Traveller News Service - 1122

PHORU/OLD EXPANSES DATE: 003-1122

After several weeks of confused and often conflicting reports, it appears that yesterday's resounding defeat of two Solomani CruRons in this system is simply the last in a string of major setbacks for the Confederation's fortunes in this subsector.

A sizable attacking force apparently jumped in-system on 001-1122, overwhelming Solomani SDB defenses near the gas giant closest to the mainworld.

The two Solomani CruRons on close orbital station immediately sortied in response. However, before the planetside escorts (under repair and refit at the time) could boost into orbit to fill the defensive gap left by the CruRons, approximately a dozen Imperial SDBs emerged from the equatorial seas just south of this planet's capital.

Precision fire from these orbiting defense boats either disabled the planetbound Solomani escorts or compelled their crews to abandon the hulls in drydock.

The Solomani CruRons continued toward contact with the hostile elements and engaged a comparable force of Imperial vessels. Minutes into this battle, a flight of outdated Imperial SDBs and interceptors emerged from the gas giant, vectoring into the rear of the Solomani CruRons.

Two damaged 45,000-ton Solomani cruisers eventually surrendered to the attackers. The other Solomani ships were destroyed.

Although the population of Phoru largely assumes the attacking force was Margaret's, TNS reporters located on commercial vessels have evidence to the contrary. Throughout the battle, fragmentary transponder code emmissions were detected from several ships of the attacking force. The coding of two of these vessels would suggest that they are elements last known to be attached to the 22nd Imperial Fleet. The 22nd Fleet has been listed as missing since 073-1121, although several partial sightings have been reported since then. [Challenge 53]

R'TINH KILLS/CORRIDOR DATE: 003-1122

Ziru Sirkaa authorities here refused to provide a new transponder for the indepent seeker KeLiananae Tourz Agud, known previously as Jewel of Corridor, on the grounds that such a change would imply an act of sedition.

An official of the Makhidkarun bureau stated, "It is the official policy of the Ziru Sirkaa that astrographic names used by occupying forces may not be substituted for legitimate astrographic names officially accepted by the AAB and naval forces. In this case, the accepted equivalent in the Logaksu dialect is Raughantz. The Imperial designation Corridor is also acceptable, though the Vilani-preferred name for the sector is Amshagi."

The official admitted that occupying Vargr forces have been applying the name Llananae Tourz (translated as "Devoured Sector") to the sector since 1118.

The KeLiananae Tourz Agud's owner, Gordon Irakalkigka, told reporters, "From now on, my ship will be known as the Bureaucrat's Nightmare." [Challenge 53]

LASHKAGUR/DELPHI DATE: 027-1122

The 2000-ton, jump-3 Tujera Lines merchantman Oberon began its journey today to the Hiver Federation, marking the formal commencement of Margaret's recent trade agreement with the Hiver Federation.

The trade agreement, said to represent over 100 trillion credits of new revenue for Margaret's Domain, was finalized on 187-1121.

Local economic forecasters responded to the Oberon's departure with optimism.

The speed with which they (Margaret and Tukera Lines) are expediting this trade agreement is a marvelous sign," said Tramina Sorghetti of Hardrashad, ULIC (a subsidiary of Sternmetal Horizons). "When megacorporations and factions move this quickly to put a plan in motion, you can rest assured that they're certain of the benefits it offers."

The local delegation of the Nullian League today announced that it had dispatched a diplomatic team with "plenipotentiary powers" to Anaxias (Delphi Sector) with the express purpose of requesting Margaret to reconsider the agreement with the Hivers.

When asked what consequences might follow a rejection of the petition, league spokesperson Jubar No-Dosaka admitted that such an outcome could "compel the league's leadership to construe this as the first step in a major trade war." [Challenge 53]

HASDRUBAL/SOLOMANI RIM DATE: 043-1122

Joshua Dahvin, outspoken leader of the Solomani Moderate faction, was nearly killed in a grav-vehicle accident today. According to reports by Dahvin's staff and local officials, Dahvin's personal speeder suffered a field-bias malfunction during an NOE approach to a landing zone.

The pilot, Mats Skulpfeffer, was able to jettison the vehicle's fuel seconds before the craft plowed into an open field. Skulpfeffer, the only individual to die in the crash, is credited with saving the lives of all aboard.

Dahvin -- whose liberal policies regarding pan-sophont rights and decentralization of the Confederation have earned him many enemies in the Secretariat -- was vacationing on the Culperna Sea on Hasdrubal (2939, Kukulcan/Solomani Rim) when the incident occurred.

While there is no official mention of foul play, TNS informants have reported that authorities have initiated inquiries in the underworld. The nature of these inquiries strongly suggests that investigators suspect the crash was the product of a conspiracy to mmurder Dahvin.

Shortly after the crash, Dahvin named two of his closest associates, Sean von Thuringer and Sari Collins, as his personal policy analysts -- a position which affirms them as Dahvin's successors, in the event of his demise or retirement. [Challenge 53]

DARAMM/LEY DATE: 051-1122

Mardal Soreksen, senior adminstrator of the Empress Jacqueline Shipyards on Daramm, has announced that his bays are now fully -- and exclusively -- dedicated to the production of the new "modular carrier" jump hulls which have gained popularity over the past two years.

This radical shift in construction -- and marketing -- policy suggest that the modular carrier school of starship design may soon challenge standard architectures for supremacy of the starlanes.

The Empress Jacqueline shipyards -- high-quality independent military contractor boasting significant investment by GsBAG -- is one of the half-dozen or so starship production facilities that has acquired a reputation for anticipating new trends in warship manufacture.

The new modular carrier design is based on the familiar battle-rider principle, although it is intended for commercial utilization.

The modular carrier is architectured to carry a completely heterogeneous mix of both starships and spaceships, with a total jump-2 carrying capacity in excess of 5000 additional displacement tons.

Although each carrier represents a major financial and industrial investment, almost all shipbuilding analysts agree it is easier to build and service one large jump drive than a dozen or so smaller ones on different vessels.

This perspective has gained substantial support in the megacorporate and military communities, particularly as the Rebellion's cost in starport construction facilities has steadily reduced the number of new jump-capable hulls that can be laid down in a year.

Soreksen declined to comment on rumors that several megacorporations have begun to discuss creating standards for ship construction that would emphasize dependence upon modular carriers. [Challenge 53]

SOYUZ/DIASPORA DATE: 067-1122

The TAS has issued a traveller's advisory warning regarding the widespread outbtreak of rabies throughout the Diaspora sector.

Rabies, a disease once common to many mammals of Terran origin (including humans) was thought to have been eradicated on all noninterdicted worlds for the past two centuries. However, seperate accounts on 14 worlds throughout the Diaspora sector indicate that the disease is not only still extant but is growing in prevalence among a variety of vermin and pets.

Experts suggest that the disease may have been reintroduced from interdicted worlds visited illegally during the Rebellion.

Rabies is most commonly transmitted by a bite, the infectious pathogens being present in the saliva of infected mammals. However, neogeneticists warn that given intensive hybridization on many worlds since the early days of the Second Imperium, the disease could have mutated along with its hosts.

Furthermore, hybrids of Terran and non-Terran root-stock species from which they were hybridized.

Animals suspected of carrying the disease should be tested (a blood sample is sufficient). If testing is impossible, suspect animals should be euthanized immediately.

The symptoms of rabies are identical in humans and lower animals. After a two- to five-week incubation period, infected individuals will experience fever, malaise and a sore throat. After approximately 10 days, these symptoms will become more severe, accompanied by excessive salivation, perspiration, dehydration and severe pain.

Vaccination in the first phase of the disease ensures full recovery. Vaccination in the later stages produces an 80% survival rate. Infections which are not treated with vaccinations are fatal.

Local SuSAG subsidiaries are attempting to mass-produce the vaccine, but reduced transportation capabilities hamper distribution. [Challenge 53]

ANAXIAS/DELPHI DATE: 078-1122

After a conspicuous two-day absence from her open court, Margaret announced today that the "mystery fleet" responsible for defeating several major Solomani thrusts in the Old Expanses Sector has been identified.

It is the 22nd Imperial Fleet (formerly stationed at Depot/Diaspora), most of the 93rd Imperial Fleet, and elements of the 1092nd and 1101st reserve fleets, under the command of Admiral Devon McTavish (who is operating under the authority of IRIS).

Following her unscheduled announcement, Margaret officially presented IRIS's high regent -- Garran Trainor-Hughes -- to her court and ministers. Rumors suggest that Trainor-Hughes arrived in system only three days ago and has been in closed-session meetings with the domain leadership since then.

Sources close to Margaret claim that she and Trainor-Hughes were closely associated during her early years at Strephon's court.

Other intimates of the throne indicate that the high regent's arrival was not welcomed by various high-ranking Vermene officers, who stated that IRIS had no authority under which to command fleet assets.

In response, Trainor-Hughes is said to have invoked the regency's first mandate, which states that in event of an Imperial interregnum, IRIS is empowered to "take any actions necessary to the fulfillment of its custodial responsibilities as regent pro tem, until such time as a legal heir is located and confirmed." He dismissed assertions that this aspect of the regency's first mandate was a ceremonial formality.

The Vermane, the in-house intelligence organization of Tukera Lines, has served Margaret at the behest of her husband, Tukera owner Blaine Tukera. Sources say Margaret has little esteem for the Vermene's methods and personnel, but she has evinced a grudging respect for IRIS over the years, calling it "the only intelligence organization that has a conscience, as well."

During a brief statement before Margaret's court, Trainor-Hughes asserted that the recent actions of the regency's modest naval assets are not to be construed as an indication that IRIS has declared for Margaret, rather, they are simply evidence of the regency's ongoing efforts to defend what is left of the Imperium against further aggression. [Challenge 53]

PHALN/GUSHEMEGE DATE: 083-1122

Lucan's Extermination Fleet completed its evacuation of Phaln late last night, and reports indicate that the last elements have already jumped out-system, bound for Core. Although Lucan's Extermination Campaign has certainly dealt a severe, perhaps mortal, blow to Strephon's Imperium, it did not achieve its stated objective -- the capture or elimination of the reputed Strephon himself.

After the fighting for Phaln ended on 352-1121, Lucan's offensive bogged down, hampered by insufficient resupply and refit capacities.

Attempts to establish footholds in the Ushuuri system were disrupted by intermittent raids and sabotage, further undercutting the offensive's dying momentum.

Although official spokesmen for his forces claimed that their withdrawal was for purposes of "strategic regrouping," most military analysts agree that Lucan's position in Gushemege was rapidly becoming untenable and represented an enormous drain on Core's badly atritted bulk transport assets.

Rumors of numerous desertions and defections -- often by whole units or ships -- are impossible to confirm.

One field-grade deserter expressed the feelings of many: "What's the point of going home if you're just going to get sent out to fight again? Everybody knows this was the last big battle. Nobody has the assets left to spend on this kind of idiocy anymore, not even Lucan. The fact of the matter is that the Rebellion is over -- because no one has the strength left to fight it." [Challenge 53]

DLAN/ILELISH DATE: 101-1122

Dulinor has appointed Tredek Jurisor as his minister of information and communication after weeks of rumors regarding an upcoming political move of major consequence.

Jurisor is one of the most influential of the Virasan leaders who led the Synod members of the 457th Khanu in their precedent-setting decision to revise certain precepts of the religion's stance on afterlife and enlightment.

Previously, dying a nonviolent death on Dlan was a primary condition for a believer to attain full revelation in the afterlife. However, the Synod of the 457th Khanu decreed that this is no longer a requirement.

Jurisor, along with other reformationists who refer to themselves as the leaders of the Enlightenment movement, met with stiff resistance from the more conservative and traditional Synodans of the 457th Khanu.

The elements who have resisted the reform, now known popularly as the Orthodox sect, reacted to Jurisor's appointment with bitter -- but unsurprised -- disappointment.

Farthik Dorsokuguur, unofficial leader of the Orthodox sect and oldest Synod member of the 457th Khanu commented, "This is precisely what we feared would follow Jurisor's reformations -- an alliance between the leaders of our faith and the leaders of our state. The heresies of the 457th Khanu are not an advancement of our spiritual vision; they are the precursors to an amalgamation with secular governments and aspirations."

Dorsokuguur refused to comment on rumors that the Orthodox sect has begun assembling a "star chamber" court in which to try Jurisor for his "crimes against the faith."

Jurisor has dismissed such rumors as groundless, observing, "My esteemed colleagues are individuals of honor and faith. They would not embark on any such course of action, which could easily be mistaken for treason -- given my new position in the secular affairs of Dlan."

Jurisor, who is 43 years old, is a familiar, dynamic public figure on Dlan and has left the world on three occasions to oversee what his press secretary calls essential secular matters.

Dulinor's press secretary refused to make comment on the religious discord on Dlan other than to say, "The selection of Tredek Jurisor is the result of much careful consideration as to who would do the best job in this important post. The Emperor Dulinor is pleased to have a member of the Virasan faith as one of his close advisers, but issues of religion neither swayed his decision pro or con in this -- or any other -- matter." [Challenge 54]

GELORNAMITE/MASSALIA DATE: 119-1122

Formal declarations of war were exchanged today between the AutoMech Ltd Bloc and the Tarnasse Industramation Group here on violence-plagued Gelornamite.

Once a peaceful, prosperous planet, Gelornamite's decline into bitter internecine strife began late last year, when the Development Council -- comprised of the chairpersons of the planet's eight leading firms -- became seriously divided over industrial and economic strategies.

In particular, Sagata Arms and Procurement Associates announced its decision to break from the "standardized arms approach" that is still the accepted norm within the Imperium.

Citing the ongoing breakup of the Imperium, Sagata Chairman Sharda Sorku observed, "The only standards that we should be worrying about are those which will serve to optimize our local defensive capabilities, not some antiquated concept of technological universality -- a concept which recent events have made extraneous."

Sorku's comments refer to the widespread adherence to Imperial Data Package designs as the standard for widely used designs of weapons, vehicles and heavy equipment.

While use of IDP designs has never been required or urged by the Imperium, most member-systems have used these data packages as blueprints for the production of crucial systems.

In addition to being very user-friendly and well-supported with supplementary programs and inexpensive industrial start-up packages, most worlds have found that the use of IDPs aids their economies by enabling them to be conversant with, and capable of meeting, the maintenance and equipment needs of most visiting starships and crews.

Calling Sorku's comments "isolationistic and economically perilous," Head Councillor Tayla Hai-Lei moved to quell any attempts to depart from the use of IDPs, particularly in the area of personal weapons.

Sorku rallied other corporations to his cause, however, creating a political alliance known as the AutoMech Ltd Bloc. Sorku's initial desire to terminate production of 7mm and 9mm ACRs and instead shift to a unique 8.2mm general purpose weapon expanded into wider departures from Gelornamite's traditional IDP-biased industrial strategies.

The Tarnasse Industramation group -- led by the late Hai-Lei's successor, Gatta Ndompo -- received the bloc's official notification of secession three days ago. The group immediately commenced operations to occupy the bloc's major production centers. Bloc troops -- armed with the new 8.2mm ACRs -- halted these offensives after taking heavy casualties.

Head Councillor Ndompo is said to have put in a request for immediate assistance from Margaret's Imperial forces. [Challenge 54]

WARINIR/DAIBEI DATE: 125-1122

Duke Craig formally announced today that over 20 worlds on the borders of the Federation of Daibei are now designated as red zones, according to the TAS.

The majority of these worlds are located in the Mulaar, Hermes and Dudin subsectors of Daibei, and in the Riftrim subsector of Reaver's Deep.

When asked why he was personally announcing TAS designations, Duke Craig responded, "I want to make it clear that I not only accept these travel recommendations -- I actively support them. I'm the last person to want to admit that some of our finest regions are no longer safe for travel, but the facts are incontestable. Even though the intensity of fighting between this Federation and the Solomani invaders has died down, there is an enormous upswing in pirate activity. Each morning, I get a missing persons update -- and there are never less than 5000 new names on that list. Much of this is due to the raiding that is plaguing these hotspots right now."

Duke Craig declined to speculate on when these areas might become secure and safe for travel once again.

Rumors that the duke's 24-year-old cousin is among the missing have gone unconfirmed by official sources. [Challenge 54]

STRELA/ZARUSHAGAR DATE: 139-1122

Lucan's Vengeance Fleet has retired from the Strela system after six days of intense fighting.

In what some experts are calling "the last great fleet engagement of the Rebellion," Lucan's and Dulinor's naval assets battered each other mercilessly, resulting in the destruction of at least four BatRons, 10 CruRons, three TankRons and an untold number of destroyers, escorts, patrol craft and auxiliaries.

Ground and COACC forces suffered equally heavy losses. Personnel casualties are assessed to be in excess of two million.

Unofficial reports suggest that medical supplies have run out, forcing field hospitals to resort to unanaesthetized meatball surgery techniques that are usually seen only on pre-industrial planets.

Against this backdrop of human misery, Dulinor's commanders are claiming victory, although even they are compelled to admit that the cost in lives and equipment was "unacceptable."

Unable to press their advantage in numbers here at Strela, Lucan's commanders are now assumed to be withdrawing back to Core, marking the end of the long and costly vengeance campaign which has dominated so much of the Rebellion.

In a special report to the TNS, retired Admiral Ilina Robokovsa states that she doesn't expect to see Lucan attempting to resume his offensive.

According to Robokovsa, "He (Lucan) has taken too much damage here and has nothing to show for it. The vengeance fleet was at the end of a very long, very vulnerable supply line, and Lucan simply doesn't have the logistical assets to support this kind of massive offensive anymore. Core may be able to reproduce these assets but it is the only political region within the postwar Imperium that lacks a safe rear area. Every centimeter of Core's periphery borders on hostile space. That's going to make even Lucan think twice before he tries to mount another offensive as huge -- and costly -- as this one." [Challenge 54]

VAWARD/OLD EXPANSES DATE: 151-1122

Concern mounted in financial markets here today as the headquarters analysts of Hortelez et Cie announced that earnings had declined by 12% during calendar year 1121.

While much of this assessment is based on algorithmic projections (actual reports often taking years to reach HeC's headquarters here on Vaward), market experts were forced to concede that this estimate was probably accurate to within 0.1%

When asked to speculate on what had caused this sudden downturn, the experts almost universally cited Hortalez's massive asset trade with the four Vilani megacorporations which had been concluded on 090-1121.

Although the trade had been conducted and conceptualized with a great public show of amity, anonymous spoesperson from Zirunkarish now speculate that Hortalez et Cie "had little faith in the long-term viability of markets within the Ziru Sirkaa -- a common mistake amongst financiers with decidedly Solomani mindsets."

When asked to comment on these various speculations, HeC Senior Administrator Nils Petersen suggested, "People should watch a little more closely and patiently, and speculate a little less. From our (Hortalez et Cie's) standpoint, everything is proceeding right on schedule and just as we expected."

Petersen declined to make any further statement that might shed light on his enigmatic comments. [Challenge 54]

CAPITAL/CORE DATE: 153-1122

Emperor Lucan slew a regency emissary with a flurry of laser bursts early today in a dramatic scene reminiscent of the tragic assassination carried out here six years ago.

The emperor stormed from the throne room immediately afterward. The court was cleared by the Imperial Honor Guard.

Although details were not immediately available, fragmentary information suggests that the emissary was Judith Isaacs, a regent of the Imperial Regency of Intelligence and Security.

According to a courtier who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Isaacs had travelled to Core to effect formal delivery of the regency's request that Lucan submit to answering charges of murdering his brother, Prince Varian, and several other persons.

In keeping with the Imperium's succession laws, the regency is required to ensure that a potential successor satisfactorily refutes any allegations of felony that might be outstanding against his person. This process must be a matter of public record and must be completed before there can be any recognition of a right to succession.

The emperor is said to have become enraged when Isaacs delivered this message (both verbal and hardcopy, according to succession law), at which point he jumped to his feet and fired four laser bursts into the regent.

Isaacs is thought to have died immediately.

Spokespersons for the emperor have explained that Lucan initially believed Isaacs to be an assassin and that his sudden departure from the court was motivated by remorse for having made this mistake.

However, no official statement has been issued by the Imperial staff, nor has an official apology been sent to the regency. [Challenbge 54]

TURIN/VERGE DATE: 172-1122

The leaders of the newly formed Verge Combine announced their succession from the Federation of Ilelish today, after weeks of bitter dispute over Dlan's recruitment policies and mandatory "mutual defense tariffs."

It was also announced that fighting has broken out on several worlds friendly to the combine in the past three weeks and that Federation forces were already on site, participating in acts of "shameless oppression."

Analea Mekatan, senoir chamberlain of Turin and perhaps the most influential member of the combine, stated, "We have allowed our economies, our militaries and our aspirations to be drained by Dulinor ever since the Rebellion began. Now, even as it is drawing to a close, his demands upon our livelihoods -- and our very lives -- continue to increase. This is not tolerable. His flat rejection of our petitions for tariff freezes and recruitment reductions has left us no choice but to secede.

Unconfirmed rumors suggest that two Federation fleets -- the 42nd and the 1300th Reserve -- have already sided with the combine, along with their attached ground and COACC combat assets. [Challenge 54]

ZIMILA/ZARUSHAGAR DATE: 181-1122

The small industrial city of Sharis was raided by corsairs today during the local predawn hours. Taken completely by surprise, Sharis' defense forces were thrown into a state of general confusion by a series of well-planned and well-executed surgical strikes against their command and control assets.

Civilian losses were light, although several dozen persons were taken hostage for a short time. The hostages report that they were not harmed and were treated in an acceptible fashion by the corsairs.

The accounts of these abductees supports a growing body of official reports that indicate the raiders to have been highly organized, well-equipped and exceedingly well-disciplined. Although positive identification has not been established, defense administrators believe that the raiders were supported by one Type C Mercenary cruiser, one Type P Corsair and one type K Hunter. Observers noted a number of strange sigils on the fuselages of the raiders' attack landers, along with images of stylized saurian creatures. Several of the raiders were noted to be ewaring similar imagery on their personal armor.

Although officials in Sharis have not completed their assessment of losses, they are already noting that the raiders' primary targets seem to have been the warehouses of a number of heavy industrial firms. In particular, large quantities of ammunition, vehicle parts and power plant spares were removed. There is no evidence that any civilian houses or small businesses were intruded upon. [Challenge 55]

TIAWAN/VERGE DATE: 198-1122

The forces of the Verge Combine has successfully repulsed forces sent by the Federation of Ilelish in an unexpected display of expertise and elan. The greatest surprise seems to have been among the Federation command staff, who consistently underestimated the will, ability and equipage of their adversaries.

Starting with a disastrous attempt to wrest control of the system's main gas giant from the local defense boats, the six-day campaign was one long series of misadventures for the Federation forces. Although the attackers gained marginal control of Tiawan's close orbit and airspace for two days, they were never able to exploit that advantage to full effect in support of their ground forces.

Conservative estimates suggest that at least three full divisions of Federation and loyal regional troops were lost as a result of beachhead landings that were never fully consolidated due to intense fire by defending forces.

Naval activity was sporadic, but definitely one sided, with locally manufacted, remote-operated suicide craft (some as large as 20 tonnes displacement) seriously damaging a number of Federation heavy cruisers.

By mid-day yesterday (local standard time), the Federation forces had begun to withdraw in good order. Official Combine sources indicate that the last of the attacker's ships jumped out-system early this evening. [Challenge 55]

IRIM/FORNAST DATE: 210-1122

Starport Authority security forces today barely managed to contain and control widespread violence between a group of independent merchants and members of a brokers' guild. The incident -- which at its height involved at least 40 crewmembers from merchantmen, 50 brokers and associates, and 20 Starport Authority security personnel -- is without local precedent and has shocked the mercantile community of the planet.

Fourteen persons were hospitalized with serious injuries, and another 20 were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

Although accounts conflict, the cause of the melee is said to be a disagreement over tacit trading agreements and rights. Apparently, three independent merchants were attemting to sell individual items directly to interested parties at wholesale prices. This is not the customery means whereby merchants trade, depending instead upon large lots of goods sold with the aid of a broker.

Reportedly, several brokers noticed this irregular "indepedent" sales activity and began arguing with the merchants, accusing them of violating a "traditional understanding" between merchants and brokers. The merchants allegedly responded that they 'weren't breaking any laws" and continued to conduct their business. The brokers attempted to interfere with their operations, and angry words led to a general brawl, which drew in nearby allies of both groups.

Although the Starport Authority security forces haven't brought any charges against either group, Chief Iislag Romor commented that he "can understand why brokers got so hot under the collar." "After all," he said, "if merchants don't make their sales through the brokers, the brokers will have no way of doing business. If the merchants don't understand that, I'm afraid we'll have another incident like this one -- worse, maybe."

The Irim Incident is only the most dramatic of many such occurences with have begun to erupt throughout the Imperium over the past six months. Reports of friction between merchants and brokers are widespread.

Market experts suggest that the reason for this new contentiousness is because of the general state of economic decline prevalent in most areas of the Imperium. With cargoes becoming harder to find, merchants are trying to get the most money for their wares. Many do this by selling their goods at wholesale prices, thereby increasing their base revenues without having to pay a broker's percentage.

Most frequently, this practice is observed in conjunction with the sale of high-tech items that are no longer available in the area of sale. Consequently, market prices on such products are beginning to climb in areas which have never had much -- or have lost -- industrial capacity. [Challenge 55]

BOGUSTIN/CORE DATE: 217-1122

Imperial Ministry of Justice agents have uncovered what they believe to be the source of a number of incidents of anti-Lucan starship sabotage in Grapis Dar, the capital city of Bogustin. Grapis Dar, which is host to the local class-A starport and attached scout base, has also been used increasingly by Imperial naval units as a repair and refit facility over the past three years.

In particular, the base's state-of-the-art, fluidic systems, purging apparatus is well thought of by captains and crews whose ships have begun to take on characteristic odors that seem to be unremovable. Consequently, many ships get their fluidic systems cleaned at Grapis Dar.

Apparently, anti-Lucan saboteurs capitalized upon this trend in their efforts to cripple a number of the ships serviced. Their method involved nodules of pure sodium coated with a delayed-action, water-soluble coating. These nodules were pumped into water-carrying fluidic systems -- along with the replacement water -- after the system purges were completed.

When each nodule's coating eventually dissolved some 2-4 weeks later, the resulting exothermic reaction between the water and the sodium usually ruined environmental systems and, often, power plant coolant assemblies.

IMJ agents had suspected Bogustin as the source of the sabotage for the past month, but only managed to break the operation today locating the nodule production facility and a huge supply of the innocuous-looking gray spheres.

Although there is no official word on the group behind the sabotage operation, certain anonymous inside sources suggest that a radical terrorist group known as the Brothers of Varian is responsible for the act. The Brothers of Varian is largely held to be a mostly legendary organization, supposedly dedicated to "avenging" Lucan's alleged murder of the rightful heir to the Iridium Throne. [Challenge 55]

KHALU/FORNAST DATE: 233-1122

New View Entertainment formally declared the commencement of bankruptcy proceedings today in a statement that sent shock waves throughout the local economy. Local law enforcement officials found NewView CEO Dragus Liklaster dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound at his residence only two hours after the conclusion of the press conference.

NewView, one of the largest fully independent (i.e., nonmegacorporation controlled) producers, syndicators and distributers of holographic and 2-D video entertainment, employs over 30 million persons on Khalu. The ancillary markets and dependent economies linked to NewView's fortunes employ at least five times that number.

Long known to be in serious financial trouble, NewView is described as the latest victim of the Rebellion and the fragmented markets that have resulted from the dislocation of trade and commerce. In addition to a steady decrease in disposable income throughout the Imperium's private sector over the past five years, NewView executives cited unreliable distribution as the major cause of their bankruptcy.

According to industry experts, the low cargo priority of entertainment products, as well as increasing interruptions caused by piracy and war losses, all conspired to create a downward cycle of decreasing demand for NewView's exports. [Challenge 55]

SEBASTA/SOLOMANI RIM DATE: 247-1122

The Captain-Governor of Florina Arcology -- the second largest on this world -- announced that he was ordering the general abandonment of the massive structure, effective immediately. Although provisions have been made for an orderly departure, aided by Solomani military units, local experts point to the complete lack of residential, sanitary and medical facilities for the over 15 million residents who are being displaced.

The abandonment of Florina Arcology, long a concern of the plantery government, is the result of insufficient spares for the structure's repair and maintenance needs. Although Solomani administrators have spared no expense or effort in their attempt to locate and/or produce appropriate spares, their endeavors have apparently been in vain.

According to Senior BioSystems Specialist Meomi Tasawara, "Almost all of the Florina Arcology's subsystems are of Imperial design. Unfortunately, the war has so disrupted the Imperial economy and industrial sector that replacement parts are simply no longer available. And there's simply no way to get local industries to produce the necessary replacement parts in time."

System breakdowns tripled in 1121 and earlier this year began affecting water purification and air filtration systems. Over 20,000 cases of amoebic dysentary have been treated since than. Abandonment became unavoidable when the air filtration system failed altogether.

As soon as the population of Florina has been evacuated, officials intend to strip the arcology of all working systems, in order to provide spares for the world's other arcologies. [Challenge 55]

ANAXIAS/DELPHI DATE: 259-1122

IRIS head Garran Trainor-Hughes announced today that Lucan's failure to acquiesce to public hearings regarding his alleged murder of Varian and several other individuals leaves the regents no choice but to formally suspend the legal process whereby his claim to the Iridium Throne would be verified and confirmed.

When asked how the regency -- or anyone else -- intends to enforce such a decision, Trainor-Hughes commented, "The regency is not charged with the enforcement of its succession rulings. Such a duty would obviously be well beyond the capacities of IRIS. Instead, it is our responsibility to identify and confirm rightful successors in accordance with Imperial law. This statement does not eliminate Lucan from eligibility, but until and unless he meets the legal requirements, we cannot proceed in the matter of his succession."

Trainor-Hughes, speaking from the new regency offices on Anaxias, went on to state that while this turn of events does not mean that the regency de facto declares for Margaret, it does mean that Iris considers her to be "the single person best suited to be the custodian of the rights, responsibilities and honor of Imperial station." When asked if this in fact meant that IRIS was designated Margaret as a form of "empress-in-waiting," Trainor-Hughes responded, "This in fact means that, in our opinion, Duchess Margaret holds the highest position of royalty that is formerly recognized by the regency at this time."

In other matters involving Anaxian politics, various rumors regarding fierce infighting between IRIS's newly arrived covert operation assets and Tukera's Vermene remain impossible to confirm. [Challenge 55]

SUSADI/GUSHEMEGE DATE: 267-1122

Over one million civilian casualties were inflicted today by a sneak raid that devastated Karshai, one of the smaller pressure-dome cities on this world. Although details of this tragedy are still unclear, reports indicate that the attackers were part of Lucan's naval forces.

The attacking vessels were identified as one Midu Agashaam-class destroyer, one PF Sloan-class fleet escort, one Chrysanthemum-class destroyer escort and three 400-ton Lurushaar Kilaalum-class patrol cruisers. A number of unidentified fighters were also used in the attack and are thought to have been using the PF Sloan-class fleet escort as their mother ship.

The attacking vessels emerged from jump space just 150 planetary diameters from the main world and immediately commenced a surface bombardment of Karshai. While most of Susadi's surprised defensive resources went to the rescue of the city, the fighters and the patrol cruisers launched a second, surprise attack upon Susadi's class-A starport, inflicting considerable damage upon that facility.

As soon as the strike against the starport was completed, Lucan's forces withdrew. Subsequent observations suggests that they refueled at the nearest gas giant and jumped out-system.

Although many local military personnel expressed rage and dismay at this attack, Federation of Ilelish Commodore Satina ba-Rek offered an explanation: "Lucan's changing his tactics, I think. I would guess he's moving to a "scorched-earth policy." Since he can't have this region of space, he's going to destroy everything of value within it. Obviously, an A-class starport on a high-population world is a valuable asset -- one which could easily be out to use against him. So he decided to eliminate it."

ba-Rek went on to say this "may only be the first of many such attacks -- and if it is, we're in for some very black days ahead." [Challenge 55]

KAPABU-SEPPLE MASSALIA DATE: 306-1122

SEBASTA/SOLOMANI RIM DATE: 307-1122

Scattered reports of mounting violence -- including more than 100 fatalities -- have accompanied rumors that the refugees of the Florina Arcology disaster have carried a new, highly infectious strain of hepatitis into their planet's rural communities.

The 15 million former inhabitants of the arcology were compelled to leave their massive home when system malfunctions became both severe and effectively irreparable.

In the weeks that have followed the 247-1122 evacuation of Florina, forced resettlement of the arcos has overwhelmed the surrounding countryside, throwing the small agricultural and resort communities located there into complete turmoil.

With food and water shortages becoming endemic, many of the communities shut their doors against further refugee resettlement, resulting in several armed standoffs with Solomani authorities.

An alliance of these defiant communities -- known as the Greenie movement -- had commenced negotiations with local confederation addvisors two weeks ago. Initial reports called the talks "hopeful."

However, the sudden outbreak of hepatitis among both rural natives and arco refugees has disrupted the talks, and Greenie hard-liners have reportedly acquired proof that the pathogen was carried to their communities by the arcos.

Viral hepatitis was once the most widespread infectious disease on Terra.

It is a rarely encountered phenomenon today, having been almost completely eradicated by retroviral therapies during the Second Imperium.

Occasionally encountered in outback populations, this new stain of the disease -- coded as "hepatitis gamma-three" -- is spread by mucosa contact with, or ingestion of, any contaminated object. The crowded, forced communal facilities that now typify those Greenie towns overrun with arco refugees provide an optimum breeding and contagion ground for this pathogen. [Challenge 56]

SUFREN/DIASPORA DATE: 322-1122

Sternmetal Horizons local stock shot up an estimated 89 points on the Sufren exchange today after the megacorporation's local executives announced that trials on its new Roughneck-class petrochemical harvester had proven to be "highly successful."

The concept behind the Roughneck class design was to provide prestellar technology worlds with a means of assuring a steady supply of petrochemicals, even if interstellar commerce and dirtside resources proved futile.

The Roughneck class is a mostly TL6 design with limited TL7 components. Built for rugged use, the VTOL-capable craft is specially designed to insert deep into the atmospheres of large gas giants, where atmospheric processes often combine to produce small amounts (by proportion) of liquid propane and even acetylene.

The craft then "harvests" these atmospheric liquids with scoops and vents. When pressure-processed, the liquid propane can be reconfigured into more complex hydrocarbons useful as fuel or in the making of plastics.

For lower-technology worlds without native petrochemical stocks, the Roughneck represents potential access to an irreplaceable -- and otherwise unavailable -- chemical resource (assuming a suitable large gas giant is located in the system).

Advance orders from more than a dozen systems were placed within minutes of Sternmetal's announcement. [Challenge 56]

VLAND/VLAND DATE: 329-1122

After legal review by various special committees, the Isgiirdi of the Ziru Sirkaa has formally approved the request of four Vilani Bureaux to suspend the remittance of dividends on thos shares held by the Imperial family.

After months of painstaking deliberation on this topic, the Isgiirdi began moving quickly to a consensus when, last week, a jump-5 courier arrived with news of the regency's suspension of confirmation proceedings regarding Lucan's claim to the Iridium Throne.

This announcement, made on Anaxias on 259-1122 by IRIS High Rgent Garran Tainor-Hughes, formally disallows Lucan the right to claim the throne legitimately until and unless he acquiesces to a public investigation into any allegations of felony which exist against him.

In turn, this creates a legal limbo regarding the the title to the Imperial family's considerable shareholding positions in the Vilani megacorporations.

Previously, the Isgiirdi had directed the bureaux to continue their dividend payments to Lucan, since he had the right of succession by bloodline, and there had been no formal recognition of any allegations of felonious activities.

Now, however, the dividends will be shunted into a fully insured escrow account, its final dispensation of ownership pending upon confirmation of Strephon's successor -- whoever that might one day prove to be.

The announcement of this decision produced uneven trading on the floor of the Enlugal Commodities Exchange. Although a sharp rise had been anticipated, many expressed concern that this move would have a "chilling effect" on interstellar trade with mercantile partners outside the Ziru Sirkaa. [Challenge 56]

AGARI/ILELISH DATE: 342-1122

Adeline Matsumata has turned the bow of her 200-ton free trader Madame Butterfly toward the center of the Ilelish Confederation -- and has no plans for returning to its rimward periphery. Matsumata is just one of dozens of free merchants who have been leaving this area in recent months.

"The only progress I'm making here is that I'm closer to bankruptcy than ever before," Matsumata said in an informal startown bar interview.

Like most other traders leaving the area, Matsumata cites frequent trade interdictions due to ongoing Verge Rebellion, which has spilled over into the Ilelish sector.

She explained, "One week, a planet is open for trading -- with Confederation subsidies, even. Two weeks later, it's under full commercial interdiction. So if you've got a hold full of special cargoes for that world, you're just out of luck; you'll have to go somewhere else and sell at a loss."

The revolt's see-saw progress does indeed seem to be the cause of this political (and hence, commercial) turbulence. With worlds changing allegiances as fast as they change governments, mercantile speculation -- which depends upon reasonable market predictions -- has become practically impossible.

Although the intensity of the conflict has steadily diminished since the confederation's unexpected setback at Tiawan/Verge on 198-1122, Dulinor's containment/counterinsurgency tactics have kept the involved regions in a state of unrest and turmoil.

Unofficial speculations within the confederation government suggest that Dulinor already considers the rebellious regions to be lost, and is simply attempting to cripple the area with economic sanctions and commerce raiding, as well as ongoing border skirmishes. [Challenge 56]

NAKINDAA/FORNAST DATE: 364-1122

Riots destroyed the headquarters complex of the Hadaggshi Lanthanun Coil Restraint Works this afternoon when the compaany's management announced that it had filed for bankruptcy and was suspending operations immediately.

Hadaggshi Works, the largest specialty manufacturer of lanthanum coil restraints in known space, cited insufficient sales as the principle factor behind its demise. Hadaggshi Woks is predominately a Vilani-run business.

Government analysts suggest that had the company retooled for diversified production late in 1120, it would probably have been able to endure.

"Specialty industries just can't survive today, not unless they're right at the heart of the faction's safe area," commented fiscal analyst Haradim Molke. "In order to move the tremendous volume of merchandise that enables specialty producers to survive, you have to have easy, reliable interstellar transportation. That kind of transportation environment died with the Third Imperium."

Hadaggshi's plight is only one of hundreds of similar commercial disasters brought on by the increased difficulty and risk of interstellar transportation.

Efforts to improve that situation have largely been unsuccessful, even though fleet-level conflict seems to have ended. The vacuum left by the large naval forces of the factions has mostly been filled by corsairs, pirates and privateers. Continued commerce-raiding campaigns by rival factions further erode confidence in the viability of interstellar commerce.

Hadaggshi's demise brings unemployment to over 2 million members of Nakindaa's work force. However, unconfirmed reports suggest that three local industries are negotiating to buy Hadaggshi's old industrial process elements for conversion to diversified production tasks. Labor leaders are catiously optimistic that this may portend new jobs and a shift to a more self-sustaining industrial strategy. [Challenge 56]

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