The Missing Princess Part 14: A Desperate Cry in the Darkness

In the last heart-wrenching chapter Imperial Princess Taegan allowed herself to be captured by one of a gang of brutal Space Pirates who had boarded the desolate Imperial Watch Station in orbit around planet Eratus Est of the Draco star system, as she was carried off aboard a stolen Imperial Class II Scorpion rocket as gallant Galacteer Commander Lightyear of the Lightyear Brigade was forced to watch on along with the rest of the Space Pirates the treacherous four-armed Kutila named Xasaphrax tossed a live grenade into the docking port! Which terrible fate has befallen noble Commander Lightyear? To be marooned with murderous pirates or a swift explosive death?

“See you all in the afterlife you scudge swilling zwilniks”
With a cruel laugh the mottled reptiloid tossed the live grenade, slamming closed the aluminiglass and goldrantium hood down and pulled the rocket swiftly away.

The grenade bounced and skittered across the docking bay right into the corridor where Commander Lightyear and the Pirates had watched the departure of the treacherous Xasaphrax coming to rest right at Lightyear’s feet! As the pirates stared in stunned and fatal shock Lightyear, with his superior strength from years spent as a child growing acclimatised on a high-gravity world; the superior reflexes of Galacteer training and the skills of split-second decision-making that comes from mastering the break-neck speed of the Galacteer Class 1 Comet Rocket leapt into instant action!

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The Missing Princess Part 13: Misfortune is Written In The Stars!

In the last chapter Princess Taegan and Commander Lightyear, marooned on an Imperial watch-station with the remains of the slaughtered crew fought the mentalist illusions of an extraordinarily deadly menace of space: an Adult Brain Parasite, using an old folk-tale of the Empire about Emperor Marduk as a shield and a weapon but even as the tendriled malevolent brain’s reign of terror was ended they discovered the space outside was filled with battle and the station about to be boarded by Space Pirates! Now let us uncover their fate..

Princess Taegan looked down at the astro-radar screen then up to Commander Lightyear, “The Pirates are coming closer! They must mean to plunder the station!”

“How big a rocket?”

“Probably a Class 2 Stiletto by the rad leakage.”

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The Missing Princess Part 12: Mastermind of the Star Zombies

In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander Lightyear and Space Pirate Captain Woz managed at last to reach the Imperial Watch-station in the Draco system to try and warn the great powers of the galaxy that prominent commanders were being replaced by pod-people clones as part of a sinister Zenithian plot, while strange devices on the planet Dormientes Draco were causing the star Draco to turn into a black hole threatening the whole galaxy. They arrive to find the crew of the station all dead and then Captain Woz abandons them marooning them on the station and intending to send Pirates to pick them up to ransom back to their own people! But while they try to repair the stations communication systems to call for rescue strange eyes are watching them from hiding…

Princess Taegan and Commander Lightyear, both now armed with ray pistols after Lightyear recovered one from the holster of a deceased imperial crewman and wearing Imperial space-suits they took as soon as they found them, made their way through the cramped and small stations claustrophobic pie-slice shaped rooms, short corridors and ladders to reach the point the analog systems determined the communication systems circuit fault was. Just a short distance from the reactor rooms output junction. Their passage was tense, making as much haste as they could but wary of any sign of the threat that had killed so many so very recently, moving as quietly as possible in the nearly-total silence of the empty station over metal grill walkways and floors, their breathing and footfalls seeming deafeningly loud above the faint thrum of the stations reactor. Having abandoned the weak illuminators of the Zenithians for sturdy Imperial ones still it seemed almost like the darkness was hungry, absorbing, draining, devouring the light so that it seemed to fade where it should have shown crisp sharp shadows. Despite the sealed suits the mind quickly filled in the smell of oil and fear as their lights swooped and slid over metal grills and rails and riveted panels glinting moistly in the humid darkness.

At last they turned the corner to the junction box, pistols drawn and at the ready, to find another tale of woe. A crewman’s body still standing, still clutching the metal axe with which he had cut the circuit, an Imperial knife still buried in his shoulder and at his feet the body of another Imperial soldier who had died from an axe blow apparently in the act of trying to stop them from cutting the circuit.

“What could possibly have happened here?” murmured the bewildered Princess.
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Battle Report: The Valkeeri Skirmishes

Captain Shulme ran his fingers through his beard as he scanned the rocky landscape and the ruined ancient buildings of the world Iratus Est Draco below, looking for any sign of the missing Princess Taegan. Even if they find her there was evidence from the Valkeeri that there was a chance a pod-person clone had replaced the real Princess, but Emperor Marduk is all-seeing and a counterfeit would not fool the Princesses’ father. The orders were to scour every mile of the surface of the worlds in this system, find the Princess and take her to her father. The Valkeeri had struck the watchstation orbiting Iratus Est draco in force and so it wasn’t surprising when Kurush called from the radarscope of clear readings of Valkeeri rocket-pulses. They were headed towards one of the ruined cities, like all those in this system it was smashed with what seemed to be atomic warfare and abandoned so many millenia ago that not a trace of radioactivity remained, there must be something there of value.

“Hassimir, send a message to Fleet central: Have sighted Valkeeri task force. Destroying and Investigating.”  Standard Imperial policy, shoot first, ask questions of the survivors after.

What were the Alien women up to? And did it have anything to do with the Zenithian towers, the weakening sun or the missing Princess? He would wring the information from the survivors!

“All rockets: Intercept and attack!”

I got a call from Taphyl during the week asking if I was up for another game of War Rocket and for showing our friend Mirium how to play. So I quickly gathered my  things together, remembering my camera this time, and went round for an afternoon/evening of gaming socialising and a very nice dinner. Mirium had some job applications to do first so we started with a small game between Taphyl and I.

The two small fleets, perfect for a quick game

The two small fleets, perfect for a quick game, or two!

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The Missing Princess Part 11: The Orbiting Tomb

In the last chapter we learned of what had become of Captain Atrius and met the fiendish man-machine Dr Axon as the Magi of the Empire determined to search for the heart of the MacGuffinite engine complex threatening the galaxy. Now we return to Princess Taegan, Commander Lightyear and Captain Woz as they approach the Imperial Watch-Station orbiting Iratus Est Draco in a battered Zenithian Beta-Z saucer…

In the round room under the scuffed and scratched alumini-glass dome that kept out the cold deadly vacuum of space our three unlikely companions anxiously watch for their eyes to see what their poorly-functioning instruments appeared to have detected. Their goal, the Imperial Watch Station and a chance to warn the galaxy about the Zenithian pod-people plot! As once before in the past when faced with having to cooperate in order to survive in the Caverns of Yo-go the Princess and Commander Lightyear have been dealing with stress with.. political discussion.

“Surely Princess you must recognise that without Democracy people aren’t truly free.”

Both Lightyear and Taegan seemed oblivious to Woz’s groan and facepalm as they went at it again.

“On the contrary Commander. We have examined your democracy and found it as deeply flawed as our own past attempts. Corruption is rife, inequality becomes entrenched, there’s constant social turmoil as the majority tries to find minorities to rob and oppress for their own gain and those minorities then must strive to get their fair share they were supposed to be guaranteed from the start. In your democracies people with the most merit don’t end up in the position of best suitability instead the most important positions are filled determined by those most suited to politics and the hedonistic enjoyment or lack thereof of the position.”

“Your vassals are slaves by another name, the Empire is a strictly tiered system, besides, are you saying that I am not suited to my position Princess?”

“No, the case of the military proves the point, your military isn’t a democracy it just serves one.”

“And the empire doesn’t have problems with Nepotism when it’s high ranks are filled with princes and princesses? I don’t see any Dragon-men Generals.”

As tones became heated the Galacteer commander and Imperial Princess turned away from the cold stars to face one another, cheeks growing flushed and eyes sparkling as they fought.

“Simply because my father’s blood is full of strength and he chooses his concubines well. We each still have to fight to prove our loyalty and skill and worthiness for the positions we hold. The children of his Dragon-women consorts have as much chance to advance as I did. You see, a Benevolent Tyranny is the most stable form of government and ensures the freedom of people in unity, they rise or fall in place based on their merits and each contributes to the strength of all from the greatest general to the merest street-sweeper all through the unity under one continuous strong and wise ruler.”

“Even were I to accept that assessment, that’s all well and good for now, but…”

“Hey!” Interjected Woz.

“.. even with whatever the Emperor uses to keep himself so long-lived there’s no certainty that he won’t eventually die through accident, some unknown disease or even one of your siblings proving to be his match and overthrowing him and what then for the stable state? A Democracy is adaptable, tyranny benevolent or otherwise often collapse destructively or tear themselves apart once the tyrant is dead.”
“Hey!” Woz said louder this time.

“But that is beyond unlikely. Why even if i acknowledge the possibility purely hypothetically well..”

“HEY!” Cried Woz putting his hand on the tops of both their heads and turning them towards him ignoring the dangerous flash in the Princesses eyes at his daring to put his hands on her. He pointed outside. “Look!”
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Sleeping Dragon and the Battle for Science!

Captain Atrius fumed quietly as he sat in the command chair of the Class II Imperial Raptor Rocket The Shahin. It was difficult enough sitting in the position normally taken by the Princess instead of his usual position to her right. Especially as he couldn’t go anywhere without the Princesses pet Vyper-bat Atalleph left in his care coiled around his arm or hanging on his shoulder, though it did help him keep the Princess in mind. It was worse that helping the Magi, the scientists of the Empire, determine the secret central hub of the strange tower ruins the Zenithians had activated and their dangerous effects upon the star Draco meant that he and much of the Princesses’ fleet had been taken off the search for their missing leader. Worse yet was that the mastermind behind the Magi’s operations Magi Lord Dr Axon had implied that the search for the Princess should be abandoned altogether… but the most infuriating of all was that the very same Dr Axon had insisted on being on board the very same Rocket as Atrius!

Normally he got on well with battle-magi, those soldiers of the empire most entrusted with the powerful secrets of the Empires advanced science and engineering. That Dr Axon was more machine than man, after a grievous wounding in battle his vast swathe of knowledge resulted in him determined too valuable to the Empire to be allowed to die. His brain having been transferred into a translucent jar atop a life-sustaining mechanical apperatus, a humanoid body all too reminiscent of the Robot Legions for anyone’s comfort, was disturbing in itself, but it was the attitude that seemed so incompatible with the honourable noble demeanour of the warriors of the Emperors rocket fleet that was worst. This was the first citizen of the Empire Atrius felt he could not and should not trust. And right now he had hooked his mysterious devices to the rockets engines doing who knows what as they scanned, like the rest of the class 2 Imperial rockets on Dormientes Draco, along a grid search pattern measuring the strange energies at work. At least, thought the Captain, the Magi are staying in the engine access compartment…. and that’s when the saucers attacked!

Once again it’s time for another exciting battle report from a saturday morning game of War Rocket down at my local game store The Sleeping Dragon. Alas due to a late night Jason wasn’t able to join in (but hopefully will be in the next report) so Taphyl and I battled it out. This time Taphyl wanted to try the Zenithians rather than the Valkeeri so i let him try with my currently-small Zenithian force.

We started setting up the table with the familiar belt-of-orion placement of strange towers, then Taphyl placed some other ruined buildings from the ancient past of Dormientes Draco along with the floating Ice-teroids created by the towers drawing the indescribably rare mineral MacGuffinite in prodigious quantities from deep in the ground as Taphyl asked “What will the objective be?”

Alerted by 7th-dimensional sensors to the scanning taking place by Imperial rockets around the world of planet Dormientes Draco the Zenithians have been tasked with capturing some Imperial scientists to find out how much the Empire knows about what is happening and see if the Empire is a threat to the Saucer-men’s terrible plans for our 4 dimensions of the universe! While on the Raptor…

“All Hands, battle stations!” Called Captain Atrius as the Zenithians swarmed in to the attack.
“Which foe Captain?” demanded the authoritative mechanical voice of Magi Dr Axon, sounding much more acceptably Imperial for a moment.
“Zenithians closing fast, a class 2 and 3 class 1’s”
“Capture the Class 2 Beta-Z saucer at all costs captain, interrogating their crew could give us the vital information we seek, help us save the galaxy and get you back to searching for your Princess!”
“Raptor to all Scorpions, Raptor to all Scorpions, class 2 saucer to be boarded, repeat: class 2 saucer not to be destroyed!”

Taphyl scrutinizes the Zenithian stats before we start (and misses something which we discover much later)

Taphyl scrutinizes the Zenithian stats before we start (and unfortunately misses something important which we discover much later)

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The Missing Princess Part 10: Under the Shadow of a Dark Star


In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander Lightyear and Space Pirate Captain Woz were heading for the Imperial Watchstation orbiting the planet Iratus Est Draco in a damaged Zenithian saucer, while back on the planet Dormientes Draco the loyal Captain Atrius had been left guarding the strange engines beneath the ancient ruined tower rebuilt by the Zenithians and the Princesses beloved pet Vyper-bat Atalleph was left guarding Captain Atrius. While Emperor Marduk the all-seeing Man-God sees all….

Dr Axon entered the command room of the mighty Manticore Class Imperial war rocket The Sirrush, flanked as always by a coterie of assistant Magi and several slaves.

The Magi were robed in lavish black and gold, the mark of the Lords of Knowledge in the Empire. In a state where knowledge was power and all power was held in the tight fist of Marduk the Man-God a Magi’s loyalty was absolute. None outside the Magi knew how Marduk ensured that loyalty, what extra pains or threats or measures were taken to do so, but none of the Magi would ever even hint at it. It was rumoured that sometimes a low ranking Magi might occasionally keel over dead with not a mark upon them but none who wanted to live for long, or live happily, ever spoke of it.

The slaves were learned too, the captured scientists of other civilisations, their lack of trustworthiness clearly marked by their white coats and the ornate and decorative collar about their necks.. from which horrible electric shocks or even fatal injury could be given by the electronic wands that were every Magi’s seal of office.

Dr Axon was the 2nd most senior of the known public officials of the Ministry of Magi. When he had been injured in a battle between the Fangs of Tiamat and Ace McGuire’s Blue Devils he had been deemed too useful to be allowed to die and now was a disembodied brain in a Jar of sustaining fluids often set within all manner of interchangeable mechanical bodies. This transformation proved useful to the Empire, but did nothing to soothe the doctor’s infamous temperament.

Commander Kurigalzu’s trigger finger kept twitching where he held it hidden behind his back as he looked at the large metal humanoid body the brain-jar was attached to, looking all too much like a Robot Legionnaire for his combat reflexes from his time in the Infantry to not kick in and require constant irritating repression. He snapped his feet as he stood to attention before the high-ranking Magi lords.

“These delays are unacceptable!” growled the mechanical voice of Dr Axon, though if anything the clear tone of angry emotion in the voice broke some of the illusion of similarity to the Robot Legion whose voices, on the rare occasions Kurigalzu had heard them speak, were monotone and emotionless.

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The Missing Princess part 9: Marooned in the Night Sky

In the last chapter we saw noble Commander Lightyear risking his life to bring an Ice-teroid to the wrecked Zenithian saucer so that Princess Taegan and Captain Woz might convert the frozen water into enough air that they might get the engines repaired and escape their cruel fate. With no air left in his air tank Commander Lightyear has lost consciousness and is slipping into deaths embrace…

Roused from the control panel for the magna-cable by the Princesses cry Space Pirate Captain Woz leapt into action. Hastily decoupling a series of cables and plunging the saucer into darkness he connected the cable from the reactor outlets to a strange device set into the outer hull. “Hope this doesn’t blow us all into pieces” he muttered to himself but the Princess answered him anyway,

“Do it!”

He slammed his hand on a Soma-Pathic sensor and willed with all his mental might at the device to function. A strange green ray was emitted and engulfed the limp form of Commander Lightyear and drew him into the hatch. “Clones use this to drop into combat from the air, rapid deployment… not very good for holding your food for humans though but I’m banking he’s not going to complain if we are quick enough”.

Then there was the agonising wait while pressure in the small airlock equalised, time when he would be suffering lack of oxygen and the pair just had to hover, staring at the strange Zenithian number system counted down on a little rotating dial above the door, suffering the fear of not knowing whether they could revive Lightyear when the door opened.
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The Missing Princess part 8: The Very Last Breath

In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commanders Lightyear and Jason as well as the Space Pirate Captain Woz were on board a captured Zenithian saucer racing to warn their peoples of a plot to replace commanders with Zenithian Pod People Clones when they faced the threat of a clone of the Princess on board with them! The Princesses duelled and when the clone fought underhandedly Lightyear intervened to even the odds upsetting the real Princess as Jason killed the clone. Woz then revealed he had discovered a way to see if anyone else was a pod person and this prompted the traitor to show it was not the real Commander Jason, drawing his gun on the Princess! How will this standoff end? Let’s find out…

“Nobody move a muscle” snarled the phony Commander Jason, his weapon pointed at the prone Princess, “or I alter the order of succession to the Imperial throne!”

“You forget Galacteer” sneered pirate captain Woz, “that while I have great respect for the Princess I’m not ready to die on her behalf so threatening to kill her doesn’t get my gun aimed away from your cowardly gizzard. Sorry Princess, it’s a Pirate thing.”

“Ha!” laughed the clone of Jason of Star Command, “I don’t need you to care enough to die for the Princess, just Lightyear who will take the shot you aim at me in order to save her from my dying blast.”
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The Missing Princess part 7: The Traitor Wears My Face

In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander’s Lightyear and Jason and Space Pirate Captain Woz were travelling towards Iratus Est Draco on a captured Zenithian saucer, while everyone else was supposed to be sleeping someone had knocked out Captain Woz and set them on a doomed course to obliteration in an asteroid field, The Princess awoke everyone and roused Woz enough to turn away at the last moment, knowledge that there was a traitor on board had them start to turn against one another and when the Princess was washing after treating Pirate Woz’s wounds a mysterious figure stole her clothes and equipment and the Princess rushes out to discover a second Princess right before her eyes!

As one Princess Taegan clad in just a towel and holding the deadly ornate Tling-steel Stiletto they had seen the day before burst into the main corridor with another Princess Taegan towel-drying her hair and wearing the clothes the Princess had been wearing the day before Jason of Star Command nearly choked on his mouthful of rations! Immediately Woz, leaning against a wall for support drew his dagger carved down from a Slishian tusk and Lightyear pulled a Zenithian pistol.

“Well I think this might just clinch the Pod Person Hypothesis” said Lightyear softly.

“Ya think?” quipped back Jason.

“I don’t like this, I don’t like this one bit!” growled Woz.

The two Princesses eyed one another as they each stepped lithely into a fighting stance.

“The Clone must have stolen my stiletto while I showered” said the clothed Princess.

“No you fake Bitch. You stole my clothes while I showered; I kept the weapon in the shower with me because I was sure one of the Galacteers was a clone, when it was you all along!”

“Why steal just the knife and not the whole clothes?” Queried Lightyear thoughtfully as he kept the gun trained on the space between them so a single twitch of his wrist could shoot either of them in an instant.
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