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[] Untold Tales

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The Last Song of Gal Dougan


Throughout Human existence, the arrogant and ignorant believe that they’ve discovered all that can be discovered. That the edges of the universe have been explored. That we are beyond the era of wonder. But every day, there are things that cannot be explained. These are the universe’s Untold Tales.

On today’s program, we look at one of the most famous and mystifying disappearances in UEE history, in a segment entitled “The Last Song of Gal Dougan.”

Gallina Leigh Dougan was born in 2868, the youngest of seven, on a small compound in the hills of Borea in Magnus system. Her parents, Ava and Scafly, ran an independent prospecting and mining business that had been passed down from Ava’s grandparents who founded the venture in 2731.

WARNER DOUGAN: The house always felt like a transfer zone. Mom or Dad were either landing, taking off or organizing some other family member doing the same. We had family coming in from around the ‘verse to pull shifts, so there was a real life to the place. The door was always moving, we used to say. Anyway, I was the third youngest, so Gal became my responsibility. Only trouble was keeping her penned up; she always preferred to be under the kitchen table. The kitchen’s where everybody would hang out, you see. So yeah, when she’d slip out of her room, odds were you’d find her sound asleep in the kitchen.

It was this fusing of work and family that many attributed to sowing the foundation of what would be known as ‘that Gal Dougan sound.’ When Gal was twelve, it was her aunt, Fran Dougan, who would play a key role in her niece’s life, albeit inadvertently.

FRAN DOUGAN: People keep talking like it was some divine calling or something. Here’s what happened. I’d been given a guitar by an ex earlier in the year. Now, I’d plunk around with it on downtime during a job, but it never really took. I just didn’t have an ear for it. When things spoiled with my ex, just looking at the damn thing taking up space put me in a spiral. One time I was back on Borea, Gal started tinkering around with it and seemed to like the sound. I mean I’d damn near kicked her so many times under the kitchen table, I figured I owed her something, so I just let her have it.

Gal took to the new instrument immediately, spending hours teaching herself how to play songs she’d hear on the spectrum and even started composing ones on her own. Ultimately, it was just a nice hobby to her and her family. Nothing more. Maintaining the mining business dominated all their time and attention. Children were expected to take part when they were old enough, so by the time she was seventeen, Gal was joining her brothers and cousins on mining runs, but it wasn’t enough.

The Dougan Mining Company shut down in 2907 after accusations of embezzlement ripped the family apart. Gal began to pick up work as a contract miner. She started a contract in the newly established Stanton system and moved into the local Housing Exchange, temporary accommodations for all the contract workers in the area.

After pulling a standard shift, Gal would return to the Housing Exchange and play her guitar. To use her own words:

GAL DOUGAN: At the time I didn’t own much, so I didn’t have a lot of options. I’m not sure if you ever stayed in a HEX, but they aren’t the largest living spaces in the world. These contracts could go on for months, so you either went out and got drunk or stayed in and stared at walls. I didn’t drink and my father hated idleness, so I played my guitar.

Gal began playing simply to pass the time, but it wasn’t long before the other residents in the HEX started to seek out the beautiful voice and melody echoing through the halls. These impromptu performances in her room upgraded into weekly spots in the bar, then finally into regular gigs in the atrium itself. For the first time, Gal realized that music wasn’t just a hobby for her anymore.

She was discovered by longtime music manager, Henton Weekes, when he happened to pass through the system and manage to catch one of her shows. He wasted no time getting her to work. Between 2913 and 2921, Gal Dougan released three albums: Weary Day (2913), Could Have Been You (2918) and Long Time Dreamer (2921). While her lyrics commonly dealt with the joys and sorrows of work, love and family — albeit through a very gritty lens — it was her surprisingly elegant orchestration and singing that made her a sensation.

Fame, it would seem, would come to haunt this self-professed ‘outskirt Borean girl’ as she was vaulted into the limelight of the Empire. With each progressive album, Gal attempted to insulate herself more and more from the outside world. After the release of Long Time Dreamer, Gal Dougan receded almost completely from the public eye, opting to spend all of her time at her secluded home on Borea.

Critics had wondered if the already erratic musician had finally cracked. In 2925, Gal released what would be her final album, Building Up, with no buildup or announcement.

HENTON WEEKES: I managed Gal for over a decade and I had no idea it was going to drop. Hell, I didn’t even know if she was working on something. It took me two weeks to confirm that it was actually her and not just a knockoff. But yeah, when I heard it … it was unbelievable and heartbreaking. The whole album seemed to swing between this beautiful urgent sadness and absolute euphoria. She’d really taken it to another level. Unfortunately, Gal refused to back the album at all. There were no concerts. No press. No interviews. It was simply released into the universe and left there. So it was kind of a nightmare for me.

Years later, when her fans had given up on ever watching her perform again, Gal appeared for one more performance. On 2931-05-31 SET, Gal Dougan flew to Prime to appear on the Elira Awards where she performed two songs: “The Day Ahead” off her first album and “Echo” off her latest. She took a long look at the audience, quietly thanked them, then exited the stage.

Gal Dougan was never seen again.

It took a month before the public realized that the reclusive singer was even missing. Once the questions started, however, the Empire reeled from the loss. Civilians joined law enforcement efforts to try and locate the singer.

Once the investigation was concluded, little had been unearthed as to the singer’s whereabouts. In an effort to enlist the public’s help, the Advocacy released the only confirmed details about Gal Dougan’s last day:

According to flight manifests, Gal Dougan arrived in Prime to perform on the awards on a commercial transport, but no return ticket had been purchased.

Witnesses claimed that after exiting the stage, Gal refused the production transport back to Magnus, saying that she was going to take a personal ship, but all of her ships were accounted for back on her property on Borea.

So what happened to Gal Dougan? Theories have swirled ever since she disappeared. Some claim that she found a jump point and has been living in her own system all this time, while others think she ran afoul of a criminal syndicate. One theory that somehow has never died was that she was abducted by Xi’An to act as Emperor Kray’s personal musician. The list of theories goes on and every few years, someone claims to have found proof of what happened to the singer.

But one thing is for certain, the music made by this ‘outskirt Borea girl’ lives on. And though we can’t see her, we can still hear her.

Coming up next, we delve into the mystery of the Coreador, claimed to have been destroyed twice. Eight years apart …

When Untold Tales returns.

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