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all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...


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Author's foreword: Knowing a bit about the Traveller RPG universe is helpful to fully understand the story, but not required.



I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).

(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

"Exactly how long to you plan to stare at the Amilia tonight? Security need to know so they can arrange your transportation back to New Jerusalem."

ChairmanHal turned his aide, former executive officer and best friend and smirked. "As long as I damn well please, that's how long."

"So, like the new paint job?"

ChairmanHal turned back to look at his captain's cutter. Disguised as primitive space shuttle, he still recognized her, but he almost thought he heard the Amilia whimper, like a dog forced to wear an ill-fitting sweater by its owner. "I'm going to be honest John, she looks...well, unhappy."

"Can't say I'd blame her," said the aide with a laugh. "We did the best we could with what we could fabricate. She'll hold together in the disguise, though, that's what's important."

"So what's the plan?" Are we going to try to get back up to the Constellation?

"Officially the Haleenstar Republic will be starting a space program in July. We have to get the Amilia to another hangar, where the locals will mount her on a hydrogen fuel tank and add some detachable solid rocket boosters. Hopefully in a couple of months, we get Bill and Nick in orbit along with some salvage people and see if we can get life support on the Constellation working again. If so, then the Haleenstar Republic will need a few more shuttles, this time full up primitive ones based on some plans we found in the ship's database. It would look a bit suspicious if the Amilia was going back up into orbit once a week, if you follow what I'm saying."

"Ok, I follow you," replied ChairmanHal. "I can work the public relations, funding and such on that. We kept our real identity under wraps this long, no need to blow it when we're this close."

"Well technically we're not even from their future," replied his aide, "but yeah, I guess it would freak them out a bit."

"Kind of like finding out I'm not ChairmanHal, ruler of the Haleenstar Republic, but Commodore George Haleenstar of the Terran Republic, Captain of the battleship TSS Constellation?"

"That would probably get you locked up for a psych eval," said his aide winking. "Of course it's true, but that is besides the point."

"Nice, Commander Kaga, would you at least come visit me before the plug me with electrodes or whatever?"

"Umm...I don't think the mental facilities are that primitive."

ChairmanHal frowned.

"Ok, moving on...eventually we'd need a cover story to explain all the shuttle trips. I was thinking that we could phony up some sort of space station. Of course, the Constellation would be the real one."

"I think I can work with that," said ChairmanHal thoughtfully. "So then Bill and Nick figure out the problems with the jump drive and then we go home. Simple really. Except of course we don't know how the hell to do that in the 58th century, let alone in the 21st of this world."

"Isn't that mistress of yours a psion?"

"Kyra? Yes of course," said ChairmanHal in a straight, matter of fact tone. Why?"

"Because if she has the gift..."

ChairmanHal looked puzzled for a moment, then his face brightened. "Psionic Time Travel. Which makes her about 1 in the trillion psions. Ok, but how would that help us?"

"Strictly hypothetically speaking of course. But if her brain waves could be amplified sufficiently, perhaps she could get the Constellation back to our time and universe."

"John, you're suggesting something that not even the Priest of the Faith ever did, let alone a semi-trained psion."

"Actually if the Promethean Chronicles are true, Gabree-el did, and more than once. Look, I know it's along shot," replied the aide, "but, at this point what do we have to lose? The Constellation won't sit in a parking orbit forever, and even if she could, eventually someone will find her, cloaked or not. Indeed, I worry that some poor schmuck of an astronaut from another nation on this planet will accidentally pilot his spacecraft into the path our our ship and become a grease spot in space when he hits the shield cloak."

"Ok, you've got a point there. I also worry that if the Vilani exist on this timeline that they might stumble across this world, if they haven't already. If that happens, the Constellation will be all that stands between this world and their empire, and these people don't even have interstellar capability yet, let alone weaponry that can match them."

"Ah yes, the Vilani," the aide sighed. "Guess they wouldn't be too happy to see us."

"Oh, I'm quite certain they wouldn't know what to make of us. Remember, the Constellation wasn't constructed until well into the Interstellar Wars."

"So the space program is a go then?" asked the aide.

ChairmanHal looked back at his cutter and its fresh camouflaging coat of white paint, unnecessary fittings, and fake re-entry tiles and stared. "I want to go up with the first salvage crew to take a look around."

"Consider it done. No artificial gravity until you're in orbit though. Remember, that doesn't get invented here for another 60 years or so."

"Who's to say the Haleenstar Republic didn't invent it, hmm? asked ChairmanHal with a wry smile.

"One step at a time, Captain."

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OOC: Good start, I think this' the first time a thread about Traveller has been created on these forums.

OOC: I did some freelance writing for Game Designers Workshop back in the 90s. Traveller: New Era was my primary focus, though I corresponded and wrote about all aspects of Traveller from "Classic" through the rather unfortunate attempt at a comeback for the title published by Imperium Games (the dreadful "T4" version of the game).

I plan future chapters to this storyline as time permits.

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