Officials of the Exeter Federated Shipbuilders today announced the establishment of a new program to ease the burden of commerce raiding that has plagued the war-torn Diaspora Sector. The naval architects of Exeter's several noted shipbuilding firms will cooperate in creating sets of standardized, simplified plans for the conversion of commercial ships to military purposes, which will be distributed throughout the Diaspora Sector, but without the usual architect's fees attached.
"People and organizations should be aware of this project so that they can take advantage of it, and it's crucial that they are aware that there is no additional cost involved to using these plans," said spokesperson Andelin Taro. "The use of these plans should allow savings from standardization which will permit the optimal use of this Sector's already strained resources," she continued.
When asked how Exeter's yards could afford to distribute these plans, which will create business for competing shipyards, Taro explained, "We can't afford not to. The trade situation in this Sector must be stabilized. The destruction of existing shipping does not create a greater demand for the construction of new hulls. On the contrary, it destroys any ability to generate the money to pay for new construction, and that's bad for everybody, because there is no trade."
In addition to simplifying the arming of existing vessels, this program will encourage the completion of surplus incoomplete starship hulls as military vessels for use by local governments and starmerc units. A number of hulls have been left uncompleted because of the bankruptcy of their original buyers, and because they are unsuitable for the dangerous environment currently characterizing the Diaspora Sector. Typical of these are the over two dozen unfinished Type M Liners throughout the sector, conceived for a peacetime market, now abandoned in the face of the continued factional raiding and piracy.
The Federated Shipbuilders hope to have the full set of plans available in six months. They will then be distrubted to all worlds requestingthem, with the only cost being that of daa shipment expenses to the destination world. [Challenge 61]
Zirunkariish today published its eagerly anticipated biannual report on the acturial state of the Imperium. While many observers were hoping that the massive megacorporation might have been able to statistically identify the beginnings of some positive trends, the news was accompanied by an announced raising of insurance rates by the giant Vilani megacorporation.
The most sobering portion of the report was the extensively doicumented estimate that Imperial mercantile shipping experienced an 18% drop in aggregate tonnage during the period 001-1123 to 365-1124. These figures are in spite of the shipbuilding rates during the period, and show the maintained ferocity of the Rebellion.
The figures are thought to show another trend as well. In terms of total number of merchant hulls, the numbers only dropped 14% during the same period, showing that larger high-value merchant hulls suffered in proportion to their size, not their numbers. This is believed to reflect the rising effects of piracy, because pirates pick their targets based on percieved value and risk. Commercial losses due to general warfare during the Rebellion have not shown this bias toward destruction of tonnage. Instead, tonnage and numerical losses were within 1% of each other during the first six years of the war. The term "hulls" in this report is a specific term used by megacorporate insureres Zirunkariish and Hortalez et Cie to refer to spaceships and starships together, rather than the distinguishing term "ships" which refers only to jump-capable starships.
These loss figures were not the worst ever; that honor belongs to the 21% tonnage and 22% hull number drop in the 1119 report covering the period 001-1117 to 365-1118. However, these record figures are artificially high because the shipbuilding rates during that period had not built up to full mobilization levels. In fact, this years' figures are quite bad enough to have prompted Zirunkariish to announce a 20% increase in starship insurance rates. The reasons cited for the increase are the increased risk of loss, reduced overall revenue base, the fragmented political structure preventing accurate assessment of risk or enforcement of payment, the rise of piracy, and the decrease in size of the average ship resulting in reduced economies of scale and capacities for self-defense.
These rate increases are of a similar magnitude to those that Hortalez et Cie is rumored to be studying. [Challenge 61]
Margaret's government responded with concern today to increasing reports of planets whose published world profiles do not correspond to the realities found there. Margaret's officials, citing the danger of such "surprises" to the safety of Imperial citizens, will make a formal request of the Travellers' Aid Society Statistical Office, responsible for establishing and disseminating these profiles, to look into these reports.
Reports presented include worlds whose starport capabilities do not live up to their assigned codes, and planets where locally available technology is beneath listed levels. The examples cited are all worlds in areas outside of Margaret's defended frontier, areas being increasingly referred to as the "Outlands" and the "Wilds." It is considered likely that the effects of warfare in these areas have caused these changes, and this theory will be included in the request to the TAS.
The TAS will be asked to check into the accuracy of these reports and, if they are found to be true, establish a method to ensure accurate reporting of actual planetary conditions in future publications of world profiles.
Most of the reports cited only inconvenience to the travellers themselves, but in some cases merchant ships found themselves stranded on worlds which, unreported in the world profiles, could no longer provide fuel services or starship repair and maintenance. [Challenge 62]
Exeter's Federated Shipbuilder's, this world's largest trade organization, will close its doors for the last time today, citing its continued existence as "superfluous." This follows the closing last week of Exeter's two largest shipbuilding and repair firms, Kearny Yards and Exeter Shipbuilding and Repair. However, the organization will be survived by a core group of naval architects functioning as the EMMC Office.
The EMMC (for "Extemporised Mercantile to Military Conversions") Office is named for the project that it is working to complete, announced by the Federated Shipbuilders on 063-1125. The project calls for the creation of a set of plans which will, when complete, form a standardized set of plans for the conversion or completion of merchant hulls to military standards. The project's name reflects the increasing emphasis given in the plans themselves to the use of standard "off-the-shelf" items available at most starports, rather than specialized components that must be imported.
It is still intended that these plans will be widely distributed among the remaining viable shipyards in Diaspora Sector, free of charge, when they are complete. [Challenge 62]
A goodwill visit to the restive world of Tripolis by Lady Isis, daughter
As part of her tour "to show my father Dulinor's solidarity with you during these difficult times," Lady Isis appeared with the Shaw Hamet, Tripolis head of state, at Sirle Downport. While speaking there, an as-yet unknown number of rioters appeared and, after shouting, "Down with Dulinor," and "Dulinor has brought back the Long Night," began throwing objects, apparently including bottles, garbage, and small fireworks at the dais.
Lady Isis, though unhurt, threw herself to the ground to avoid being struck. At the same time, some of the fireworks thrown by the crowd began to go off. Although they were themselves harmless, their reports as Isis fell to the ground caused her personal detachment of bodyguards to conclude that she had been fired on by the crowd. One or more of the high-strung bodyguards returned the supposed fire into the crowd with plasma rifles, eventually killing at least 20, reportedly including many bystanders.
The crowd panicked, and many fled the scene, trampling and injuring several dozen more in the process.
The only photograph of the event, taken by an unknown photographer at long range, shows Lady Isis with a horrified expression, and with her hallmark fashionable gown spattered with some foreign substance. While some claim that the substance is blood, acquired when Isis waded into the crowd to comfort injured bystanders, others maintain that it is refuse, and she is angered at the damage done to her wardrobe. [Challenge 62]
The Travellers' Aid Society Statistical Office today presented to Margaret's government its report on world profile information published in TAS materials. This report was made in response to a formal request by Margaret's government that the organization look into recent accounts of TAS-published world profiles that did not accurately reflect current conditions on several worlds. The report was filed in the remarkably short time of 140 days, reflecting, in the words of TAS official Eneri Kraus, "the importance of ensuring the safety of not only our members, but of all travellers in Imperial space."
The report shows that many worlds show a degradation in starport capabilities, sustainable technology levels, and in some cases, population and atmospheric qualities. The report was clear that in all cases of variance between published figures and reality, it was the conditions on the world that had changed, and not the result of misprinted or mistransmitted world profiles. "What we are seeing here is a very real and tragic decline in the quality of life of Imperial citizens that is so precipitous it has overwhelmed our ability to document it in a timely fashion," said Kraus after the presentation.
The report establishes and documents that these changes are all direct or indirect results of Rebellion combat, and are concentrated in disputed areas between factional boundaries that have seen high levels of combat. Merchants operating in these areas have been to distinguish between "Outlands," those areas just beyond the defended factional frontiers, and the "Wilds," that remain in the much contested no-man's land between heavily engaged factions.
Having identified the astrographic regions that hold the highest probability of rapid world profile change, the TAS can now concentrate field agents in these areas to report changes in world profile codes as quickly as possible. A new system of world profile notation is being introduced, which will show changed digits with Italics, and a question mark (?) for values that have changed or are changing so rapidly they cannot yet be evaluated. [Challenge 62]
Six months of sporadic fighting on Vahana is now coming to a close, with an apparent victory for the popular Mericulture Directorate over the so-called Interim Council. The Interim Council, composed of retired military officers, took power following the fighting that destroyed Vahana's starport. Although it repeatedly promised economic programs and an orderly succession of power, the council spent over a year in power delivering only increasingly bombastic demands for belt-tightening and self-sacrifice from Vahana's citizens. That year also saw a sudden decline in the population's health and living standards as distribution networks broke down under the council's interference.
The end of fighting follows a brilliant and almost bloodless island-hopping campaign fought mostly by Vahanan volunteers, but led and master-minded by an off-planet mercenary unit. The unit was recruited for this operation by ex-Imperial naval officer Robert R. Rivera, who was hired by the Mariculture Directorate to remove the council. The defeat of the council will clear the way for the directorate's program to reestablish planetary trade networks and restore interstellar trade by creating a "soft" (water) landing starport facility. The directorate also seeks to establish alliance ties with nearby worlds, and the elimination of the insular Interim Council will open the way for these plans.
The campaign to overthrow the military government is notable because of the lack of casualties suffered by either side. This was a deliberate goal of Rivera's force, which used technologically sophisticated maneuver tactics to overmatch and overawe its opponents. Rivera appeared yesterday with his second-in-command, Lisa Marlene, to discuss these operations at a brief press appearance. When asked how she felt about the campaign's low casualties, only 83 killed and 349 wounded on both sides in six months of operations that saw over 20,000 prisoners taken, Marlene replied, "We don't feel good about casualties, no matter how low the number. But it is gratifying to know that we kept them from being any higher." Rivera added, "Every life that we take, every building we destroy, will make recovery from the Rebellion that much harder. Killing more people isn't the answer." Rivera also announced that his mercenary unit will remain together under the name Rivera's Vigilantes [Challenge 62]
Traveller News Service is another Imperium-wide benefit of membership in the Travellers' Aid Society.
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