324-1118 was the day Windhook slipped through the clutches of the Imperial Navy.
Colonel Heart’s trial is in full motion with you serving as a hostile witness for the prosecutor. Your testimony is not exactly the smoking gun desired by the Navy’s case and by 56-1119 the trial is over with Colonel Heart’s acquittal. You observe that this trial is amazingly swift, but then again, attention is now much more focused on the devastation occurring in the Dagudashaag and Zarushagar Sectors as the forces of Lucan and Dulinor clash in earnest. After the trial, you are assigned back to his old post in Diaspora monitoring trade and smuggling routes. Initially there is great activity as the industrial centers convert to military support.
Trade traffic is frantic pushing the newly minted equipment and supplies. At the same time more and more Navy Fleets are moving out of sector coreward to join the fight against Dulinor. Events in the Libert subsector seem relatively normal yet bustling throughout most of the year although the anxiety is palpable and by early 1120, the last of the Imperial Navy Fleet trickles out of the sector heading coreward and taking with it at least half the Imperial Scout Forces to serve as reconnaissance units. Many of your friends and colleagues head out in search of glory for the Imperium caught up in the frenzy of vengeance. You are quite content to stay behind. Not much on glory and all about opportunity, you sense that the greatest opportunities to come will be right here in Diaspora. Heading into 1120, the scout bureau is a skeleton organization and you spend more and more time alone in the cockpit. The normal two man crews of scout vessels are reduced to one in order to gain better coverage. Taking your collected knowledge monitoring smugglers, you take the time on your patrols to work on some modifications to your ship. You are able to create 3 concealed storage compartments that would be difficult to find by even the most experienced customs agent. By mid 1120, Legitimate merchant traffic has dropped off sharply in sector staying only on main routes servicing highly populated worlds. Worlds off the main supply routes are effectively cut off from off world resources. Smuggling is on the rise. Reports from rimward portions of the sector portray a more and more desperate populace suffering the invasion of Solomani Fleets and dwindling resources. By the end of 1120, you observe that smuggling has given way to outright piracy. Merchants no longer travel alone and it is suicidal for them to travel even remotely off the main world routes. By 1121, Pirate groups are beginning to organize. Former military, both mustered out and deserters begin to reappear in sector and get absorbed into different groups. Terms like Vikings, raiders and rippers begin fairly widespread use though Jenner never really gleans the difference. The term StarMercs also becomes en vogue –apparently planet dwellers consider StarMercs the offworld “good guys” though it is often hard to tell.
The scout service is now too weak to intervene and as such is relegated to an observation role. The welcome mat is rolled up on most planets for you as you represent the last remnant of the Imperium left; An Imperium that abandoned this Sector. By 1122, your position as an Imperial Scout becomes untenable in most parts of the Libert Subsector. Pirate attacks have become more brazen and they no longer concern themselves with the imperial symbol on the side of scout vessels. Reports of dead or missing scout colleagues begin to rise. Most of the communication nodes used by the scout service are offline, the scout depots are no longer receiving supplies in great quantities and local worlds are too focused on their own survival and their growing hatred of anything Imperium to provide resources. Many scout ships are in need of repairs and those in the worst shape are cannibalized to provide parts for the others. In mid-1122, while out on patrol, all communications stops from your home scout depot and you are unable to connect to any other subsector signal. Upon returning, you find the depot has been attacked and destroyed. Not a living soul is left and any scout ship that was able to fly is no longer present. The depot is stripped clean of anything valuable. You load your cargo hold with as many useful spare parts as you can carry and head outs. Calculating that your best chances to find stable areas lies spinward, you head to Daibei. Upon arrival, You are welcomed by the Daibei scout services. As Daibei has declared itself a neutral sector, the former Imperial Scouts that remain have given up their Imperial identity but their structure is relatively intact. You offer up your services conditionally refusing give up your imperial identity or to be employed against imperial Forces. These conditions are readily accepted as Daibei certainly has more problems to deal with than to pick a fight with either Dulinor or Lucan. You spend the next two years providing reconnaissance assistance to Daibei against the Solmani Confederation and Aslan frontier worlds as an independent scout contractor, a job that pays quite well. You also gain quite a bit of knowledge about Solmani and Aslan culture.
By early 2024, word comes down through the scouts that the senior noble and leader of this sector, Archduke Craig, is looking for volunteers to deliver a personal message and cargo to Duchess Margaret in the Delphi sector. For a reason that you cannot fathom you volunteer to make the journey. Your instincts again tell you that the real opportunity is “out there” not in Daibei. The scout service along with the Archdukes intelligence services provide you with an in-depth brief on what you will face and also plot the safest and quickest route to your destination. You are told that by the time you reach subsector C, Daibei Sector, you will have left what is called the safes and will have entered the frontier. The frontier areas are not as frequently patrolled by Daibei forces and thus are somewhat less secure. Daibei still has regular contact with frontier worlds and moderate Interstellar trade continues to flow. People in the frontier may be a bit gruff but in general Archduke Craig is considered favorable. Your imperial scout marking may inspire a different reaction I’m afraid so you must be careful. When you reach subsector D, Daibei Sector, you will have entered what is now called the outlands. These forsaken lands do not have the influences of any faction and have had to learn to survive on their own or perish. Understanding you have some experience out there, just know, it has gotten worse than you remember. Credits are no good out there – but your ship and any technology you have are going to be coveted possessions. You are advised to keep moving.
Before your journey, you are taken to see the Archduke who expresses his extreme gratitude at your willingness to take this journey and also states that he is in your debt. One of his representatives presents you with the cargo, an egg shaped container the size of a suitcase with no apparent openings. The representative explains that your DNA has been embedded in the egg which will allow you to move it. Anyone else that attempts to move it will cause it to generate a supercharged magnetic field attaching itself to any/all metal object until you touch it again. This could be quite dangerous in a room filled with light metal objects. You will not have the ability to open it however, that will be in the purview of someone at your delivery location. You are also presented with 5000 Kg of gold (equal to 50,000 credits) to assist you in your journey. In the outlands, precious metals are prized, not credits.
Your journey takes 42 jumps in your Jump-2 scout ship. You make the journey,” running silent”, using no transponders. You know this is a potentially dangerous course of action as it has always been the tactic of illegal smugglers and pirates but you gauge that the alternative in lawless space would attract even more attention – especially as you would be squawking as an Imperial Scout Ship. You skirt the Sectors of Diaspora, Massila and Old Expanses before entering into the safes of Delphi. Along the way, you witness doomed worlds (worlds that do not have the natural resources nor the inherent technology to sustain their populations) and failing worlds (worlds that have natural resources but not the technology to sustain current levels of consumption). You pass through systems that contain floating junk yards of ship parts. A cacophony of distress signals can be heard in most every system you enter both from ships and planets. You suspect many are bait laid out by pirates but you also know many are real. They are both heartbreaking and maddening as you silently traverse the systems. You also note a prevalence of sub-light speed vessels in many systems. Without the support of Imperial trade, many systems cannot sustain jump technology levels and thus work within their systems to gain the resources they need to survive.
Your journey takes 314 days and you arrive in a Scout ship badly in need of maintenance. Of the original 5000kg of gold, you have 1500Kg (15000 cr) left using most for customs bribes and spare parts. Not long after getting cleaned up from your arrival, you are met by representatives of the Megacorporation Hortalez et Cie who escort you and the cargo to see Duchess Margaret. Margaret again thanks you for your service and informs her attendants to ensure you are well compensated for your efforts. Another man, obviously a representative of Hortalez et Cie takes the egg case from you and disappears into the myriad of offices and chambers.
After your appearance with the Duchess, you are taken back to your new accommodations near the starport, certainly a step up from the quarters you had previously reserved. You are standing in the main spaces of a penthouse suite 50 stories above the city. The huge glass wall is overlooking throngs of gravity vehicles humming the transit paths below and the sun is setting over skyscrapers and a vast bluish-pink ocean. The message transponder in the room beeps and glows indicating you have a private message. Reading the message, The CEO of The Heart Corporation, B.O.V. would like to meet with you to discuss future employment opportunities.
It is currently day 005 of the year 1125.