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LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#1
Take part in the discussion --> here
Only submissions in this thread, please.

Heyaa!

Welcome to the thirteenth edition of the Limit Theory Fan Contest! This is a rather special month, because this month happens to have a Friday that falls on the 13th! ...Actually, I just made that up. That doesn't happen until October. Still, I can't resist the fun that could come from setting this month's theme around the superstitious idea that something terrible happens on the thirteenth of something. As a result, this month will be about "bad luck". It doesn't necessarily have to focus completely on bad luck, but it must openly feature the topic in some form. Be a little creative, and I'm sure you can come up with something awesome. :) Everyone can make as many admissions as they like, but only one can be the "official" admission by which you are judged.

This contest will have 3 prizes for the top three submissions, and each entrant can only win one prize. If there are less than six entrants, only two prizes will be given out. If there are less than four entrants, only one prize will be awarded. If there are less than two entrants, no prizes will be given. Selected prizes will be taken from the pool, and winners can choose between them. First place gets first pick.


The objective: Create art about Limit Theory.
This could be in written form as a story, lore, or a detailed idea for a mod. It could be visual like a gif, photoshop or video. Or even audio - anyone up for a bit of stand-up about Limit Theory? These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but I'm sure you guys can think of a lot more. It is fine to use other games' assets in your submissions, as long as your work is your own.
Rule of thumb: "Does it spotlight Limit Theory?"


Prize pool: Depending on the number of submissions, two to four prizes will be randomly selected from the pool for the winners to choose from. The remaining prizes will be held over for next month. This gives all winners prizes to choose between, with the first place winner having first pick between them all. This should ensure everyone gets something they enjoy. The prize that is not chosen gets returned to the pool for the next month, and the pool is refilled to six items, randomly chosen from a list. If an item is declined by the last-place winner two months in a row, it is removed from the pool to keep things fresh.


The rules:
  • The artwork needs to be about Limit Theory per the objective.
  • Everybody is free to enter but can only submit one entry to the contest. You are free to change or replace your submission for as long as the contest is open.
  • If you have submitted more than one work, you need to be very clear about which one you're entering. If there is any doubt, the latest entry in the forum thread will be judged.
  • You cannot submit something you've already submitted to a previous LTFC. Submitting things you plan to (or have) submitted to other non-LT contests is discouraged.
  • All contest submissions have to be made as a reply to this thread.
  • Submitting a prize does not exclude you from having a submission scored.
  • Judges are not barred from making a submission themselves, but their submissions can't earn prizes. If they would like their submissions to earn prizes, they cannot act as a judge for that month.
  • The contest will be open to new submissions until Sunday, April 2nd, 23:59 GMT.
  • Discussion about this contest or submissions can happen here.
  • Any prizes are yours to do whatever you want with them. You can even give the prize to someone else if you'd like, and they don't have to be from this forum.
Note: if you're using another site to host content, make sure the title and comment displays that it's part of a contest submission. This is to avoid future Googlers from becoming confused when looking for official content.


Judging:
Our panel of three judges will evaluate the submissions based on the following criteria:
  • Originality: 30%
  • Aesthetic: 25%
  • Details: 10%
  • X factor: 20%
  • Realism according to the LT universe: 15%
And most importantly: Have fun! :thumbup:
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Have a question? Send me a PM!

Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#2
-Begin scripture-

It was bad luck from the start. He could taste it.

ムラマサ

It hung in the black, a prop in the play, dangling from puppeteer strings.

It's hunger was palpable, hitching his breath as he stared at the behemoth.

It spoke.

It's words rang out across his hull, up his arm, into his mind, and made his hairs stand on end.

It was alive. It knew.

It wouldn't move, like a stationary object, a fixed point in space and time.

It saw him.

He felt it's gaze fall heavy on him, a pressure between his shoulders.

Teeth and darkness.

It began to move, his eyes were fixed. Alarms grew feint in his mind, it knew. It's Maw was upon him.

Absolute blackness.

The end came, no sounds of crunching hull or blairing alarms, but a heartbeat. A heartbeat was the last sound.

-A dramatic reimagined first encounter of the "Vadik" species of sentient space craft encountered 21344NEC- By playwright Catsushika Tesonin

End scripture
There is no peace, only passion

Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#3
Time to rumble!
So, because I have no time this month wanted to do something original, I present:
Taiya, Goddess of IRC
Image

The link with LT is obvious, since it's about the Limit Theory IRC.
The link with the subject is also obvious: Detritus has bad luck and gets put in a vase, and the noble flower-offerer has bad luck, cause someone else has already given Taiya flowers. Several times.
So, clearly fit for this contest oktxbye
*runs before anyone can catch him*

:ghost:


----
Edit: Joke explanation for the heathens people who don't visit IRC: Taiya is our resident in the LT IRC (chatroom).
Aside from useful things, she has a function where you can give her flowers, which she likes. Because she likes you if you do that, everyone gives her flowers all the time (hence the giant pile of flowers)
Now, one of her responses to that was "[Taiya] accepts gratefully and puts them in a pretty vase". However, specifically for Detritus, this has been changed to
"[Taiya] accepts gratefully and puts him in a pretty vase"
so Detritus gets put in a vase by Taiya regularly. :ghost:
Warning: do not ask about physics unless you really want to know about physics.
The LT IRC / Alternate link || The REKT Wiki || PUDDING
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Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#4
...and here is my entry for March:
Spoiler:      SHOW
Image
As usual, here is a finely crafted link for getting more pixels.
I did invest some more work to the balance, so I hope this will satisfy the judge :lol: . The problem I had was the rendering of fast moving object. Vue is supposed to generate a motion blur when rendering a frame in an animated sequence, but the fast asteroid looks a bit unnatural.

Here is a list of external sources used in this entry. Note that in particular the last pane is not drawn by yours truly, but only cropped and with some added speech bubble; this seems to be OK according to the hosting website Getty; a reference to the source is embedded in the pane directly.
Spoiler:      SHOW
Pane 1
Green explosion
http://keanebeamish.com/wp-content/uplo ... oron_3.jpg
Background
http://cdn.wonderfulengineering.com/wp- ... unds-6.jpg
Pane 2
Background
http://www.psdgraphics.com/backgrounds/ ... ackground/
The plot is the logistic equation, see for example here for some explanations.
Pane 3
Background
http://eskipaper.com/universe-backgroun ... ound-1.jpg
Pane 4
Background (Earth_from_space)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/blueforce ... 5tV-aFDQvc
Pane 5
Extinction of the dinosaurs, artwork. Getty/CARSTEN SCHNEIDER
http://www.gettyimages.ch/detail/illust ... /492602763
PS: I hope it is clear the story happens ca 70 million years ago, the alien miner being responsible for the cretaceous dinosaur exctinction event and ultimately for the appearance and dominance of humanity on Earth...
Image by Cha0zz

Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#5
Here's my entry for the March edition of the ever popular LTFC ;)

Please enjoy!

--------------
Aria in Darkness


The engine's hum surrounded me, feeling better than the total silence before.
I'd show them. Them, who called it an oversized engine with a seat strapped to it.
I'd show them with this race. I'd set new standards in speed and maneuverability.
With a grin I opened my eyes.

Before me were the expanses of the Abtore asteroid field, stage for the best innovators, the best pilots and testing ground for everything a ship could need.
Left and right to me were the other 8 contestants. Prototypes they flew, every single one of them.
Most couldn't even dream to hold a candle to my dear "Aria" as I had called my own ship.

One of my displays flashed with a broadcast:
"Contestants ready!"

It was time! Finally!

"The race will begin in 3!"
All systems green.

"2!"
Blood pumping through my veins.

"1!"
My grin widened.

"!!START!!"
Controls unlocking, the nice hum from before turning into a mighty roar!

In what felt like an instant, I accelerated with an almost frightening amount of force. The asteroid field growing bigger and bigger with each passing moment!

Warnings started flashing on all screens, Inertia compensators overloaded.
My Vision blurred, it felt like being crushed in my seat. Breathing was almost impossible.
The first asteroid closed in in a matter seconds, the holographic sign directing the way further into the field. Compensators back on green, I could breathe again.

Taking the turns like a madman, drawing even the last bit of performance out of the Aria's modified engines. Compensators almost giving in again as I zoomed past the next rock close enough for my adrenaline-flooded mind to make out even the smallest dents on the surface! I was far ahead! I just knew it! Nothing could stop me!
Almost done, just past that last rock, another slowly turning behemoth of dust and ice.

Just as I flew past...a jagged formation protruding from the asteroid, hidden by its otherwise smooth curvature and rotation. Too close to evade...too fast for my eyes to widen in horror.
Ripping noises, crushing.
Displays flashing urgent warnings...before going black.

I was alive. I somehow managed to bail out of the spreading cloud of debris that once was my ship.
An aria of success ripped to pieces in a flash.

Sam Stolton, the only one who could reach my own creations in this race.
He abandoned the track, scooped me up, brought me back. I was dazed. I couldn't believe what had happened.

"Great show, buddy!", I remember him saying.
"That really was unfortunate with that last turn. Better luck next time!"
Apparently, sometimes stuff might happen.

Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#6
Jump

A tall grey haired man stood on the stage, looking over the cadets assembled in the auditorium. He looked to be in his early fifties but carried his years easily, his stance ramrod straight. In his right hand he held a remote control, in his left some lecture notes on a tablet computer. His rank insignia indicated he was a commander and beneath various campaign ribbons the surname ‘Strauss’ could be seen.

"Cadets!" Commander Strauss bellowed, a hint of mockery in his voice "Congratulations in surviving another week of training." He lowered his voice to a more normal volume. "Now, as you've already looked at interplanetary manoeuvring, advanced STL navigation and docking this week, we're going to briefly cover some basics of FTL travel before some more practical work next week. I wish to impress upon you the complexity of FTL travel… Thus, it’s story time!" There was a brief clamour of excited noise from the assembled officer candidates.

Striding across the stage and leaning against the wall, Strauss waved for his students to be quiet and then clicked his remote control. The lights dimmed and a feminine yet obviously mechanical voice sounded over the auditorium speakers.

"Now playing black box entry from ITS Deonida, dated 23rd November, 3531 CE."

On the screen behind Strauss a starship bridge materialised, crewmembers at their stations. In the central command chair was a heavyset bearded man, leaning on the arm with a thoughtful expression. In front of him to the left, at the navigation station, a woman was staring at her computer screen. To his right, a male communications officer was speaking quietly into a microphone.

“Navigator Chang, how long until our jump drive is recharged?” The bearded man asked, smiling at the navigator.

Tapping on the console in front of her, the navigator blinked and looked over her shoulder “Sorry Captain,” she replied “Looks like it’s going to take another 16 minutes. I think the starboard charge coil is in need of replacement.”

“Right, we’ll get that done when we reach port, ‘though I’m surprised the inspection didn’t pick it up. Set a course for Olympia." said the captain, frowning. “We don’t want to stay here for too long; there have been reports of rebels attacking shipping recently. Lieutenant Fenner, get Olympia Skywatch on the horn, tell them we’ll be there in a couple of hours.”

The lieutenant nodded and started to reply, when he froze in place. From beneath the screen Commander Strauss grinned and waved his remove control “This is the boring bit, let’s fast forward.”

With a click of the control, the bridge crew suddenly went about their business at lightning speed, rushing around like angry wasps. Suddenly the bridge lighting on the screen went red and Commander Strauss paused the footage once more. Nodding at his precise handiwork, he pressed the play button.

“- warships inbound, they’re firing particle beams.” Navigator Chang said, deadpan despite the situation.

“Evade.” The captain said, “How long until we can jump?” The lights on the bridge flickered briefly and the picture rocked slightly.

“26 seconds, sir. We’ve taken a couple of hits to the aft, but the shields are holding. Sir, they’re launching missiles.”

“Deploy countermeasures. How long until we jump?”

“10 seconds, sir. Another hit: The aft shield is approaching overload, it’ll drop if we take any more of those. There’s already some bleed through, they scorched the SR engine.”

The lights on the bridge flicked again and some sparks erupted from Lieutenant Fenner’s console. The captain pressed a button on his chairs armrest and spoke “This is Captain Reid. All hands, prepare for jump.” Pressing the button again, he looked at Chang and said “Jump as soon as we can navigator.”

“Sir,” Chang replied “Jumping now.”

The image onscreen dissolved into static, which was then replaced by blackness, with light blue text shining in the middle. The computerised voice read out what was displayed onscreen.

"Misjump detected.
Danger, debris in arrival zone.
Impacts on forward shield detected.
Shield at 35.6% load.
Shield at 82.2% load.
Shield overloaded.
Impact on PF engine: Engine disabled.
Impact on conning tower: Hull breached on deck 5.
Impact on bow: Damage to outer hull.
Impact on PF engine: Rotational strut locked. VTOL system at 50% operational status.
Impact on bow: Damage to inner hull.
Impact on bow: Forward antimatter containment bottle damaged.
Error: Deck 8 sensors offline.
Cascade failure in antimatter containment. Recommend evac-….
"

Commander Strauss clicked his remote control and the voice was silenced. Looking at the front row, he straightened and smoothed down his uniform. With a deep breath he started speaking again. "It takes little imagination to work out what happened next. They misjumped, exiting into real space within the ring system of a gas giant some 25 light-years off course. For background, here are some details about the ship itself: The Deonida was a Catocala III class transport. Those of you that have any knowledge of interstellar haulage at all will know it's a workhorse within the Empire. Capable of carrying 5400 metres cubed of cargo to a planetary surface, variants of that model have been used since your granddaddies granddaddies were kids. Hell, some of you might have even been brought here on one of the passenger converted ones."

A few of the class nodded approvingly.

"This one in particular had served 43 captains over a period of 204 years. It was in need of a refit, but it had passed a structural and drive inspection 6 months before its destruction." Strauss paused, clicking his remote control and displaying a schematic of the ITS Deonida before continuing speaking "Stats. Honestly it’s not much to look at compared to a Tempest or Leto class. It had weak shields, capable of withstanding a mere 20 GW/s in kinetic energy. A double ceramsteel hull, 1.5 metres on both layers. 7 sublight engines, 4 of which were part of the ships atmospheric VTOL systems. The FTL was an old model, a CV Starstrider jump drive, rated to 145 LY and 12/49237 MJR. All of this...." He paused as a cadet raised her hand "Yes, Cadet Espinosa?"

Shyly Espinosa asked "Sorry sir, but MJR?"

With a glare Strauss answered "Have any of you chuckleheads actually looked at the recommended reading? Interstellar Travel 101, cadet: MJR in the single most important statistic of any FTL drive system. A Ryker IX may take you 300 light-years, a Trailblazer might use 5 grams less of antimatter, but MJR is the key statistic. You may not know or care what the MJR of any ship is, but we military types do and by the end of this course you will too. Basically, Cadet, MJR stands for Mis. Jump. Ratio. The chance that you are going to arrive somewhere that you didn't intend. A ratio of 1/10,000 means that for every ten thousand jumps you attempt, you can expect to get lost on one. Does that answer your question?"

Cadet Espinosa nodded “Yes, sir.” And Commander Strauss continued.

“As I was saying; all of this shows that the ship was an older model, about 150 years or so behind the curve. Antimatter powered, it lacked the phase fields that modern ships use to protect against impacts during a jump; Captain Reid had only his shields to rely on. It was also completely unarmed, so its only choice was to run from a fight.... Although, in fairness, that’s a surprisingly easy prospect in a ship as fast as a Catocala, even when it’s fully laden."

Commander Strauss focussed on a tall, blonde haired woman at the back of the Auditorium. “Cadet Pelton, you served on the IWS Invictus did you not?”

Cadet Pelton smiled and nodded to the commander and said “Yes sir, I was a flight engineer working on the navigation computers.”

“Congratulations,” Strauss replied “So at least you should know some basics. Name me one fact about FTL travel.”

Pelton preened at being singled out before answering “When you suffer a misjump, you can only misjump as far as your intended jump, sir.”

Strauss shook his head with a sigh “A good answer Pelton, but not what I was looking for. I’m talking basic principles here. Think back to your very first jump.”

Pelton nodded “Ah, I understand sir. Fundamentals. Chief Engineer Meadows on the ‘Victus always said that momentum is carried through a jump, sir. He would flip his lid if the ship wasn’t holding station when we jumped.”

Strauss emphasised his point by clicking his fingers “Correct, cadet! For those of you with IQs lower than your shoe size, let me summarise: Speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out. If you’re doing 0.8c when you hit that jump button, you’ll come out at the other end doing 0.8c. That is not ideal if you’re jumping near inhabited worlds. Cadet St. Claire, what is the second fundamental principle of FTL travel?”

A redheaded cadet at the front of the audience looked up from his notes and hesitantly said “Er… Jumping into solid objects is bad for your health? Sir.” He shuffled his papers awkwardly.

Commander Strauss laughed uproariously then fixed St. Claire with his stern gaze “Crude, St. Claire, crude. But not wrong. The second fundamental principle of FTL travel is ‘Make sure your arrival zone is clear’. It may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised the idiocy I have seen over the years, ships warping into a warzone and the captain being very surprised to find themselves appearing inside another ships antimatter reactor. Our jump drives have almost pinpoint accuracy, that’s why our fleets can travel together. You can’t see what you’re going to be jumping into ten, twenty, thirty, a hundred light years away, sure, but you can use your head. We have beacons with FTL transmitters at common transit points which can send you coordinates. Like the air traffic control stations on planets, just on a larger scale. Or if you have friends in the arrival zone, they can give you coordinates, assuming you both have FTL communications.”

Strauss walked to the centre of the stage and continued speaking “Cadet Merryweather. In the absence of a beacon, where’s the next safest arrival zone in a solar system?”

Merryweather saluted crisply and said “Off the plane, sir.”

Smirking, Strauss nodded. “Yes, cadet,” he replied “Assuming you know where the plane of a solar system is, you’ll find a great deal more empty space above and below. In the case of an unexplored system, you’re almost guessing. Look at the spectral type of the star, stellar mass, age, and then take an educated guess. Remember, space is 99.999% empty; you’re unlikely to hit anything if you’re sensible. But you need to make the chance you’re in that 0.001% as small as possible.”

Strauss shut off the video screen behind him "We’re almost done here class. So Captain Reid was caught at a disadvantage, what did he do wrong?"

A flurry of answers of varying wisdom and humour came from the assembled cadets "All stop…. Jettison cargo…. Actually had an escort…. Self destruct….”

Strauss started to laugh again “Cadets, you have a lot to learn. Given that he was unarmed, being pursued by armed, hostile ships and his rear shield was already breached, Captain Reid did everything right. To stop would mean death; the assailants obviously didn’t care about his cargo or they wouldn’t be throwing particle beams and missiles at him. Unfortunately, he and his crew were unlucky enough to be one of twelve in forty nine thousand, nine hundred and thirty seven.”

Strauss leaned against the lectern. “To quote a captain who flew starships over a thousand years ago: It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.” Strauss saluted “Next week we’ll be putting you in Pegasus class ships and putting your training to good use. Make sure to read sections 5 to 10 of the basic FTL navigation manual and for the Emperor’s sake some of you get yourselves laid. Class dismissed!”

As the cadets filed out of the auditorium in solemn silence, Strauss smiled to himself. Yes, they might turn out alright after all.
Last edited by HowSerendipitous on Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#7
The lights are flickering and dim, the gravity is off, and the air tastes funny. I think half the ship is depressurized. The ship's drive is dead, the thrusters are dead, the main reactor is dead, the backup reactor is dying, weapons are long since dead, the comms are dead...
Soon, I will be too.
Before I die, though, I'm going to tell you all the crazy crap that's happened. Yes, you. I know you're just an audio recorder, but maybe you'll have someone to tell it to yourself. Maybe they'll even listen to the whole thing.

About three weeks ago (I think), I got my paycheck. I dropped a few percent of it into my "new ship" balance, as I do with every paycheck. That's nothing new. What was new, however, was the mail I got a few moments later.
Notice: Sufficient funds to purchase item 228761.
Type: Vessel
Class: Corvette
Sector: Military
Condition: Restored
Cost: LT375100
What does this mean, you ask? Well, I've had my eye on a certain ship. It's an old corvette from a few hundred years ago. It came from a war halfway across the galaxy, and was one of the few ships not outright destroyed. Supposedly, it limped over here before the last of its crew died, and then crashed into an asteroid. A scrap shop owner two or three jumps over spent a decade or so bringing it back up to speed. I, a simple miner, should have had no chance of buying it (and no business owning it), but it seems that the ship had... issues. Nobody kept it for more than a year; it's been bouncing around the market.
About two years ago, it landed here.
I've always fancied a change of pace. All this boring mining is starting to get to me. I go out for days at a time, watch some dials go 'round, and then dump it at one station or another. There's really nothing to it, except when some pirate gets a bright idea. Then it's a brief moment of excitement, flying my little "deterrent" drone, and back to boredom. I enjoy the drone far more than the mining, but it's far too small to do any kind of dedicated bounty hunting with.
Enter the corvette.
The moment I got the notification, I placed a buy order on the ship. About three hours later, I received another bit of mail:
Buy Order Fulfilled
Item 228761
Pickup at: Mayfly Shipyards, bay 27
Even though it was well into my sleep cycle, I caught the local personnel shuttle straight away.
Looking back, I wonder why I was so eager.
When I came into the bay, the ship was covered. "To keep the space dust off," the attendant told me. The cover came off with a flourish, its folds straightening as the fibers were charged.
I had seen pictures, of course, but they did not do the corvette justice. The hull was beautiful. Its lines were sleek, its thruster ports subtle, and its hardpoints asymmetric in just the right way. The crushed side had been restored such that it was indistinguishable from the rest of the hull. Neither scratch nor "space dust" defiled the shining plates.
I boarded the vessel. The interior was just as wondrous as the hull. The ribs arced almost organically. The hatches swept open smoothly. When I got to the cockpit, I was struck with the elegance of the seat and controls. My old mining subfreighter's rude toggles and dials were a far cry from the smooth buttons and displays upon the corvette's console. I booted up the ship's computer, which had been upgraded since the restoration to allow a single person (e.g. me) to control and maintain a ship which was designed for a dozen crew. A log of test results spooled down one of the screens.
Loading OS... Done
Performing Preflight Checks
Continuity...
Forward...Nominal
Aft...Nominal
Dorsal...Nominal
Ventral...Nominal
All segments continuous
Operation...
Computing...Online
Main Reactor...Online
Backup Reactor...Online
Pressure...Online
Drive...Online
Thruster...Online
Artificial Gravity...Online
Weapons...Empty
Fire Control...Online
Command...Online
Commlink...Online
Sensors...Online
Compactor...Online
Shielding...Online
1 error(s)
Preflight Complete
All very impressive. The shipyards don't keep the ships armed, which is why the thing was throwing an error, but I could rectify that quickly enough; basic guns were well within my "outfitting" budget, especially since I would be leasing out my miner. The operational drive, thrusters, and shielding was plenty for me. From what I'd seen, the shield alone was enough to absorb the lighter pirates' civvie arms, and the drive was fast enough to run away from anything big enough to hurt. If need be, the comms were powerful enough to call for help from halfway across the system.
I requested a disembark from the yard, which was granted with uncharacteristic alacrity. The mooring clamps released, and I pushed the corvette out of the slipway on maneuvering thrust. Once clear, I put the main drive in gear and sped out into the black.
The ship felt like a glove. It was responsive, but not jittery. It pointed exactly where I wanted it, exactly when I wanted it. The drive plume did not fade for kilometers behind me as I threw the throttle to the stops and drove the ship to its limits. The blinding speed proved too much for me, though, and a close call with a small freighter convinced me to slow down.
I slowed down to stationkeeping, and browsed the market for a set of reasonable guns. The selection was pretty sparse; nothing much between drones and installation-sized batteries. They don't do much in the way of shipboard weapons at home. I eventually found a few of the appropriate scale and bought them. It took a little work to shoehorn them into the corvette's antiquated hardpoints, but I left the station with a full set of very nice particle beams.
Naturally, the very first thing I did was take a bounty contract. Some pirate was extorting a local shipping firm. They finally saved up enough cash to place a worthwhile bounty on him. It was only a few hundred limms, but I figured it would be an easy contract.
I flew out to the pile of asteroids rumored to contain my target and fired up the scanner. Almost immediately, I found the peaks corresponding to the drive signature released with the contract. I hid behind a particularly large rock, watching the radiation bouncing off of its neighbors. A shipping convoy registered a flight path nearby, and the pirate's drive signature jumped sharply. I knew he was positioning himself for an ambush, so I dragged myself along the surface of the asteroid with the compactor beam. It was slow, but quieter than my thrusters. His bow peeked around the surface of the asteroid just as my own disappeared behind. I warmed up the guns in the shadow of my asteroid. As the convoy approached, I saw the pirate's drives light up. I scanned the comms frequencies in search of the pirate's usual ultimatum.
The comms panel beeped. "Eject your cargo pods or you will be fired upon," the pirate said cooly.
"Oh-okay!" the captain of one of the freighters replied shakily.
I would have fired immediately, but the particle storage rings were not populated yet. It was imperative that the pirate be destroyed in one salvo, lest he take a freighter down with him.
"What's taking so long?" The pirate's voice was low with suspicion.
"We've experienced a jam," the captain said. Though he tried to stay meek, the pirate picked up on the veiled defiance in his voice.
"You're stalling!" he declared.
I edged out around the rock. An alpha strike would do me no good if the pirate fired first. My weapons panel buzzed, signaling a "soft" lock on passives. The turrets gimballed about to the pirate's approximate location.
The pirate's active sensors peaked. "This is a trap, isn't it? Where's the ambush?"
The game was up. Full rings or no, I had to take the pirate down before he fired on the convoy. I flicked the actives on and set the guns to "fire at will."
Half a second later, my scanner overloaded as the particle beam splashed over the pirate's shields. The shields collapsed almost instantly, and the hull put up almost no resistance. The beam cut straight through the ship. One of the myriad rocks shattered from the sudden thermal stress. The reactor detonated. A sound like rain announced the arrival of its debris.
My weapons console buzzed: storage rings depleted.
I busied myself with the matters of recovering from the onslaught. I rebooted the scanner and shook the comms array clean of metal droplets. The freighter captain congratulated me as the convoy accelerated away.

I awoke from a cycle-and-a-half sleep. If it wasn't for the date on my tablet, I would have thought I'd dreamed the whole episode. But no, when I checked my balance, there it was: paycheck, new spaceship and equipment, bounty... and a whole lot of celebration.
Oh, and what's this? Forward pay for a contract I don't remember taking?
Yeah.
It was an exploration contract. Go to a place, take some pictures and a rock or two, and bring them back. Simple, really.
The massive payout spoke otherwise.
A hundred thousand limms.
Now, this meant one of two things: Either the target was really hard to get into, or it was really hard to get out of. Unless times have changed by the time you listen to this, you'll know that it is both.
It took me three hours just to convince the corvette's guidance computer that the included coordinates were a place the ship could go, and another two for it to plot a course that actually got me there. By the time my ship took its third circuit around the whole warp rail network, I started trying to terminate the contract. Now, contract termination is not really a thing that happens, so I gave up after an hour or two and sat through the absurd course wondering what the hell I'd drank the night before. If I'd known what was waiting for me at the end of it, I would have turned right around, and damn the legalities.
It took nearly a week to arrive, even though the course eventually straightened out. I made use of the corvette's luxurious quarters (which originally held a dozen crew). At last, the location in question drew near. To the eye, it was just another patch of space: a few rocks, the usual nebulous surroundings. My scanner, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. Where once there was a lovely histogram, now only the word "FALSE" appeared. I should've turned around right there, but in my folly I persisted. I took the controls from my now-epileptic autopilot and guided the ship into the region. I turned the recording equipment I'd bought with the advance on, hoping to get as much information as I could out of this expedition.
The records are in my quarters, by the way.
As I pushed forward, the scanner's nonsensical readings expanded from a cone to a hemisphere. It was at about this time that visual also ceased to be sensible.
The sky before me was ripped apart. Behind it lay only darkness. As the last shreds of reality crumpled and fell like cloth behind me, the ship went dark. I don't know how long I sat motionless in the pure black. It could have been hours or days. All I know is that eventually the darkness ended.
It started as a tiny point of light. I didn't believe its existence at first, but when it grew to a section of sky, I knew it had to be real. As soon as the golden light was enough to see by I set about rebooting the ship. As I flipped the relevant switch, the systems came on instantly. The boot log came up with no errors. The sky wrapped me back up, shielding me from the hellish void.
It wasn't long before I realised that what came next was nearly as hellish. Crumpled hulls and assorted debris littered the area, fading indefinitely into the dust from whence the light came. I couldn't ascertain any gradient in the diffuse glow. Worse, my scanner showed three high-EM signatures coming straight at me.
I threw the particle beams into overdrive with complete disregard for stealth. The deck throbbed with the reactor's immense load as the storage rings filled rapidly. Everything the ship had left went to bringing the shields to full integrity. I burned harshly from the spot, deeper into the ship graveyard. The signatures followed.
As I dodged around the ruined hulks of vessels far larger than my own, I noted with dread that the signatures behind me were catching up. The storage rings finally filled, so I diverted everything I had left to the shield and propulsion.
I soon lost sight of the boundary between ship and flesh. The corvette responded as if it was a limb. I felt the dust flowing over the shield as if it was wind in my hair, the thrusters as if they were my fingers. I whipped the vessel around rocks, through holes, and past the scarred and torn surfaces of ancient capital ships. It was a joyous flight like nothing I'd experienced since flight school a decade ago.
But even this wasn't enough. The signatures came within range of the scanner's high-resolution band. The readings matched no drive technology ever prototyped. At last, I acquired a lock on the signatures.The turrets swiveled madly as I threw the corvette through the debris field. I knew I had no chance in the cramped graveyard; my turrets couldn't track that quickly.
With the contacts hot on my heels, I found a clearing of sorts and made my stand. I braked hard into the throat of a truly massive engine. As the contacts came ever closer, I pushed the storage rings to their maximum. I switched the scanner off, relying on the combat sensors exclusively.
The contacts finally resolved to hard locks. As I watched the dust blew around the wrecks, I fired.
A fraction of a second later, my passives were blind. The screen which formed my only visual link to outside snapped to pure white. There is a reason particle beams aren't used in-atmosphere.
Gradually the image cleared as the storage rings emptied. I watched the last vestiges of the feeble stream wash ineffectively over a solid wall of debris. Wondering if I'd missed, I brought the scanner back online.
I saw only two contacts behind the wall. I'd hit after all! But it wasn't enough to kill off one alien contact. If I wanted to get out of this, I would need to burn all three out of the sky.
I rebalanced the power to put a bit of charge back into the storage rings while still allowing me mobility. The shield didn't need much power when it wasn't actively absorbing damage or charging, so I cut it off almost completely. Once more I blurred the line between self and tool in my desperate rush for safety. I felt the thrum of the maxed-out reactor in tune with my own heartbeat. The ship's spine became one with my own. No algorithm could have flown the corvette faster than I did, yet still I gained no ground. Inexorably, the contacts drew closer. Finally, as I dodged a particularly nasty lump of debris, I saw them.
The wall of debris behind me left me with no doubts. The ships used the wrecks of their myriad victims as shields. If I had chosen a projectile weapon, I would have been out of luck.
The bisected hull of a fighter flashed out from the cloud. I twisted around a huge monolithic plate. Even as the fighter crashed against the plate, an unrecognizable lump of ship followed. I felt it scrape against my shield as I jinked away. The hail of metal only picked up its pace as I dodged objects from before and behind. Desperately, I hooked around the hull of a battleship with the compactor beam. At last, the storage rings filled. Once more I aquired a hard lock with the sensors, shut the scanner down, and fired into the wall. I was blinded again, my shield tingling with the backscatter.

When the static cleared, I was greeted with the lovely sight of a chunk of debris hurtling straight at me. I turned to burn, but it was already too late. The lump crashed directly into my shields. The breath was driven from my lungs as the ship's spine was crushed by the overloaded shield generator. Errors flashed on the console. One of the turrets was gone, another was cut off from its storage ring, and two out of three of the remaining guns had lost contact to the computer. The burnt-out shield generator was probably bouncing around somewhere deep within the ship. Propellant leaked from the massive wound on the dorsal surface. Several attitude thrusters were inoperable. The gravity generators had burnt out trying to counter the acceleration. The drive and most of the thrusters were still intact, as were the reactors, so I fled to the best of my ability. Only one target remained, but I couldn't evade long enough to charge the remaining particle beam. I looked for a place to make my last stand.
I sighted the wreck of a gigantic capital ship. Its thick armor and structure would hopefully stand up to the alien's bombardment. I just had to get there before my attacker broke my ship.
A chunk of spacecraft clipped the corvette's hull, scraping the comms array clean off. Another smashed one of the drive nozzles. The main reactor died somewhere along the way. The corvette was in sorry shape by the time I limped into the ruined carcass of the capital ship.
And then, just as I was pulling a chunk of superstructure to seal myself in, I crushed the barrel of my last operable gun against a girder.
Yep. That's right. The reason you've found my dessicated corpse in here is because I ran into something. After all that fancy flying, I managed to forget all my training.
I unstrapped from the seat and made my way as best as I could down to the damage control station, in the vain hopes that I could restore the connection to the remaining guns. The mess in the shield generator's compartment put that idea down sharpish.
The generator was in three pieces. One was embedded in the main power conduit. The data cables were smashed to unrecognizable pulp. The casings which should have protected them were now floating loose in the compartment. I didn't have the skill to do surgery on the spinal cord of a spacecraft, so I closed the compartment silently and climbed back along the corridor. The scanner was still picking up the last ship. Escape was still not an option. The last thing I had left was salvage, and the puny damage control welder-cutter was grossly insufficient. Besides, this was a capital ship, not a carrier. Anything of use I found would neccessarily be absurdly large and completely useless to me, especially without a proper reactor.
I suited up anyway, dragging the ship close to a wall on the compactor beam. I cut through a frozen hatch in the wall of the propellant tank and found myself in a huge vessel.

I explored the ship, but I couldn't find anything I could take back. The damage control compartment I found was completely empty. The machine shop was dead, since the capital ship's reactor was out of commission. I found some spare rations in the galley, but they were unpalatable. I've been looking for anything useful for the past two weeks, and found nothing. Gradually, systems on the corvette have been dying. It's a race between life support and the backup reactor, at this point. I welded the corvette to the side of the tank, to keep it from floating off. Poor thing'll probably never fly again.
That alien ship's still out there, by the way. Bloody thing has nothing better to do than toss stuff at the hull. It tried to open my hidey-hole earlier today, but I welded the hole shut.
Well, it's been nice getting to know you, but my head is starting to hurt. Final log of some poor bastard miner who thought he could fly a warship, end.

Re: LTFC - March 2017 - Bad Luck Edition

#8
And now, for the results of the March 2017 "Bad Luck" competition!

The available prizes are:
  • Natural Selection 2
  • Crysis 2: Maximum Edition
  • Trine 2: Complete Story
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut
The first place winner is: 0111Narwhalz, for his entry An Audio Log - with a score of 91.33!!

Second and third place go to:
  • Fawkes with a score of 80 for his entry Aria in Darkness!
  • HowSerendipitous with a score of 79.67 for his entry Jump!
The runner ups are (in order of submission):
  • Catsu - Begin Scripture (Story)
  • Dinosawer - Taiya, Goddess of IRC (image)
  • CSE - God Does Not Play Dice (Comic)

Comments of the judges in order of submission*:
Catsu:
  • Very elegant writing you did there. It was difficult for me to tell what was going on at first, but I really like the scene you managed to produce, and the imagery is impressive considering how concise your story is.
  • Compared to the other pieces, this one just didn't do anything for me.
  • Gripping and tense, makes you to wish for it to continue. Unfortunately, it suffers greatly from the (fairly common) mistake of confusing 'its' and 'it's'. Please remember: it's good = it is good, while its gaze = gaze the thing has.
Dinosawer:
  • This is indeed related to LT (if only loosely), but seeing as it's a joke entry, I have to take points off. It's a very GOOD joke entry, though. I liked it a lot. :) I'm sure Taiya would too. She might put you in a vase for it.
  • A warm, analogue style. :D While it has a lot to do with LT community, unfortunately it has little to do with the universe of the game itself. Not that the author thought otherwise, right?
  • Nothing to say really. Off topic, submitted as a joke, so judged as one.
CSE:
  • Would have been a whole lot more impressive if the images were original work. The story is well-told, but the punchline in the end is somewhat weak, as the "something leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs" plot is fairly unoriginal.
  • Beautiful work here. Your skills have certainly improved dramatically since you began making LTFC entries. I especially like the lighting. While I don't think LT will include dinosaurs, I really like the idea of asteroid impacts. Maybe it could be a mod. :D
  • Well done! A great example of science fiction.
Fawkes:
  • A short, concise story that's well put together. The ending feels somewhat rushed and anti-climactic, but otherwise, impressive.
  • Not as much bad luck as I was hoping for! Well written, though short. The passage describing the speed actually encouraged me to read faster. Good job!
  • Very nice! I was particularly impressed. You got across the feeling of speed quite well. I can imagine reading this as part of a larger book; a small chapter in the life of Aria's pilot. I still felt it was missing something, though.
HowSerendipitous:
  • *claps, many claps* A joy to read.
  • Long story that suffers from a lot of forced exposition, but a decent one nonetheless. By the way, writing odds as 12:49237 is, well...odd. Should be either 1:whatever the number or, if you want the plurality of it, 'a hundred out of each billion' or something like it. Unless, of course, there's no such thing as projected MJR, and the number reflects the on-going statistics of jumps vs misjumps.
  • This was well done. It seems to promote philosophical thought, and I like that. It's also directly in line with the theme of the contest. It didn't grip my attention as firmly as it could have, though, due to little in the way of intrigue.
Narwhalz:
  • Truly gripping! Masterful piece of work you've done here! I liked the little nods to the LT Prototype, too. I won't spoil the ending for anyone that hasn't read it, but I will say it kept me in suspense! Excellent work. :)
  • Quite a bit longer than usual for the contest, the story is gripping, well thought-out, and manages to contain a surprisingly large amount of events. Despite the bleak tone, it makes you wish for the main character to somehow beat the odds and get out. Good job!
  • Out of all the submissions for March, this one had the most LT feel to it for me. Only criticism is that formatting could be a tad better. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story.
*(comments on each are in random order to keep judges anonymous, and I may have edited a few comments slightly to further this)

A detailed overview of all scores can be found here.

Prizes will be handled in the comments thread. Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to the other judges and everyone that participated!
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