife game.  It’s a bit of a mix of FPS and strategy.  I don’t develop anything Natural Selection, which is good as recently I have found that developing for any game that I’m playing tends to be a distraction, both ways.  Also if I immerse myself in something for too long, I end up getting bored of it.  But game I like to play which have an element in it which I find interesting or want to explore, I usually end up developing something for it.

Which race do you prefer to play in VGAP & why?

The Privateer Bands.  The way they can move about, cloaking, thieving fuel and supplies, and moving faster than anyone else to escape.

Do you have a favorite utility or add-on when playing a game? Something that’s caught your attention and made you think, “I wish I had thought of that!”

Well there was.  There was a VCR combat simulator that someone released.  I wasn’t totally happy with it, and I started working on a Battle calculator.  It wasn’t long until Timo Kreike, and Jan "Sirius" Klingele and his white paper on battle tactics heard about it, and we started this collaborate effort on PACT.  Planets Analysis of Combat Tactics.  Then I finished University and couldn’t continue, then Timo change jobs.  After along while, Jan took the project to Stefan Glasauer and they were able to finish the application a few years ago and finally released it to the VGAP public.

What's your favorite Planets game memory?

I don’t really have a favorite one.  Pretty much all the games I played were halted for one reason or another, and never got to a really interesting point.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome due to VGA Planet’s mechanics and limitations while working on your projects?

The lack of entry points for hooking in new processing.  I suppose to a degree, Tim didn’t originally envisage the number of modifications and methods in which a game like VGA Planets could be enhanced.  Thanks to the likes of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, the gaming community out there has been growing in the thousands every day.  And many of those are intelligent people with dreams and the skills to make their own games.  Building their own game from scratch can be a daunting task, but modifying an existing game to take in new concepts, rules, graphics, models, maps.  It’s the next best thing.

Were there things that you wished you had added to any of your products? Interceptor, Cloakers Patch,  Flag Ship …etc…?

Interceptor could have been a little more accurate.  It was extremely hard trying to duplicate the inaccurate way in which visual basic and the calculations Tim used for ship movement.  Let me tell you, it got very close.  At least 90% of the time it was right on.  I suppose in hindsight, a more predictive method, in figuring out where the ship was headed may have proved more accurate, rather then basing off the ship heading would have yielded a better result.

Cloakers Patch was more of a bit of fun.  The big “what if” scenario.  “What if I cloaked my fleet of Borg cube capital ships and snuck them across to assault my closest enemy’s home world?”  Well, it worked.  By “hacking” key parts of Tim’s wonderful WINPLAN.exe, I could remove the restriction on which ships could or could not cloak.  Of course, cloaking a Borg cube results in using huge amounts of fuel.  Eventually fixes were made to Host at least to check for only the legitimate ships been able to cloak.

Flag Ship was probably my favorite app.  It was a game scenario.  Much like “Capture the Flag” in many first person shooters.  And it worked.  If a player lost their Flag Ship, they immediately lost the game.  The victor in destroying or capturing the ship, won a random distribution of the fallen race’s assets to a set percentage.

What do you think are your most important accomplishments to VGAP and why?

Flag Ship.  I’m not sure, but I think I was the first to introduce new scenarios to VGAP.  Flag Ship in itself removed the long term pain of seeing players get bored of simply planetary expansion until they hit the ship limit and stop playing, giving them instead a shorter term goal of hunting and destroying a specific ship.

In this time of graphically intense PC games, what do you think it is about VGAP that has people still playing a PBEM game that came out in 1991?

That’s a hard to answer question as I have not played VGAP for many years.  At the same time, I have watched the games in the market develop and grow to be better products.  The latest Sid Meier game for example, Civilization IV, is a graphically intensive, slow to load behemoth (especially with custom made super sized maps), yet it offers online internet play, LAN play, and turn by turn PBEM play.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients that a game of this type should have?

To survive or to grow?  Well, to an extent to survive, the game itself has to grow.  New players have to be introduced into playing as the old ones… well, grow old and infirm.  That unfortunately means the games themselves have to have new features added, encompass new hardware technologies, and show off their sexy side while risk alienating current players.  Key traits of any game however is it must be fun.  If it isn’t fun, then what is the point of playing?  Involving, entertaining, visually appealing, and yet not boring.  For a PBEM game, this is probably the hardest to master as a game can drag on for months.

How has the internet affected the expansion of your programs internationally?

I don’t really know.  I’ve stayed away from keeping tabs on that sort of thing.

Can you tell us, in layman's terms, how you came up with the idea of the Interceptor and then how you implemented it?

Interceptor was designed to extend the ability of Privateer Bands to steal from other ships whilst cloaked.  As a Privateer, your cloaked ship could move into the same space as another ship, and the next turn you could rob the ship and be light years away.  Under normal conditions, to do this, would require finding a ship around a planet, which is hard, because any planet you visit could have enemies there already even a fully armed star base, which means burning additional fuel whilst cloaking in this endless search.  Otherwise you had to use the Intercept mission, which would on result in a battle, not the robbing blind of fuel, supplies and crew.

This raised the need to be able to intercept another ship in mid-space whilst staying cloaked.  But a ship can’t be instructed to cloak and intercept at the same time!!   Ah, but if you could calculate it based on it current speed and trajectory, then it would be possible to calculate exactly where it will be next turn, rob them whilst still in mid-space between planets, and be off without them know what hit them.

My trigonometry was a bit rusty but eventually I got some working calculations, which weren’t 100%.  In fact, they were 70% accurate.  Depending on which way a ship was going, sometimes the calculation would be 1 LY off.  The issue I knew was due to rounding.  If the calculation was 0.4, did you round up, or down?  I went through all the calculations trying different, trying to replicate what Tim had done in Host, but it escaped me.  Eventually I ended up emailing Tim, asking him kindly for the code, or calculations he used.  To my surprise he was forthcoming and sent them to me.  The way he calculated the ship movement, to put it simply, did not make sense.  But the calculations help make intercepting more accurate.  Enough so that it was viable to use.

What would your ideal computer game be like if you could have anything you wanted given the limitations of today's technology?

I see games developing into large playing fields, of the likes of EverQuest and GTA, where more and more players can interact together in a virtual environment based  on reality.  Games such as Test Drive Unlimited is leading this kind of charge, bringing players from all over the world into a large scale playing field based on a real island.  My ideal game would be like this, bringing gamers together to compete, or play cooperatively, or to just prowl about looking for opportunities.

What’s the status of your product development and do you intend to continue to develop them or new utilities for VGA Planets in the future?

I’ve been tooling with web applications of late, writing sites that process information and can present graphics.  With this, I was playing around with the Google maps API, and integrated it with my own graphics system which can present VGAP maps.  I got it working, although in quite a limited fashion.  Due mostly to two limitations.  Browser compatibility and server hardware.  Working properly it is quite good, but due to the overhead I don’t see games, including VGAP headed down this route.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

10 Years is such a long time.  I hope to retire from full time work, get really bored and start writing interesting little programs again.  Perhaps even play the next version of VGA Planets if Tim hasn’t given up working on yet another version.

Any last words to the Planets fan base?

Never take your eyes off of a Privateer when in a bar.  The moment you look away, they’ll rob you blind, and probably take your ride too.



Fan Fiction: By Desert Fox

The Gorn Gambit
By: Desert-Fox
Chapter 3
The Ruse

Unbeknownst to the Admiral and his minions, two Romulan Darkwings were stationed one hundred thousand kilometers to either side of the little fleet.  They had been trailing the fleet since this episode had evolved. Cloaked and matching the fleet’s course and speed they were gorging their computers with every byte of data on the Gorn ship. The ships were not painted with the typical Green layout as Standard heavy warships but were wrapped with added obsidian black armor which made them difficult to see in space even when they were not masked. It also increased their ability to withstand the punishing counter blows that would be inflicted while battling the T-Rex.   It was the mark of a Tal Shiar ship part of the Romulan Special Ops group and they were not alone.

It should be known that the cloaking device the Gorn had stolen and jury rigged to the T-Rex was not fully functional.  The internal workings and makeup of Gorn ships is significantly different from that of the Darkwing it was stolen from. They were in need of the star base and its facilities where scientists would retool and rewire it to work their large ships.  Until then, when activated, the cloak was good for about 30 minutes before it would overload and burn out a circuit.

On converging vectors from the NE and NW, two wings of three RedWind carriers each raced at maximum warp to intercept the T-Rex with little regard for fuel or the damage from the straining engines.  Theirs was a suicide mission – to destroy the T-Rex. Failure to destroy the Rex was not an option. Expendability was a given. As they closed on the Rex to within 2 days they dropped their speed to make sure they had enough power for shielding and for cloaking but only enough to accomplish the mission. There was another wing of three RedWinds headed to the base on their own suicide mission.

It was time to put the plan into motion.  I hollered at the guard, “I can’t take it anymore, tell your Master I will tell him what he wants to know.  I can’t take the guilt for the death of my crew any longer!” The message was relayed to Nakar, who was on the bridge.  “Bring him to my quarters, immediately.” was his only response as he left the bridge.

“Soooo, the egg has cracked” he thought as he rode the lift down. “That took less time than I would have thought.  Pitiful humans, what a frail, brittle race they are. How do they think that they will ever conquer the cluster?  They have neither the strength, stamina nor the resourcefulness to affect any kind of lasting change to the overall scheme of things. A Gorn would have died before giving up information and yet, I am on my way to hear his confession.  This human intrigues me.  That is why I did not kill him out right.  Let us see how this bird sings and what intelligence he possesses.”

The Admiral strode into the interrogation room and with a wave of his hand moved the guards away from me…not too far but I at least had some breathing room. He did not face me but stood looking out of a window with his hands clasped behind him.
Well, Capt. Bestu…I am waiting.

“Admiral, after the device was stolen, I was recruited by the Tal Shiar to retrieve the device and to help exact retribution upon the Gorn for this act of thievery and disrespect perpetrated upon the Romulans by your people, for that I am indeed guilty.”

“But all you have done is to have your ship captured and your crew killed. How has that helped them?”

“Simple. They put me in a location that they knew you would be traversing and had me act like a privateer. They knew you would have to stop and capture me as you could not have any witnesses to your crime.”

“How did they know my route?”

“Well that brings me to the next part of the story. You have been shadowed your entire trip. Right after you stole the cloaking device the Tal Shiar put two of their DarkWings on your tail. They have been ghosting you the whole time. They are about a hundred thousand kilometers away just soaking up all the intel that you scale heads have been broadcasting. Just because you’ve been flying in the backwaters of the cluster does not mean that the space around you is empty.”

I could see him clenching his hands together as he absorbed this knowledge. His eyes narrowed as if he were trying to spot a shimmer out there in the inky blackness. Of course he couldn’t. The Tal Shiar has the most advanced versions of everything in the Romulan arsenal. He was in a tight spot. Still too far away for help to come from the star base, he would have to come up with a plan to eliminate the two Dark Wings and break out for the base.

The Admiral turned from the window and faced me. He dismissed the guards and had me sit at the table and then joined me there. He called for wine and when it was delivered dismissed the steward, leaving us alone in the room.

So Captain, do you really think I fear a mere two Darkwings? This is not your standard T-Rex. It too has been modified. Its mass is almost a third more than normal, we have doubled the crew compliment and we have added five more tubes and two more beams. We now bristle with weapons…twelve and ten to be exact. I have a well trained crew and plenty of ammunition. I do not fear this enemy.

Yea well there is a bit more.

More? What else is there?

There are two wings of RedWind cloaking carriers in route to intercept you before you get to the base and another wing enroute to take down the base.

Why Red Winds? Don’t they think the Darkwings can accomplish their plan?

Well, Everyone know Darkwings are Romulan…while Red Winds are used by other races…if they let the Red Winds take you out then they have some plausible deniability.

He sat there quiet for a minute or two. You could tell he was doing the combat math in his head figuring his odds.

I sat there watching him and thought he might just be able to beat down the two Darkwings. The carriers were a twist he’d have to work through. It would be a hell of a battle if he went toe to toe but he did not yet share his plan with me. He just smiled and hissed lowly as he put his plan into action. He signaled the bridge and told his staff to meet him in his quarters in fifteen minutes. He then looked at me and said “I have a few surprises of my own. The one that concerns you is that although your enlisted crew has been killed off, I have to this point spared your bridge and engineering crew. What I propose is this: You and your crew will ally with me to defeat these Romulans and if we are successful, you and your ship will be freed. If we fail, we all die.”

What guarantee do I have that you will keep your word if we do as you ask?

None, except that I will guarantee that if you don’t you will all be dead in the next fifteen minutes. So what is your answer?

We’ll do it. I’d rather take my chances in the fight and the aftermath than to be killed outright. One thing though, I need to have myself and my staff put back on our MBR so that we might prepare for what is to come.

Agreed, your staff will be sent over immediately. You however will need to attend my briefing as you and your ship are an integral part of my plan.

Next Time: Last Man Standing Take The Flag

 

 
 
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