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Nebthtet Monthly Studio Report: June 2017

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Monthly Studio Report: June 2017

Greetings Citizens!

Welcome to the Monthly Report for June 2017, our collection of studio reports and videos from our offices around the world showcasing the progress we’ve made over the past month.

CIG Los Angeles




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As part of the upcoming 3.0 release, we’re very excited to introduce cargo as a mechanic. To ensure your ship is technically equipped to handle this, we’ve created cargo grids to provide the visual element of transporting commodities like minerals, scrap, and food. The number of commodities you have will manifest as stacks of crates located within the ship’s cargo hold and will be limited in capacity by the dimensions of the grid your ship can use. This system will also allow you to park vehicles and other loose items into the cargo hold, but will limit the amount of grid space you have available for bought or scavenged commodities. Code wrapped up on this feature and design has implemented the new cargo grids into all the ships that can carry cargo.

Engineering also finished implementing the solar system content (or what we’ve been calling object containers) into a hierarchy to ensure that outposts on a moon or planet, as well as space stations in near orbit, are all in the correct planetary grid at all times.

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The team also just provided the much-needed Object Container editing. When creating a gameplay level, we build the level with a combination of Assets and Object Containers. Originally, Object Containers had to be built in the dedicated Object Container level, which, unfortunately, made the contents of the Object Container only editable in the actual Object Container level.

In the previous system, when designers used to build levels with Object Containers, if they wanted to modify the contents of that ObjectContainer, they would need to exit the current level, open the Object Container level, do some tuning, save, export, and then move back to the level. This new tool will allow the designer to edit the contents of an Object Container, save and export all while inside the level. This new workflow will save Design a lot of time.

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The engineers have created a new debug and setup process to help handle vehicle interior damage states. Interior damage states will be changed based on the cumulative health of a ship. The old method was written in flowgraph, but now the process has been integrated into a vehicle component, so that it can be used in various places. This new process should help us find the problem quickly, solve it fast, and get the team back to working on features.

The update process of the Intelligent Flight Control System (IFCS) for our ships has now been converted to a batch update. Because IFCS is very isolated from the physics engine, taking in values like velocity, mass, center-of-mass, etc., and outputting one linear and one angular impulse, there’s no reason IFCS needs to be updated in lockstep with the physics thread. This change will be more efficient, but also hopefully allow a larger number of players on the servers.

The team has now completed the new quantum drive 2.0. We’ve removed the old code that controlled things like VFX and sound FX playback, as well as obstruction detection and alignment code, and moved the targeting of a QT point to the Target Selector on the ship, so the drive only cares about the travel point itself. This made the drive code much simpler and should make it run smoother. Aside from bugfixing, the team also added some features that attach to the quantum drive, such as automatically closing all external doors when doing a jump to prevent accidents by jumping out of a ship traveling at high fractions of the speed of light.

This updated quantum drive is now ready for design and art to start tweaking and implementing on all the ships, as well as for UI to start creating a more realistic feel for how such an event should be handled in-game and incorporate other features like the star map.


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The RSI Aurora went through a final art check this week, so the only remaining work will be from any incoming bugs that pop up while going through design implementation, animation updating, sound, VFX, etc. The team also created fourteen different skins for designers to utilize as well. We’re excited to get this updated version of Star Citizen’s most prolific ship into your hands, and the team here is working hard to make make this a reality.

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The Anvil Terrapin is finalizing its greybox phase, which included setting up the exterior hierarchy, polishing the proxies, baked and migrated animations. For the interior, the artists are polishing the geometry in the cockpit and habitation, and moving into the final art phase. The Terrapin was also sent over to Tech Design to begin their greybox pass on the ship.

Now that the ships are being converted to Item 2.0, the team has also completely reworked the ship stats page on the website to allow for up-to-the-minute stats. The design has now been finalized, the icons finished with refined meaning and everything is currently being updated on the web.


The team implemented the first iteration of the landing springs technology to allow for a more cushioned landing experience on uneven terrain. From here, they will move on to the next step of full visible landing compression on the landing gear, which is slated for after 3.0’s release.

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Tech Art’s role tends to increase the closer you get to a major release as performance begins to take priority over features and asset developments, so they have been reviewing the release builds to identify code and content fixes that would dramatically improve performance. One in particular is called Statoscope. It plots graphs from data logged on a per-frame basis, and provides a way of recording values (e.g. fps, number of drawcalls, etc.) from Star Citizen and showing how they change over the course of a play-through. This really helps our development team find ways to improve performance by identifying massive frame time offenders.

Tech animation improved the format that animations are saved as and then reloaded into other scenes. Due to the amount of characters and lengths of the scenes, they could formerly take up to 50 minutes to load in Maya, but with this improvement, the worst load time has been drastically reduced by over 82%, meaning cinematics won’t be waiting long to make quick iterations.

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On the skinning front, a female transfer mesh has been created and the male transfer mesh has been massively updated. These transfer meshes are used with our skinning tools to automate basic skinning of all new characters. Tech animators can now spend time perfecting the weighting of the mesh allowing for a higher quality and more accurate deformation in less time.

Our tech art team identified an issue where the eyelids on many of the heads had vertex normal issues. They ultimately determined that because the vertices of the eyelids were so close together, the normal would get flipped but only on a few verts. This has now been fixed and characters can now sleep with ease.


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The team has been knocking out countless costumes for Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. Currently in production, the male Navy medical corpsman has entered the high poly phase. Once that’s complete, he will then go on to in-game modeling. Another female character is finishing up her in-game asset then will be sent over to get textured and rigged along with our OMC Undersuits, which have also finished up in-game modeling.

The civilians and the miners of Levski are currently being textured before heading over to rigging and implementation into their final resting place in-game on Delamar.

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The team updated some of the legacy UEE and Pirate armors to not only bring them up to the visual quality of our current assets but allow them to be swappable with all newer armor pieces. We’ve officially started high-poly on some of your favorites and then will be moving onto the in-game modeling and texturing pass.

Along with the new eye options, the team began work on a multitude of hairstyles. These are all in various states of production, but a select group will be ready for 3.0.0.

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An assortment of new characters, like the Male Marine BDU and Male Deckcrew, have been rigged and implemented. They can now be found on the bridge of the Idris or completing their work on the exterior of a ship in the vacuum of space. Lastly, the Female Light Marine armor and Female Explorer Suit have finished up their implementation passes.


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Our narrative team has had a jam-packed month as well. With Item 2.0 coming online, they have been knocking out a massive amount of component and item descriptions needed for 3.0, everything from coolers and quantum drives to armor sets and shirts. They have been getting trained up on handling the localizations of these names and descriptions into DataForge directly, giving them a bit more oversight in making sure that the latest text is appearing in the game. The team wrote approximately 2800 lines worth of generic NPCs to liven up the universe then recorded them in a VO booth down in London. To help keep track of these assets, the team started building a Persistent Universe character tracking sheet to create a single consolidated reference for lines, file names (for all the departments like audio, animation), overall status, and priority for the massive amounts of dialogue for Mission Givers, Generic NPCs and more.

Lastly, the team has been walking through the locations of both Squadron 42 and the PU and writing up documentation of props, posters, signs, branding, and set dressing for more immersive environmental storytelling.

CIG Austin




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Eckhart was the big challenge this month. As the first real dynamic Mission Giver, getting Eckhart into the game required collaboration and work from several different teams. The Usables Team created the tech that allowed us to link extraneous objects such as the barstool to other usables like the high bar table, while still registering items on the table properly like the glass in Eckhart’s hand. The Mission System Team created the ability to look for missions with the “Eckhart” tag, figure out what is currently available for players, and pass those via subsumption to the player’s mission log for acceptance/rejection. Between the AI and FPS Programmers, they created an animation technique we’re calling “feather blending” that will allow blending between usable object animations such as a generic sitting animation for a barstool and the animations related to the Mission Giver conversations. And of course, the Subsumption tech/programming team facilitated all of this through the Subsumption tools and the game code that goes with it.

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The team has been tackling 3.0 tasks on a variety of fronts; Pete Mackay worked on a new pass of the master excel where the pricing structure is laid out, called PriceFixer. Pete added all the new ships, ship items, armor suits and some other FPS goodies, and balanced their pricing to fall in line with the most recent design pass of the items. Since the overall design of the items is much further along than before, the gameplay implications of the items are much clearer. Although this required another pass through the items, the team is now able to more accurately predict where their base prices should sit. On top of this, he did an additional pass on mission rewards, insurance prices and respawn timers to accommodate the new missions that are coming online.

Robert Gaither worked on getting NPC’s into some of the main hub areas of our PU landing zones. He started with Grim HEX to prove out the behaviors, but the current plan is to extend these general behaviors to the other landing zones with the goal of giving a general sense of ambiance and life to the levels.


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Josh Coons, in conjunction with Tech Art finished creating the LODs and the damage pass of the Cutlass Black. He also made tweaks to the cockpit area and the rotating nacelles, based on the Tech Art feedback, and has now moved onto creating renders and videos for the website and potential marketing needs.

Chris Smith finished working on modeling and texturing the Aopoa Nox bike. Once the model was complete, he worked with many team members to provide materials for the brochure and release video.


Server engineering worked closely with DevOps to integrate and test Diffusion in a QA environment. The team started working with gameplay engineering to show them how to best utilize the features Diffusion offers and will continue over the next few months to identify new and old gameplay features that will be best suited as Diffusion services. The eventual goal will move more of the feature logic in Diffusion services to result in higher scalability and optimal performance.

The DevOps team quietly added more hardware to increase network capacity to handle the increasing demands on the build system due to work connected to 3.0. Meanwhile the LiveOps team has completed the build out of the latest server side expansion supporting the latest revision of shopping and subsumption. They’re still tuning and making adjustments but it’s always exciting to see the new services coming on line.


This month, the animation team started on the NPC usable for counters including shopkeepers and bartenders to help bring these elements to life. Once these are complete a player will be able to walk into a shop to buy weapons, space suits, clothing, ship parts and other such things from NPCs. This will incorporate our wild line system as well, with face animation and audio captured at our mocap shoots. To complete these features, we had to capture a few transition elements that were missing, so we set up a quick mocap shoot in our office to get what we needed. Along with the bartender, we are also implementing the bar stool, so the player will be able to go, sit at a bar stool and order a drink. Finally, we finished the carry system animations. As a player, you can now pick up a standard size box and walk around with it, which means that we have all the needed tech to expand this to a variety of uses.

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The Austin Ship Animation team wrapped up establishing the standard for the cockpit experience, as well as polishing and creating new, improved animations for our next release. In addition to various bug fixes, they worked with the design and programming teams to bring the same level of interactions you get in the cockpit to ship turrets, which includes g-force reactions, hit reactions, as well as g-loc pass out and wake up sequences when you pull too many g’s.


For June, Austin QA has been testing new features and preparing for 3.0, specifically new and overhauled Star Marine weapons, the Crusader moons, Levski, new Missions, the improved mobiGlas interface and apps (particularly StarMap). Now that many more ships have been converted for Item 2.0, each one requires a complete sweep for issues, as well as a review of old issues such as animation and ship idling to see what may have carried over in the new implementations. Stability and performance were also a major focus as well, with Austin QA working closely with our UK counterparts to conduct regular playtests and captures for the state of the game. Squadron 42 testing groups worked closely with the rest of team as well, as new tech means new bugs that are often shared between both groups of testers.

The team also provided additional support for the animation team; handling mocap file cleanup, supporting setup and teardown for pick-up shoots and other tasks that free up the animators to handle important items. New tools and tech are being developed in all four studios, so the team is constantly checking shelved check-ins and binaries for problems and making sure everything is ready before it gets checked in for the rest of the company to use. In the past month, this has included changes to resource management for objects and planets, new build distribution tools, server changes to support subsumption, as well as network code improvements and a refactor of the material manager.


The Player Relations team continued to prepare for upcoming 3.0 work, and can’t wait to give backers the New Player Experience that will go on the website to match the new content coming in game. The Evocati ranks will expand in the coming weeks, and the team welcomed two new hires to expand the team’s overall headcount.

Foundry 42 UK




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On the programming side, the team continued to support the cockpit experience sprint, with the goal of making it more dynamic. This included incorporating the physiological effects, such as the black-out and red-out, into the actor status system. That way it is all controlled by one system and can influence other things like the player’s breathing and stamina. This sprint has also improved the g-force animations, and player hit reactions when the ship gets a dynamic impulse.

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We also made improvements to the close combat gameplay. We worked on numerous knife-based and unarmed takedowns, and collaborated with design and animation to make it both look and feel satisfying.

Over the past month, the team has nearly completed converting all the old player and actor code over to the new Actor 2.0 system. Whereas the previous setup just inferred actor states from other variables, the system now has a cleaner interface for serializing between the server and all the clients, which makes writing new player features much more straightforward and makes the code much more reliable.

The brand-new patching system has been incorporated into the internal CopyBuild 3 tool that was developed in Frankfurt and Austin. Now that it’s passed QA’s approval, there has been a limited rollout to the dev team to carry on flushing out any issues with it. So far, it’s looking pretty good, and the people using it are really appreciating the reduced time it now takes to grab the latest build.


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Moving onto the Graphics team, the new render-to-texture system was the key focus this month. This tech has been a major part of the hologram system which will be used for mission briefings, comms calls, mobiGlas and many other situations. The render-to-texture system will also be used for all our new user interfaces and for live-rendering of video-comms from other players.

The team upgraded our exposure-control system to deal with the enormous contrast of lighting in space. The system now takes light from your peripheral vision into account and won’t overly brighten the screen when you are near bright objects and looking into space. The graphics team also added a host of new features to the GPU particle system such as lighting, turbulence and anti-aliasing, the effects of which you’ll be seeing in 3.0.


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The weapons team focused on ship weapons this month, working on the Amon & Reese laser cannons, S1 to S6, and the Klaus and Werner Laser repeater, S1 to S6, along with some associated VFX. On a smaller scale, but just as important, they created a slick looking Heavy Machine gun from Gemini, complete with the iconic cooling system seen on other Gemini guns.


This month, the concept team added another member to its ranks. Their first task will be to look at Orison while also supporting any additional needs for S42 locations.

The Environment art team built some exciting prototypes for procedural cities which will allow us to create vast cities and landing zones on planet surfaces for the Stanton System and beyond. The first test will be to help us integrate Area18 into the sprawling industrial planet of ArcCorp.

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Work continued to flesh out the ‘texture of space,’ and create a greater palette for the artists to make space travel more interesting and will help support the narrative in both the PU and S42. One specific element is our new SpaceDust Shader, which creates large volumes of space dust to help provide a sense of motion. This will be added to the Stanton System for the 3.0 release. Yela’s asteroid belt has also been improved with this new shader type.

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Outpost clusters and additional exterior elements have been finalized, including outpost landing pads, paths, power modules, water collectors, weather stations, relay stations and exterior lighting. The team also completed a branding and dressing pass for different corporate and independent companies who own the outposts for various functions such as mining, hydroponics, habitation and storage. The team also made unique varieties like emergency shelters, abandoned outposts and gang-owned outposts to position around the moons.

The outpost doors and airlocks were switched to the Doors 2.0 system, which allows them to incorporate the different rooms, power systems, oxygen, overrides and hazards.

The team finalized Sand, Dust and Frost materials to help blend the outposts into the moons. Decals have been used to add an extra layer of dirt buildup to help integrate the exterior landing pads and props.

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The team finished all pre-polish and optimization work on the exterior truck-stop pieces and have moved on to finish the interior. They are currently working on the main hub, based off concepts from art direction, developing additional pieces to add more character to the truck-stop, and completing a first pass on the side shops and corridors. Platinum Bay landing services is having its own building set made, so it looks more distinctive; and an Admin office has been created so players have a location to drop off mission related packages. The team blocked out an observation room facing the landings pads, so players can watch ships take off and land from the interior of the station.

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Finally, Admin offices were added to other Stanton locations, such as Port Olisar and Grim HEX. All the 3.0 locations were updated with the new door and airlocks 2.0 system and two new shops have been added to Grim HEX; an independent ship parts trader, and Technotic, an old electronics store that may house a mysterious character.


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The UI team has been cracking along on the new mobiGlas UI and all the various apps that will become available for 3.0. They also worked with the VFX team to combine particle effects and lighting to help ground the UI projection in the game-world environment.

The team drove the second multi-disciplinary sprint for the Starmap app to implement the remaining functional requirements for the 3.0 release. This involved focused collaboration between art, VFX, audio, and engineering teams to help improve the visual fidelity and user experience.

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Basic functional requirements for the new Mission Manager app were implemented this month. This app allows players to view information on available missions, as well as provide the ability to accept, track, and abandon missions which have been accepted, while keeping a log of the previous missions which have been completed or attempted.

Along with the work on the item 2.0 ship conversion, they started implementing the new pilot multi-function displays (MFD) which refines the previous UI setup and adds new information and functionality like managing your ship’s systems.

Finally, the team contributed to the most recent doors and airlocks sprint, where they helped design and implement new status displays for the various airlocks throughout the system utilizing the new render-to-texture tech.


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The Audio team has been involved in lots of different sprints and pipelines this month. The team helped to finish up the actor status system, so that the breathing from the player works alongside dialogue more intelligently, and a new outlaw music logic set was completed which will be reflective of the player’s reputation system. The team also revised the environmental and ambient sound for various locations for the 3.0 release with members of the audio team even attending a character-based sound recording at Shepperton Studios.

Weapon audio completed work on the rail gun and have made steady progress on derelict ship audio and the interior ship audio for the Javelin.


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The Animation team worked closely with gameplay programming to continue developing the take down kill mechanics.

They continued to tweak weapon improvements and created a more flexible system for the jump mechanic to handle more environments and gravity states.

The mobiGlas has been moved from a lookpose to an aimpose, which will allow increased functionality, and had some extra animation added to the enter and exit states to make it feel more connected to the player.

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The team continued to export and test AI combat assets as well as cinematic scenes for design to implement in engine.

The Derby Studio has been busy on 3.0 Mission Givers’ face and body animation and continued to turn around facial animation for SQ42 and future PU releases.

The Mo-Cap team set up the Optitrack system for a quick shoot in the new office space. It was great to see such a quick turnaround of data, from shoot to in-game in a matter of days.

There was another quick Audio/Headcam shoot to pick up some last-minute requests for 3.0 and the team quick edited the facial data and put it into production.


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Derelict versions of the Starfarer, Caterpillar, Constellation and Freelancer are ready to be used in space and on planets for various missions. The team also implemented the necessary tools to correctly place these wrecks on planets so they all conform nicely to the terrain. In addition to this work, the team has been doing a bug-fixing pass to address collision issues and minor art tweaks.

Extensive work is being done on the Eclipse’s cockpit, specifically on the dashboard. The team worked closely with other departments to lock down the layout of the monitors to make sure that the design is appealing and legible. Layout is also an important factor for Item 2.0 as buttons and switches need to be specifically placed within the pilot’s reach to create further interactivity and immersion. The team also worked on the landing gears and the wings.

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The team finalized geometry on the Hull C’s folding section and blocked in materials, then moved onto finishing the mechanical rig to make sure it operates without any collisions. The front of the interior went through an initial lighting pass and is now being polished to make the areas more cohesive. The rear of the interior has been blocked out and each room is now being modeled.

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Fans of the Reclaimer will be pleased to hear that there are only 3 rooms left to go through final art. Over the past month, the team wrapped up final art on the cargo room and the main lift with the goal of maximizing the space to allow for easier transportation of cargo. For the cockpit, the team implemented retractable screens which fold around the player when seated to make the confined area more functional. The team continued work on the bridge area and bridge lift, which provides access to the lower deck, and were thrilled to see the tractor beam seats transition from concept to final art.

Foundry 42 DE




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The Level Design team finished their work for the surface outposts and passed them along to the Environment Art team. They also turned over whiteboxes for both the modular hangars and garages to the art team for their visual exploration phase.

With the whiteboxing phase complete, they’re focused on implementing the markup required for all our locations, this involves everything from room systems (breathing), environment interactions (e.g. vaulting), elevators and consoles for spawning ships and vehicles. Levski will have a combination of hangars and garages to spawn ships, as well as vehicles to explore the planetary surface. With the bulk of the work completed on the previously mentioned locations they’re now moving over to the remaining Flagship Landing Zones for the Stanton system. The first ones they will tackle are Area18 and Lorville, followed by Orison and New Babbage.


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The engine team worked on consistent capturing of both atmosphere and sky in cube maps so we can seamlessly blend between global atmosphere and local cube map based lighting. This new system will ultimately give the game a higher level of visual fidelity. They implemented an improved compression algorithm for the new pak file system to allow for more efficient data streaming due to reduced CPU overhead during decompression. This will be part of the new incremental patcher, which is designed to make patches and updates much more efficient.

They also worked on one of our internal tools called the Planet Editor (PlanEd). Artists and designers have several needs for marking areas on a planet (identify where specific objects should be spawned within an ecosystem, areas to be punched out to embed brushes or complex structures such as landing zones, etc.), so the code was unified to make it easier to reuse and extend in the future as more functionality is needed.


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The AI team has been busy as usual. This month, they worked on Buddy AI, where NPCs will intelligently follow a designated leader, and made progress on ship AI, getting it one step closer to be fully controlled via Subsumption.

The team also worked on a sprint that focused on Human Combat. They spent time refining behaviors for first reactions to enemies seen and events heard. The reactions vary in direction and speed, from casual situations, to quick reactions for loud events and so on. This was achieved by triggering the appropriate animation from a start pose to the action intended and once the behavior is verified, they’ll get fully hooked up in game. They also made progress on Friendly Fire to make sure Friendlies are identified correctly in combat situations.


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The Frankfurt VFX team continued to work on effects for the various planet surface types, covering a wide range of effects, from simple footsteps, to weapon impacts, and vehicle tire effects.

They also did some early experimentation with rigid body simulations and the workflow for S42 cinematics. This will cover the many mesh destruction and deformation animations that are required for the S42 single player missions.


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The lighting team brought all surface outposts to final lighting, which included creating a consistent set of lighting fixtures, temperature charts, and rules which we can use to define how each type of outpost looks. The team also created a library of prefabs combining existing props with lighting elements which can be easily iterated on and propagated across all outposts.


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The Tech Art team had a variety of tasks this month. They continued to create numerous Mannequin animation fragments for the Cinematic team.

They implemented the game Entity for the new Kastak Arms Custodian SMG energy weapon with the blocked-out mesh and rig. Now that it’s implemented, other departments like animation and VFX can start working with it in game.

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The team added additional features to our internal Playblast tool to make it easier for the animators to create simple renders of their work, which are primarily used for animation reviews.

Finally, they also made great progress with new weapon dynamics and secondary motions using both in-game physics and simulation. The initial results were very promising, and the secondary animation will add one more level of subtle detail and realism to the verse.


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This month, the Environment Art team worked on the updated material distribution, which will add a more varied breakup of the ecosystem ground materials on the surface of all three moons. The team nearly wrapped up work on the landing pads that will go with the surface outpost to give the players a stable solid landing point on what otherwise might be rough terrain. The surface of Delamar also received its final polish, with geology and materials being updated and fine-tuned. The surface is also getting an FX pass, adding an extra layer of visual interest to the environment and atmosphere. The area surrounding Levski will also have more areas of interest for players to explore.

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In Levski, final touches are being put into the Customs area. All player traffic in and out of Levski will have to go through this checkpoint, so extra effort is being put in to make it both visually interesting and provide a potential deterrent for players trying to smuggle in unwanted goods.

The team also nearly completed work on the garages and will soon be ready to include them in the level. Once this work is completed, players will be able to request a vehicle in the garage and go out and explore Delamar’s surface. The elevators in Levski have also been updated with new models fitting the modular building set that we are using across the game.


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The team finished up the remaining weapon features for 3.0 such as the Railgun cover animations, delayed recoils, and delayed ADS reticle.

They also completed the first iteration of the doors and airlocks and are now implementing the technical hooks for adding VFX and sound effects to make them available for the rest of the team to use. With the help of engineers from the UK and LA offices, the technical design for the network code of the new weapon system is being fleshed out and the overall research phase is coming to an end. The first test implementations will be started as soon as all other 3.0 tasks are completed.


Cinematics worked with UK graphics engineering to test out a working version of our brand new “Holographic projection volume entity tech.” This essentially provides a target holographic volume with content, fed from a source scene, that gets rendered into the volume and will allow us to have characters communicating via hologram to characters in a scene or have the hologlobes switch to a scripted mode and show mission briefings, all in real-time without resorting to things like pre-rendered motion graphics. This tech, minus the holographic component, will also be used to stream comms from other ships (cockpits) onto cockpit MFDs or other displays, all in real-time. As usual, the team also made progress across multiple chapters for S42.


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The Frankfurt QA team started testing the new CigDataPatcher in May and testing has continued through into June. Patcher testing is done daily, as well as on the client, Editor, and dedicated game server copied via CigDataPatcher. The main goal is to make sure there are no differences between builds pulled via the new patcher and builds pulled with our current internal build tool, CopyBuild 2. CopyBuild 3 had also been rolled out to QA at the beginning of June and has been in its QA testing phase in conjunction with CigDataPatcher.

Subsumption Editor testing continued to be a regular part of their weekly tasks as new versions with new features become available. QA works closely with Tony Zurovec and Francesco Roccucci to ensure that each Subsumption Editor release is free of anything that could block the development process. The team also spent a good portion of time testing four player gameplay in the Stanton System Persistent Universe level.


The System Design team continued to expand the library of usables for both the PU and S42. The Air Traffic Control also made headway and you should be able to experience this in-game soon. They started work on the FPS companion/buddy AI, including all the orders you can give them and the behaviors needed for those orders to take effect. The Actor Status system is being internally tested right now and is going through its final tweaking and balancing. They also put some finishing touches to the conversation system to allow our Cinematics team to create the best experiences possible.


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The weapons team blocked out numerous universal grip and optics attachments and converted older blocked out items to work with our new attachment rail system. The team did a quick first pass to test them on the existing guns to see how well they work and if any of the designs need to be adjusted.

They also completed the first pass blockout for the Klaus & Werner “Demeco,” light energy machine gun. For ship weapons, they finished the Preacher Armaments Distortion S4-S6 and Upgrade Levels 1-3. They also did a first pass blockout including rough animations for the Klaus & Werner Laser Repeater S1-S3, the Neutron Repeater S1-S3 and the Apocalypse Arms Ballistic Scattergun S1-S3.





This month we moved 0.3.6A version of Spectrum up to the PTU for regression testing which will test all the backend changes that we’ve made to prepare for the eventual desktop integration.

The team also worked on features that will be in the new 0.3.6 build. The first of which is the forum editor. The new version will be introducing drafts when creating thread posts. The system will save your progress and allow you to move to other threads before returning and finishing your post. The new forum editor will also allow you to do inline images and add more markdown support for increased styling options.


Another major feature in 0.3.6A is custom roles for your Organization. The team has created a system that will let you see member lists directly from your Spectrum or Management port and then allow you to change the roles of users by visiting their profile. These customs will also have a custom set of permissions in addition to the ones provided by the Org system. This should create flexibility in how Org leaders assign members to groups, how you let them see specific sub-forums or sub chats within your orgs.

Mini profiles are also going to be converted to a more compact setup with a dedicated set of actions. You will now be able to see post counts for all the users as well as their Karma. If you aren’t familiar, Karma is a system that gives you points when people upvote content that you’ve created. The mini profile will also include a hotlink to message people directly rather than navigating through several sub-menus.

In other news, the team laid some important groundwork on the backend for voice. The team worked on the transmission part of our voice infrastructure, specifically how servers will direct and route people to different voice servers and what kind of data channel will work best for transmitting voice along with game data.

Sentry_02.jpg Sentry_01.jpg

Totally unrelated to Spectrum, the team built a system for 3.0 to handle crashes. Several years ago, the team created a system called Panic that tracks client crashes, so they integrated our Panic system with an UI tool called Sentry to track client crashes, see the repro counts, assign those to developers, link them to JIRA issues, and view regression notifications from the game crashes. The team developed a custom SDK integration with Sentry that’s going to help developers in the testing phases for 3.0.

Otherwise, the main teams continued to work on ‘Welcome to SC’, the new Star Citizen website revamp. Most of the design work is finished for mobile, tablets, and other platforms and have now entered full coding mode.




We were proud to introduce the next great space bike, the Aopoa Nox! The Nox is a sleek, alien ship design that takes the Dragonfly bike concept and presents it a little differently. We introduced the sale with small interactive RP sessions on Twitter and Spectrum, then followed it up with a cool racing brochure and a beautiful website from the team at Turbulent. We were so excited to see how happy everyone was with their bikes, and can’t wait to let you try them yourselves in Alpha 3.0.

This month’s community shows covered everything from bikes to … the parts that make bikes! Happy Hours included an in-depth look at Items 2.0 and a fun throwback stream to the days of Reverse the Verse. Loremakers opened up more of the galaxy and Bugsmashers showed you some of the first in-engine footage of the Nox.

This summer, Bar Citizens are taking off like a rocket! It seems like there are more of them every weekend, including one week in June where there was a meetup close enough to each of our studios that developers around the world were all able to attend! In Los Angeles, we were on hand to kick off the first ever Food Citizen at a Peruvian restaurant — great food and even better company!

Event planning for our big presentations later this year, Gamescom and CitizenCon, continued and tickets for both went on sale and were gone almost immediately! In the case of CitizenCon last weekend, batches of tickets sold out in under a minute. We’re looking at options for bigger venues for next year and will keep you updated.

Behind the screens, we continued work on the New Player Experience and the long-awaited ship stats updates. The former is aimed at helping new backers learn to fly and navigate the verse, while the latter will provide more accurate, up-to-date ship stats through the website.

We tried a new sort of article for Jump Point this month, turning a design document on thrusters into an article about… well, how we place thrusters. It’s a tribute to the depth of the systems the team is creating for Star Citizen that something so obscure could turn into a pretty interesting guide!

Subscribers had a couple of cool treats this month, including a holographic model of Port Olisar for their hangars, several vault updates covering the development of the Nox and a license to try the Caterpillar free of charge all June. We saw some pretty amazing tricks when the Cat fleets massed, including Caterpillar bowling!

Finally, the Subscriber Town Hall held this month starred the Star Citizen character tech team. Characters are going to be at the heart of Star Citizen, and it’s always great when we can highlight some of the team responsible for the tech that will allow you to create YOUR Star Citizen in the ‘Verse. So, thanks to everyone who participated and thank you especially to the Subscribers who provide the questions each and every month.



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Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. - Lord Acton
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I am the Law. - Judge Dredd

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      A recorded hymn played as they sent Arun “Boomer” Ains­ley into whatever great adventure awaits in the everafter. Gavin set the service in the Rhedd Alert hangar, and the recording sounded terrible. The last somber note rebounded off the room’s hard surfaces and harsh angles.
      He wished they could have had a live band. He would have paid for an orchestra, if one were to be had on the orbit­al station. Even a bugle would have been a better tribute for the man who had brought Dell into his life. For the man who taught him and Walt so much about living a free life.
      Dell’s arm felt small around his waist and Gavin pulled her in close to him, unsure if that was the right thing to do. He turned to kiss her hair and saw Walt’s lean form looming beside them. Walt’s face was fixed in a grim mask.
      Gavin knew his brother well enough to know that Walt was berating himself inside. He didn’t deal well with guilt or re­sponsibility, and Gavin suspected that was a big part of why Walt always ran.
      The gathering started to break up. Pilots and the hangar crew busied themselves with tasks around Rhedd Alert’s battered fleet of fighters. Dell didn’t move, so he stayed there with her. Walt rested a hand on his shoulder.
      “Gavin. Oh gods, Dell. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
      Jazza leaned in and spoke in a low tone, almost a whisper. “Landing gear up in ten, boss. Your rig is on the buggy.” She motioned with her chin to where his ship waited.
      Dell turned into him and squeezed. “Be careful.”
      “I will, babe.”
      “You come home to me, Gavin Rhedd. I’ll kill you myself if you make me run this outfit on my own.”
      He pressed his lips to the top of her head. Held them there.
      “Wait. What?” Walt’s jaw was slack, his eyes wide. “Tell me you aren’t going back out there.”
      Jazza bumped Walt with her shoulder, not so much walking past him as through him. “Damn right we are, Quitter.”
      “You know what? Screw you, Jazz. All right? You used to quit this outfit, like . . . twice a month.”
      “Not like you. Not like some chicken sh—”
      “Jazz,” Gavin said, “go make sure the team is ready to roll, would ya?” With a nod to Gavin and a parting glare at Walt, she moved away into the hangar.
      “Let it be, Walt. We really do need to go. After last time, we can’t risk being late for the pickup.”
      “Screw late!” Walt’s eyes were wide and red-rimmed around the edges. “Why the happy hells are you going at all?”
      “Walt —”
      “Don’t ‘Walt’ me, Gavin. There is a pack of psychopaths out there trying to kill you!”
      “Walt, would you shut up and listen for two seconds? We don’t have a choice, okay? We’ve got everything riding on this job. We’re months behind on this place and extended up to our necks on credit for fuel, parts, and ammo.”
      “They can damn well bill me!”
      “No,” Gavin said, “they can’t. Your shares reverted back to the company when you quit. But I’m legit now. You think we lived life on the run before? Just you watch if I try to run from this.”
      Walt turned to Dell for assistance, “Dell, come on. You gotta make him listen to reason.”
      “Boomer’s shares transferred to me when he died,” Dell said. “We’re in this together.”
      “Okay, boss,” Jazza called. The three of them looked to where she stood with a line of determined crew. “It’s time.”
      Walt watched the big bay doors close as the last of Gavin’s team left the hangar. His fighter and the few remaining ships looked small and awkwardly out of place in the big room. Standing alone next to Dell gave him a great appreci­ation for that awkwardness.
      “I’m so sorry, Dell. If I’d been there —”
      “Don’t,” she stopped him with a word, and then contin­ued with a shake of her blue-tipped hair. “Don’t do that to yourself. I’ve been over the tactical logs. He got beat one-on-one, and then they OK’d him. There was nothing you could have done.”
      “I still feel rotten,” he said. “Like, maybe if I hadn’t left . . . I don’t know.”
      “Gavin blames himself, too. That’s just the way you two are built. But believe me, there was never a soul alive able to keep my dad out of the cockpit. He was flying long before you Rhedd boys tumbled into our lives.”
      That gave him a smile. A genuine smile. It seemed to bright­en Dell’s mood, so he did his best to hang onto it.
      “Come on,” she said. “It’s been a long couple of weeks. Join me for some coffee?”
      He did, and for a time they spoke softly at the tall tables in the hangar’s kitchenette. Dell caught him up on life aboard Vista Landing since he had left. She was clearly exhausted and not simply from a sleepless night and her father’s funeral. Her shoulders sagged, and dark circles under her eyes were the product of weeks of labor and worry. The constant apprehension of the Hornets’ vi­cious attacks had apparently exhausted more than just the pilots. It seemed odd that the attacks felt strangely personal.
      “You know what I can’t figure out?” he mused aloud. Dell looked at him, tired eyes politely expectant. “What the hell are these guys after?”
      She nodded, “Yeah. There’s been a lot of speculating on that question.”
      “Hard to say, isn’t it? Could be political wackos opposed to the research in Haven. Or maybe it’s one of the old gangs that don’t like us going legit. Could be it’s a group of Tevarin lashing out against UEE targets. Who knows?”
      “Naw. If they were Tevarin, we could tell by how they fly.”
      “Then you tell me, if you’re so smart. I mean, you were out there. You fought them.”
      Walt shrugged and took a sip of cooling coffee. Something she said nagged at him. “Hey, you said you had navsat tac­tical logs from the fight, right?”
      “Yeah.” What remained of her energy seemed to drain away with that one word. Walt cursed himself for the insensitive ass that he was. He’d just asked her about re­corded replays of her father’s murder.
      “Dell. Ah, hell . . . I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”
      “It’s okay,” she said. “I’ve been over and over them already. Really, I don’t mind.”
      They moved to a console and the lights dimmed automat­ically when she pulled up the hangar projection. She se­lected a ship, and oriented the view so that the hologram of Boomer’s Avenger filled the display. No, Walt reminded himself, it wasn’t Boomer’s ship any more. Dell was his heir and — along with his debt — Boomer’s assets now belonged to her.
      Dell bypassed the default display of the structural hard­points and dove into the ship’s systems. Something caught his eye and he stopped her. “Wait, back up.” She did, and Walt stopped the rotating display to look along the under­carriage of the ship. He let out a low whistle.
      “That, Walter Rhedd, is a Tarantula GT-870 Mk3.”
      “I know what it is. But where did you get it?”
      “Remember those pirates that gave us so much trouble in Oberon? I pulled it before we sold the salvage.”
      He certainly did remember, and the bastards had kicked the crap out of two of their ships with their Tarantulas. “How’d you get it mounted on an Avenger?”
      “Hammer therapy,” she said. He gave her a confused look, and she held up one arm, curling it to make a muscle. “I beat the hell out of it until it did what I wanted.”
      “Damn, girl.”
      “Did you want to see the flight recorder?”
      They watched the navsat replays together in silence. It looked like one hell of a fight. Chaotic. Frantic. The Rhedd Alert fighters were hard pressed.
      Jazza had moments of tactical brilliance. As much as she rubbed him the wrong way, Walt had to admit that she made her Cutlass dance steps for which it wasn’t de­signed. Gavin orchestrated a coherent strategy and had committed extra fighters to drive off the attack. Some­thing was wrong, though. Something about the fight didn’t make sense.
      Walt had Dell replay the scene so he could focus on the marauders. It didn’t look like much of a fight at all from that perspective. It looked more like a game and only one team understood how all the pieces moved. The Hornets flew to disrupt, to confuse. They knew Gavin would send a force forward to protect the transport. He’d done it every time they had met.
      “See that?” he said. “They break apart there and get called immediately back into formation. They never leave a flank exposed. Our guys never get a real opening.” He pointed out one of the attacking Hornets. “That one calls the shots.”
      “That’s the one that OK’d Boomer.”
      Reds and greens from the navsat display sparkled in Dell’s eyes. Her voice was emotionless and flat. Walt didn’t want to see her like that, so he focused again on the display.
      The marauder he’d identified as the leader broke from the melee. Gavin gave chase, but from too far behind. Boomer intercepted, was disabled, and his PRB flashed red on the display. The Hornet took a pass at the transport before turning to rejoin its squad. Then it decelerated, pausing before the overkill on Boomer.
      “Why take only one pass at the transport? They’ve hit us, what? Six times? Seven? And once they finally get a shot at the target, they bug out?”
      “You said, ‘us’,” Dell teased. “You back to stay?”
      Walt huffed a small laugh. “We’ll see.”
      “We’ve been lucky,” Dell offered in answer to his question. “So far, we’ve chased them off.”
      “You really believe that? They had this fight won if they wanted it. And how do they keep finding us? It’s like they’ve taken up permanent residence in our damned flight path.”
      That was it. He had it. The revelation must have shown on his face.
      “What?” Dell asked. “What is it?”
      “Back it up to the strafe on the Aquila.”
      Dell did, and they watched it again. He felt like an ass for making her watch the murder of her father over again, but he had to be sure of what he saw.
      And there it was. Strafe. Turn. Pause. A decision to com­mit. An escalating act of brutality. And then they were gone.
      “She’s not after the transport at all. We were her target this whole time.”
      “Wait,” Dell said, “what she? Her who?”
      “Please tell me your ex hasn’t drunk himself out of a job with the Navy.”
      “Barry? Of course not, why?”
      “Because I just figured out who killed your father.”
      Morgan Brock called the meeting to a close and dismissed her admin team. Riebeld caught her eye and lifted one hand off the table — a request for her to stay while the others shuffled out of the conference room.
      Riebeld kept her waiting until they were alone, and then stood to close the door.
      “I take it,” Brock said, “that our Tyrol problem persists despite the escalation?”
      “I got word during the meeting” — he took a seat beside her at the table, voice pitched low — “that they should be making the jump to Nexus soon.”
      “Our discreet pilots? Are they deployed or here at the sta­tion?”
      His answer was slow in coming, his nod reluctant. “They are here.”
      Brock checked the time. Did some mental math. “Disguise the ships. We will leave at 1700 and meet them in Nexus just inside the gate from Min.”
      “Morgan,” Riebeld’s eyes roamed the room, “these guys aren’t taking the hint. I don’t know what losses we have to hand them before they back down, but . . . I don’t know. Part of doing business is losing bids, am I right?” She didn’t disagree and he continued. “Maybe . . . Maybe we ought to write this one off?”
      “A comfortable position to hold in your seat, Riebeld. Your commission is based on the contract value. I barely turned a profit on that job for years. I did it willingly, with the expected reward of windfall profits when traffic to Haven surges.”
      “I get that,” he said. “I really do. But at some point we have to call it a loss and focus on the next thing, right?”
      “Then suppose that we let the Tyrol job go, and Greely and Navy SysCom see what they want to see from bou­tique contractors. I can already imagine anti-establishment politicians pushing for more outsourced work. Hell, they will probably promise contracts to buy votes in their home systems.”
      She watched him squirm. It wasn’t like him to wrestle with his conscience. Frankly, she was disappointed to learn that he’d found one.
      “If Rhedd Alert won’t withdraw willingly,” she said, “then they will have to fail the hard way. Prep the ships, Rie­beld. We have done very well together, you and I. You should know that I won’t back away from what is mine.” He seemed to appreciate her sincerity, but Brock wanted to hear the cocksure salesman say it. “Are we clear?”
      “Yes, ma’am,” Riebeld swallowed and stood. “Perfectly clear.”
      “Any luck?” Walt pulled up Barry’s record in his mobiGlas and hit connect.
      Dell sat at the hangar console trying to reach Gavin and the team. Her brow furrowed in a grimace and she shook her head.
      “Damn. Okay, keep trying.”
      Barry connected. The accountant wore his uniform. He was on duty, wherever he was, and his projected face looked genuinely mournful. “Hey,” he said, “long time no see, man. Listen, I can’t tell you how sad I am about Boomer.”
      “Thanks.” Barry had known Dell and Boomer for most his life. He’d probably been torn between attending the service and allowing the family to grieve in privacy. Regardless, commiseration would have to wait. “We need your help, Barry. Please tell me that you have access to the propos­als for the Tyrol contract.”
      “Of course I do. And who’s we? Are you back with Dell and Gavin?”
      “I am,” he felt Dell’s eyes on him when he said it. “Anyway, we need a favor. I need to know the ship models and con­figurations proposed by the incumbent.”
      “Morgan Brock’s outfit, sure. No can do on the ship data, though. That information is all confidential. Only the price proposals are available for public review, and those only during the protest period.”
      “Come on, Barry. We’re not talking trade secrets here. I could figure this out with a fly-by of their hangar in Kilian. I just don’t have time for that. I need to know what ships those guys fly.”
      Barry breathed out a heavy sigh, “Hold on. But I can’t send you the proposals, okay? You guys are already on thin ice with this contract as is.”
      “Tell me about it. And thanks, I owe you huge for this.”
      Walt waited, throat dry. He scratched at a chipped edge on his worn mobiGlas with a fingernail.
      “All right,” Barry read from something off-screen, “it looks like they’re flying a variety of Hornets. Specifically, F7As. I can send you a list of the proposed hardpoints, and I hap­pen to know that Brock herself flies a Super Hornet.”
      The mobiGlas shook on Walt’s wrist. His face felt hot, and he forced his jaw to relax. “Barry, if you have any pull with the Navy, get some ships to Tyrol. It’s been Brock this whole time. She’s been setting us up to fail. And she’s the bitch that OK’d Boomer.”
      “I’m going, Walt. That’s final.”
      Walt rubbed at his eyes with the flat part of his fingers. How did Gavin ever win an argument her? Forbidding her involvement was a lost cause. Maybe he could reason with her. “Listen. When’s the last time you were even in a cockpit?”
      “I know this ship. I was practically born in these things.”
      “Dell —”
      She threw his helmet at him. He caught it awkwardly, and she had shed her coveralls and was wriggling into her flight suit before he could finish his thought. She stared at him with hard eyes and said, “Suit up if you don’t want to get left behind.”
      Dell was as implacable as gravity. Fine. It was her funeral, and he realized there was no way his brother had ever won an argument with her.
      They finished prepping in silence. Walt pulled the chocks on her Avenger when she climbed up into the cockpit. He gave the hulking muzzle of the Tarantula an appreciative pat. “You have ammo for this bad boy?”
      “I have a little.”
      “Good,” he smiled. “Let’s hope Brock isn’t ready to handle reinforcements.”
      Walt mulled that thought over. It was true that Gavin had split their team in each fight, but Rhedd Alert had never sent in reserves. Each engagement had been a fair and straightforward fight. Brock wasn’t likely to know anything about their resources, however limited, beyond the escort team. That could work to their advantage.
      In fact, “Hey, Dell. Hop out for a tick, will you?”
      “Like hell I will.” The look she shot down at him was pure challenge. “I said I’m going and that’s that.”
      “Oh, no. I’ve already lost that fight. But you and your cannon here got me thinking about those pirates in Oberon. Tell me, did we ever find a buyer for that old Idris hull?”
      “No. It’s buoyed in storage outside the station, why?”
      Dell looked at him skeptically and he grinned. “We’re going to introduce these military-types to
      some ol’ smugglers’ tricks.”
      Gavin held the team at the edge of the jump gate between Min and Nexus. “All right gang, listen up. You know the drill and what might be waiting for us on the other side. Jazza, I want you and Rahul up on point for this jump. I’ll bring Cassiopeia over after you and the rest of the team are in. Anyone not ready to jump?”
      His team was silent as they arranged themselves into position with professional precision. The pilot aboard Cassiopeia sounded the ready and Gavin sent Jazza through. The others were hard on her heels, and Gavin felt the always-peculiar drop through the mouth of the jump gate.
      Light and sound stretched, dragging him across the inter­space. Another drop, a moment’s disorientation, and then Nexus resolved around him.
      Without warning, Mei’s fighter flashed past his forward screen. Incandescent laser fire slashed along the ghost grey and fire-alarm red ship, crippling Mei’s shields and shearing away sections of armored hull. Mei fired back at a trio of maddeningly familiar Hornets in a tight triangular formation.
      Jazza barked orders. “Mei. Rahul. Flank Gavin and get Cassiopeia out of here. Gavin, you copy that? You have the package.”
      He shook his head, willing the post-jump disorientation away. He didn’t remember bringing up his shields, but they flashed on his HUD and his weapon systems were armed.
      “Copy that.” Gavin switched to the transport channel, “Cassiopeia. Let’s get you folks out of here.”
      The crew onboard the UEE transport didn’t need any more encouragement. Gavin accelerated to keep pace with the larger ship as two Rhedd Alert fighters dropped into posi­tion above and below him. Together, they raced toward the jump gate to Tyrol.
      The Hornets wheeled and dropped toward them from one side. Gavin’s HUD lit up with alerts as Jazza sent a pair of rockets dangerously close over his head to blast into one of the attacking ships. Her ship screamed by overhead, but the Hornets stayed in pursuit of the fleeing transport.
      Alarms sounded. They needed more firepower on the Hornets to give Cassiopeia time to get clear. He yelled a course heading, and Cassiopeia dove with Mei and Rahul on either flank.
      Gavin pulled up, turned and fired to pull the attention of the attackers. He spun, taking the brunt of their return fire on his stronger starboard shields.
      The impact shook the Cutlass violently, and his shield integ­rity bar sagged into the red. Gavin turned, took another wild shot with his lasers, and accelerated away from Cassiopeia with the Hornets in close pursuit.
      Navsat data for the jump into Nexus crept onto the edge of Walt’s HUD. Several seconds and thousands of kilometers later, the first of the embattled starships winked onto the display. His brother and the Rhedd Alert team were hard-pressed.
      Walt watched Brock and her crew circle and strike, corralling the Rhedd Alert ships. Gavin tried to lead the attackers away, but Brock wouldn’t bite. By keeping the fight centered on the UEE transport, she essentially held the transport hostage.
      Time to even the odds.
      Jazza tore into one of the Hornets. Walt saw the enemy fighter’s superior shields absorb the impact. He marked that Hornet as his target, preparing to strike before its defenses recharged.
      He killed his primary drive and spun end to end, slash­ing backward through the melee like a blazing comet. His targeting system locked onto the enemy Hornet, and his heavy Broadsword blasted bullets into it.
      Mei’s battered fighter dove through the streaming wreck­age, but the Super Hornet, presumably Brock, waited for her on the other side. A blast from her neutron cannon tore through the Rhedd Alert ship. Mei ejected safely, but their team was down a ship.
      “Gods,” Gavin’s voice was frantic. “Get the hell out of here, Walt. Form up with the transport and get them away from the fight.”
      Walt ignored him. He came around for another pass and triggered his mic to an open-area channel. “The game’s up, Brock.”
      His words cut across the thrust and wheel of close com­bat, and for a moment the fighters on all sides flew in quiet patterns above the fleeing Cassiopeia.
      “You know,” Walt said, “if you wanted us to believe you were after the transport, you should have saved your big guns for Cassiopeia instead of overkilling our friend.”
      “I suppose I should be disappointed that you have found me out,” Brock’s voice was a pinched sneer, and every bit as cold and hard as Gavin had described. “On the other hand, I’m glad you’ve shared this with me. I might have been content disabling the majority of your so-called fleet. Now, it seems that I will have to be more thorough.”
      She fired, he dodged, and the fight was on again in earnest. Walt switched his comms to Rhedd Alert’s squad channel. “Brock was never after Cassiopeia, Gav. She’s been after us.”
      “Maybe I’m a little distracted by all the missiles and the neutron cannon, but I’m failing to see how that is at all relevant right now.”
      “We’re no match for the tech in her ships. If she goes after the transport, they’re toast.” He rolled into position next to Gavin. Together, they nosed down to strafe at a Hornet from above.
      “Great,” Gavin said, “then why did you tip her off?”
      Walt suppressed a wicked grin. “Because,” he said, “she can’t afford to let any of us get away, either.”
      “If you have any brilliant ideas, spit ’em out. I’m all ears.”
      “Run with me.” For all Walt knew, Brock could hear every word they were saying. She would tear them apart if they stayed. He had to get Gavin to follow him. “Run with me, Gavin.”
      “Damn it, Walt! If you came to help, then help. I’ve got a pilot down, and I’m not leaving her here to get OK’d like Boom­er.”
      “This ain’t about doing the easy thing, Gav. Someone I truly admire once told me that this game is all about trust. So ask yourself . . . do you trust me?”
      Gavin growled his name then, dragging out the word in a bitter, internal struggle. The weight of it made Walt’s throat constrict. Despite all of their arguments, Boomer’s death and his own desertion when things got hard — in spite of all of that — his brother still wanted to trust him.
      “Trust me, Gavin.”
      Brock and her wingman swept low, diving to corral Cassiopeia and its escorts. Jazza redirected them with a blazing torrent of laser fire and got rocked by the neutron cannon in return. The shields around her battered Cutlass flashed, dimmed and then failed.
      Walt gritted his teeth. It was now or never.
      “Jazz,” Gavin’s voice sounded hard and sharp, “rally with Cassiopeia and make a break for it.”
      Walt pumped his fist and accelerated back the way he’d come in.
      “Walt,” Gavin sounded angry enough to eat nails, but he followed, “I’m on your six. Let’s go, people! Move like you’ve got a purpose.”
      Walt pulled up a set of coordinate presets and streaked away with Gavin close behind him. The two remaining Hor­nets split, with Brock falling in behind Gavin to give pursuit. Even together he and Gavin didn’t have much chance of getting past her superior shields. Instead, he set a straight course for the waypoint marked at the edge of his display. When incoming fire from Brock drove them off course, he corrected to put them directly back in line with the mark.
      Brock was gaining. Gavin’s icon flashed on his display. She was close enough to hit reliably with her repeaters. As they approached the preset coordinates, Walt spotted a rippling distortion of winking starlight. Correcting his course slightly, he headed straight for it. Gavin and Brock were hard behind him.
      “Come on,” Walt whispered, “stay close.”
      On the squad display, he saw Gavin’s shield integrity dropped yet again. Brock was scoring more frequent hits.
      “A little farther.”
      Walt focused on the rippling of starlight ahead, a dark patch of space that swallowed Nexus’ star. He made a slight course correction and Gavin matched it. Together, they continued their breakneck flight from Brock’s deadly onslaught.
      The small patch of dark space grew as the three ships streaked forward. Walt opened the squad channel on his mic and shouted, “Now!”
      On his HUD, a new ship flared onto the display. It appeared to materialize nearly on top of them as Dell’s Avenger dropped from her hiding place inside the blackened hull of the derelict Idris.
      Walt punched his thrusters. The lift pressed him into his seat as he pushed up and over their trap. He heard Dell shouting over the squad channel, and he turned, straining to see behind him. Bright flashes from Brock’s muzzles accompanied a horrible pounding thunder. Dell had left her mic open and it sounded like the massive gun was threat­ening to tear her ship apart.
      “Heads up, Gav!”
      Dell’s voice hit Gavin like a physical blow.
      He saw his brother climb and suddenly disappear behind an empty, starless expanse. Then Boomer’s Avenger materi­alized from within that blackness, and Gavin knew that his wife was inside the cockpit. She was with him, out in the black where veteran pilots outgunned them.
      His body reacted where his mind could not. He shoved down, hard. Thrusters strained as he instinctively tried to avoid colliding with her. A brilliant pulse like flashes of light­ning accompanied a jarring thunder of sound.
      Gavin forced his battered ship to turn. The Cutlass shud­dered from the stress, and Gavin was pressed into the side of the cockpit as the nose of his ship came around.
      He saw the first heavy round strike Brock. The combined force of the shell and her momentum shredded her for­ward shields. Then round after round tore through the nose of Brock’s ship until the air ignited inside.
      “Dell” — the flaming Hornet tumbled toward his wife like an enormous hatchet — “look out!”
      Brock ejected.
      Dell thrust to one side, but the Hornet chopped into the hull where she had hidden. The explosion sent ships and debris spinning apart in all directions.
      He swept around to intercept her spinning ship. Walt beat him there. Thrusters firing in tightly controlled move­ments, Walt caught her Avenger, slowed it and stopped the spin.
      Gavin rolled to put himself cockpit to cockpit with his wife.
      She sat in stillness at the controls, her head down and turned to one side.
      “Come on, baby. Talk to me.”
      She moved.
      With the slow deliberateness of depressurized space, she rolled her head on her shoulders. When she looked up, their eyes met. Dell gave him a slow smile and a thumbs-up. He swallowed hard, and with one hand pressed to his heart, he shut his eyes silently in thanks.
      Gavin spun his Cutlass and thrust over to where Brock floated nearby, his weapons systems still hot. He paused then, looming above her as she had hesitated over Boomer.
      Her comms were still active. “What now, Rhedd?”
      He remembered her from the meeting with Greely. Tall, lean, and crisp. She seemed small now, drifting not more than a meter away from the battle-scarred nose of his Cutlass.
      “Gavin?” Dell’s voice sounded small after the ruckus of the fight.
      Walt eased into view alongside him. His voice was low and calm, “Easy, buddy. We weren’t raised to OK pilots.”
      “She’s not worth it,” Dell said.
      Brock snarled, “Do it already.”
      He had studied Brock’s reports for months. She had more ships and more pilots than he could ever imagine employing. What drove her to harass them and kill one of his crew for this job?
      “I just want to know why,” he asked. “You’ve got other contracts. You’ve probably made more money than any of us will see in our lives. Why come after us?”
      He held Brock’s eye, the lights from the Cutlass reflecting from her visor.
      “Why?” she repeated. “Look around you, Rhedd. There’s no law in these systems. All that matters here is courage to take what you want, and a willingness to sacrifice to keep it.”
      “You want to talk sacrifice?” he said. “That pilot you killed was family.”
      “You put him in harm’s way,” she said, “not me. What little order exists in these systems is what I brought with me. I carved my success from nothing. You independents are thieves. You’re like rodents, nibbling at the edges of others’ success.”
      “I was a thief,” he said, “and a smuggler. But we’re building our own success, and next time you and I meet with the Navy,” Gavin fired his thrusters just enough to punch Brock with the nose of his ship, “it’ll be in a court­room.”
      She spun and tumbled as she flew, growing smaller and smaller until the PRB on his HUD was all he could see.
      A pair of Retaliators with naval designations were moored outside the Rhedd Alert hangar when Gavin and the crew finally limped back to Vista Landing.
      Crew aboard Cassiopeia had insisted on helping with medical care and recovery after the fight. The team scheduled for pick-up at Haven was similarly adamant that Rhedd Alert take care of their own before continuing. Technically, no one had checked with Navy SysCom.
      Did the Navy fire contractors face to face? For all he knew, they did.
      Gavin saw to the staging of their damaged ships while the others hurried the wounded deeper into Vista Landing. When he’d finished, he exchanged a quick nod with Barry Lidst who stood at ease behind Major Greely.
      “Major,” Gavin held out his hand, “I assume someone would have told me already if I was fired.”
      His hand disappeared in the major’s massive paw. “I sup­pose they would have, at that.”
      “Then to what do we owe the honor?” Dell and Walt joined them, and Gavin made introductions.
      “‘I’ first, then ‘we,’ ” Greely repeated, “I like that, Rhedd. I appreciate a man who accepts consequence personally but insists on sharing accolades with his team. Tell me, son. How’d you get Brock?”
      Gavin nudged his wife. With a roguish grin, Dell pulled her arm from around Gavin’s waist and stepped over to pat the Tarantula on her battered Avenger.
      “Nice shooting, miss.”
      Dell shrugged, “Walt pulled my tags, nav beacon and flight recorder before we left. I was sitting dark inside a decoy when the boys flew her right down the barrel.”
      Barry leaned toward Greely and in a completely audible whisper said, “It might be best if we ignore the illegal parts of that.”
      Greely waved him off. “This is what the ’verse needs. Men and women with the courage to slap their name up on the side of a hangar. A chance for responsible civilians to create good, honest jobs with real pay for locals. That an ex-military contractor tried to muck that up . . .”
      Gavin and the team got a good, close look at what angry looked like on a Navy officer. It was the kind of scowl that left an impression.
      “Anyway,” Greely composed himself, “not a soul in the ’verse would blame you for writing us off as a bit of bad business. I’m here to ask that you stick with it.”
      Gavin was reluctant to bring their financial situation up in front of their one paying client, but they were tapped out. Rhedd Alert didn’t have the cred to buy ammo, much less repair their downed fighters. “Actually, sir. I think we may need to find something a little more lucrative than getting shot up by disgruntled incumbents.”
      “About that,” Greely rested his hand on Gavin’s shoulder. He led him to look out one of the large hangar windows at the Retaliators buoyed outside. “My accountant tells me there may be some room to renegotiate certain parts of the Tyrol contract. But that job won’t be enough to keep your team busy now that Brock’s out of the way.”
      Gavin laughed. “On that point, I most certainly hope you are right.”
      “Well . . . I’ve got more work for an outfit like yours. I hope you’ll accept, because you folks have surely earned it. Tell me, Rhedd, are you familiar with the Oberon system?”
      Behind them, Walt dropped his helmet.
      The End
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