Captain Jean Luc Picard
Captain Picard settled back in his chair, eager to be away from the bonds of Earth's government bureaucracy and free to roam the vast reaches of interstellar space. No longer did Picard derive any pleasure whatsoever from revisiting Starfleet Headquarters. Increasingly, Starfleet was being turned to military pursuit and 'pacification', rather then diplomacy and exploration, that he felt to be the most important aspects of the agency. And the newly instated President of the United Federation of Planets, having replaced Admiral Jonathan Archer recently, showed no inclination of stalling this alarming trend. Quite the opposite, actually, if anything he seemed content to encourage allowing Starfleet to become an arm of the Landsraad.
Since the Dominion War, a conflict which had lasted for four long and bloody years, Starfleet had continually suffered massive losses, and come to develop dedicated military vessels, in preparation for a large Borg incursion or even invasion, and the effective military might of Starfleet increased dramatically as the damaged or destroyed older model ships were replaced by this newer generation of more defined warships, even though the actual number of starships even decreased.
Captain James Tiberius Kirk
The Enterprise is being fitted for upgrades, and the crew is taking leave. Meaning that, for the next twenty four earth hours, you have nothing to do but sit in the Starfleet headquarters and kill time.
At the moment, you are doing it by playing chess with Spock. As always, he plays a slow, defensive game, every move mapped out in advance, while you are more impulsive and aggressive, trying to force him to react to you. It's not working this time, and you're looking at loosing your queen, when abruptly the officers mess goes silent. With a suddenness bordering on uncanny, everyone in the room stops what they are doing in perfect synchrony and gets to their feet in order to break into spontaneous, genuine applause.
The reason is quickly apparent. Out of the corridor strides an iron figure dressed in a gold, fur-lined flight suit and a turtleneck, with a helmet tucked under one arm. A cigarette is resting between his lips, and he is wearing reflective aviator sunglasses.
The applause intensifies as he stops and raises his hand, clearly a little embarrassed at all the attention. A legend in Starfleet, Ace was offered the chance to pilot a brand-new kind of spacecraft, one that can cross dimensions, and so rarely returns to the base. Despite all this, he's modest while still being totally self-confident, and does not like the attention he receives from the other pilots. He'd rather spend time with his friends then attend lavish parties and be piled high with recognition.
"Hey there Kirk." He says in a faint British accent, flicking a salute and pulling up a chair. "Would have come to see you sooner, only I just got back. Bobba Fett shot me in the back off Malichor Seven. I'm just here to hand him in." He pauses a moment, then his hand snakes out to the chessboard and moves your bishop two squares to the left. "Checkmate." he says to Spock, then looks back at you.
"So, how've you been?"
VISTAS is a Saturn-line Gas Giant, surrounded by dozens of small moons and a system of rings composed of icy debris floating on a river-like torrent that sparkles relentlessly as it refracts the light of the suns in all directions. A large, run-down looking space station resting at the inner edge of the planetary rings. The space station resembles three wagon wheels stacked on top of one another, which a large central hub, and each of the spokes leading to an airlock.
It had been built centuries ago by Sir Roger de Tourneville, and had been intended to be a gothic influenced cathedral, but the project had failed, and the station stripped and abandoned. It had since been used by the Federations smugglers and black marketeers as a place to sell there wares, as it was on the very edge of the coalitions space, and too out of the way to be policed. Just the same, the occasional fragment of religious imagery remains, the odd statue or image of pious suffering.
The station can accommodate four dozen ships, and about half that number are currently docked there, with some of the larger ships tethered by lines rather than attached directly to the airlocks. As much as you hate to admit it, the Millennium Falcon is pretty much average for size and appearance of the ships, and is docked on the “space” side of lowest level of the station (away from the planetary rings) in case you need to make a quick getaway.
The Hub is a massive, chaotic swap meet, the size of a small town, and full to bursting with all flavors of intelligent life. It seems that anything can be had here, for the right price. Illegal arms, small vehicles, livestock, replicants, even slaves are being bought, sold and auctioned by the crowd, as well as less immediately practical but incomprehensibly valuable items. Borg implants. Melange. And more. Refugees will barter everything they own to get one way or the other. Some of them will kill you for a crust of bread. It made anywhere else seem positively civilized in comparison. Most of the individuals clustered here are humans, though not exclusively. The slavers are predominately Trandoshans, and you think you spot Bossk, the famous Trandoshan bounty Hunter dressed in a white tuxedo chatting up a pair of blue-skinned Twi'lek sisters.
A Ferengi, backed by a pair of Jawas in brown robes, is haggling with a red-skinned Dosi who looks ready to turn violent. And that's just the start of it.
A renegade Bene Gesserit Revered Mother dressed in full dress regalia has a stall to herself, where she offers to use the sisterhoods unique capabilities for anyone with he credits to afford them. A Yautja hunter simply leans against a wall and lets it's fearsome reputation do the advertising for it, if anyone wanted anyone killed all they had to do was sell it the hunt. And there are other, stranger sights mixed here and there.
But you're not interested in any of this, tempting though it might be. You're looking for Lando. He mentioned a proposition that could make you both very rich if you worked it properly.
The Alliance of Worlds has recently made offers to welcome you back into the fold, and remove the embargo that has been placed on you for generations now. It's a generous offer. Too generous, but then, it's to be expected. It's a fact that they don't like you in the middle of their space, defiantly independent. At the very least, you're a bad example. At the worst, a rallying point.
And so they have began making offers. Autonomy towards self-definition within the system. Accorded all the rights of any other Alliance world, including protection from hostile civilizations. And all the other comforts of high culture.
And all they want is to formalize an arrangement already in place, and give you all sorts of advantages for doing it. A meeting was held, and every opinion carefully considered, but so far you are far from reaching anything like a unanimous solution. However, negotiation seems the best bet for now. You and a few of your colleagues are to be picked up by a federation vessel where the conditions will be discussed. You're already looking forward to it.
PROSPERO CITY is larger, shinier, cleaner and more cosmopolitan than most of Serenity's stops. Everything looks new... so new, in fact, that much of the city still seems under construction. That which is complete is in the process of renovation, as the city is constantly rebuilt and torn down on the ongoing search for the never achievable perfection. It will never be good enough, but as long as it remains a work in progress it keeps the economy flowing, which does wonders for industry.
Small zeppelins fly between the spires rising from the sprawl of buildings below, and everything is so orderly and bright that there's no question the Alliance had a hand in building the place.
You are here for two reasons. One, is that Inara has a client here. Normally that would be enough to make Mal pointedly look for an excuse to miss the stop in a manner that could almost be associated with jealousy, except he had no such excuse despite pointedly not looking through all available frequencies for one.
Second up, they had an opportunity to take work of their own.
You and Andrew "Ender" Wiggin have been brought aside by a high ranking officer who seems to have no connection whatsoever to Starfleet, or indeed any aspect of the Coalition whatsoever, yet has the clout to have you both arrested and detained without any trial or contact whatsoever. In the few moments you meet him he identifies himself as Eisenhorn, but says little else.
But he is distinctive, to say the least. The most obvious physical attribute of the man is his crude augmentic assist system, which can be seen projecting from the back of his head and encasing his lower limbs. Clean-shaven, he has shaved his head as well in order to avoid interfering with the augmetic system. Furthermore, he has scars on the side of his face that deadened his nerves, limiting his facial expressions and movement, setting him with a perpetual frown. The grim appearance is heightened by a sober suit of dark greys and blacks under long blue, high-collared coat, that bulges with a chest-rig for his sidearm, holstered under his left shoulder. When he walks he leans on a cane that rattles with every step.
He takes the two of you to a dark room, then sits behind the table, and leans on it, tapping his hands together and waiting for you to speak, eyes hooded in shadow.
Newly entering Starfleet, you have been chosen to captain a new, experimental Ship that has been given the slightly ominous name the 'Event Horizon'. Despite having a science major, you don't understand much of the basic physics of it, but it's primary point of interest is a new power-source allowing therefore undreamed amounts of energy and thus allowing you to reach speeds undreamed of. The ship will be capable of traveling light years in moments, and the process involves some sort of transition to a tachyonic state.
Essentially, in layman's terms, you use a rotating magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons; these in turn fold space-time consistent with Weyl tensor dynamics until the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large and you have a singularity. It's unspeakably dangerous, and the risks are great, but the possible rewards are such that they would render humanity the only major power in the universe.
For all that, it's not comforting. Quite the opposite, it's ominous to look at, you can't help but think, as you discern the hard angles of a man-made craft. The scale of the vessel is almost unbelievable, a vast labyrinth of steel.
Richard B. Riddick
FORT LIBERTY is a small, tight looking walled city built up against the side of a low mountain. Filled with sharp-edged, institutional-looking buildings, the place is certainly exactly what it was, a place far from anywhere to dump the Alliance's unwanted. It's hardly the worst prison he's been thrown into, ironic name or not, but it’s still much more “civilized” that most places where he'd choose to live.
All in all, it has the feel of an industrial complex that sprang up to service a military outpost, that itself was created to house the state of the art facility to keep men like you from interfering with the rest of the universe, which is exactly what it was.
Giant mounted cannons, with barrels more then ten meters long, dot the wall that protects the city. Each cannon is manned by a uniformed soldier. They train on the ship (Clear Air Turbulence, the call it) that holds you as it comes to land, and an entire squadron level their weapons at you as you are taken from the holding chair and forced out. They are taking no chances with you.
You're pushed onto the airstrip with two dozen weapons trained on you, ready to open fire at the slightest twitch.
Jack Crow is a notorious celebrity and one-time pirate, a tough man who does not hesitate to kill or do what he has to in order to survive, but has been somewhat romanticized and is now seen as a dashing rogue rather then a cut-throat and murderer. He seems to regard his reputation as a missed blessing, and wears an old set of personnel power armor that should have been decommissioned. It's sleeker then the modern style, and fits him well, almost like a second skin, but he is nothing if not menacing.
You are assigned as the military arm in the upcoming experimental spaceship. You get no say in the matter. There is no evidence of long term habitation, just gleaming steel that has never known a human touch before now. Depersonalized lockers. Fold-down bunks, chairs and tables currently stowed for docking. A modular galley. These are to be your quarters while the ship explores the reaches of space. The men have already secured the quarters from flight status. Bunks have been folded down, each alcove personalized with photographs and pin-ups.
Outside there are more interesting rooms. A high tech operating room, full of modular equipment. Vertical tanks line the walls, each large enough to hold a human being, and gravity couches are in display.
You and your men stand before the gravity couches, almost nude, no room for modesty in Rasczak's Roughnecks, or the Mobile Infantry Sardaukar.
Lt. Rasczak (who the platoon is named after) moves around the cabin, checking the crew's radiation badges, and health read-outs. At last satisfied, he lets you all in, and you get changed back into your uniforms.
Duke Leto has been given the lucrative fief of the Jungle moon of Pandora. In terms of infrastructure or habitation it is a blip, the atmosphere is breathable but unpleasant, and it has little in the way of industrialization. Furthermore, the natives are hostile and refuse all attempts at negotiation and peaceful resolution, leading to them being forcibly pacified. However, it is the primary source of the Alliances Dilithium (referred to as Unobtanium by some engineers in a tongue and cheek manner) deposits, which allow the manufacture of warp drives. Without it, no faster then light speed travel, and as such it is one of the most valuable resources in existence.
The CHOAM corporation, the major underpinning of the Alliance's economy, whose shares and directorships determine production and allocation of resources, as well as, by extension House's income and financial leverage, have given it to you.
However, to balance this the president of the Alliance has given the Harkonnens desert planet Arrakis, the only known source of the spice Melange. The motives are obvious, keep the most powerful houses in competition to encourage production and keep them from threatening him.
A vast field of stars, stretching further then the mind can comprehend. The gas giant Neptune slowly spins into view. Brilliant and blue and cold against the void.
A black silhouette stands out against the planet, tiny against Neptune's scale, but soon drifts closer, revealing the Far Star.
You sit on the command deck, feeling very satisfied as you make your way to Earth. A luckily-discovered route through the Rifts of Ursuul IV has allowed you to do business with the Romulan Empire (off the books, of course), making you more then a year of normal work. And yet it's only a side-project while you focus on your real goal, despite the not-inconsiderable wealth it is making you. You are coming close to uncovering the key to wealth and power beyond your wildest dreams: the Haarlock Warrant, and with it, the ability to claim several uninhabited planets, and requisition huge numbers of Sardaukar to your cause, not to mention the full support of the Landsraad, of course, boundless wealth, effectively establishing you as as an independent Great House. Even that would be enough for most people, but your plan goes deeper still. If all goes as planned, you should be able to destabilize the CHOAM corporation, and effectively force the Alliance to return to free trade, rather then the socialist based society of the moment.
You've been doing simple jobs around Sol system for six months now, and you have to face up to it. You're not making enough to break even, and barely to cover base subsistence, while you plummet deeper and deeper into debt.
This solar system has been good to you, none of your many enemies can touch you here, except the most deadly of all, the banks. Particularly the Sector Bank 001 of San Francisco. When lesser banks found the houses they supported would not meet their debts, they opened their veins. When this bank found it out, new lords appeared as if from nowhere, all of whom were much more willing to find the money.
And you don't have the credits to even attempt to pay your debts.
Ratchett and Clank
You're trying to understand an ancient Technomite artifact you recently uncovered, by translating the how-to guide, but it's proving to be a long and arduous process, and it doesn't tell you enough of what you need to know. What it does tell is maddeningly infuriating. If not for the obscene ammount of money you are being paid to understand it, you'd have given up in frustration long ago.
It's a giant ring composed of a superconductive mineral called 'naqahdah', that's theoretical as far as you can tell, as there is no way to create it in a stable way to keep it from falling apart instantly. It has nine points, or 'chevrons', spaced equally around the circumference which serve a purpose you have yet to uncover. On the inner ring are 39 unique glyphs which you have no idea how to translate, but you suspect is the key to understanding the thing.
Cowboy Bebop Crew
Work has been slow, until you happened to find the first lead in weeks. Outside a club (The Old Pink Dog Bar) in Han Dold City a figure you recognize as a known frequent fratinizer with the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. Nadreck the Palainian.
He himself is extremely valuable, given the chaos he's caused, however if you can also get his known associates you are looking at the sort of payoff you usually only see in your dreams.