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Game Armada Monthly Studio Report: February 2018

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Monthly Studio Report: February 2018

Greetings Citizens!

Welcome to February’s Monthly Studio Report with updates from all of our studios to give some insight into what they’ve been working on this past month. As our first quarterly release date approaches, the team’s been collectively hard at work completing the features for 3.1 while pushing forward on the continued development of Squadron 42. With that said, let’s get to it.

CIG Los Angeles




On the PU front, the Narrative Team spent the month working with Design and Audio to polish up some scripts for a few new characters that might be coming down the pipe. The main tasks this month have been defining a new system for the Generic NPC line sets as well as outlining the narrative experience for some of the locations, trying to figure out how to sell the flavor and character of an area for the players walking around it. To do this in a way that’s scalable, the team started constructing a template that calls out the various characters, stores/locations and story moments that would be specific to this location. Once complete, this document could be distributed to the various departments building the area, so everyone’s working off a cohesive vision of the location.

On the Squadron 42 front, work has continued on a handful of other documents and breakdowns that address some of the upcoming text needs for the game. Unfortunately, as this is a Spoiler Free zone, details will have to be furnished at a later date.


The Character Team knocked out a tremendous amount of work since the last update on the Persistent Universe and Squadron 42. They’ve been pressing forward on all kinds of uniforms, armor, and clothes, such as the upcoming Port Olisar Collection. Several pieces from that collection have gone from high poly to in-game mesh and will soon be headed to texturing, rigging and implementation in-game around Port Olisar.

Character.jpg The Legacy Light Outlaw moved to the in-game mesh stage. Part of this work involves the creation of a low poly version to help with performance while maintaining maximum quality. Once complete, it will move into final texturing, rigging, and final implementation. The medium and heavy legacy outlaw sets just started their high poly phase, which allows for the heavy detail work, before getting it ready for final texturing. The legacy light marine armor has also entered high poly phase and will soon also go into in-game low poly modeling, texturing and rigging.

Several other PU characters are in various states of production. The team started working on some high-quality mission givers, as well as character concepts for future releases.

One of the newly formed feature teams is focusing on the new Character Customizer, which introduces player customization into the game and builds on the great work that was done last year. This first implementation will include the ability to choose a head, skin tone, eye color, hairstyle and hair color for your character. The team is also putting the finishing touches on the backend functionality so the player’s choices persist.

The team also implemented a facial rig designed to translate human performances onto the alien characters. This rig will allow more of the actor’s performances to translate into a very different morphology.


DirectoreMode.jpg In the ongoing mission to simplify procedures within the development, the team created a unified tool installer, which allows for a single installer to automatically update each of the tools artists and designers use.

Another tool the team implemented was to integrate support for loadouts into the 3D modeling software, Maya. This new tool allows animators to polish and preview their character animation work with the characters wearing the particular loadout that they’re intended to wear in the final game. Since clothing and armor vary in size and material, it’s important for animators to know when an awkward character movement or interaction point is actually an error in the animation or simply because they’re wearing bulky armor. Since these poses change dramatically when polishing animations, the team can now see the final loadout ahead of time in Maya, rather than waiting to see it rendered in-game.

The team is always researching or prototyping work prior to committing final resources to complete it. One feature that they’re very passionate about is the director’s camera mode. After collecting feedback from the community, the team has started to revisit this mode to make it more robust and user-friendly by creating more intuitive and obvious controls.


The Ship Team spent the past month getting as many ships and vehicles through the pipeline as quickly as possible thanks to an updated production practice. The base model of the Tumbril Cyclone entered the prep stage which is one of the last steps in getting any ship (or vehicle in this case) ready for operation. In this phase, the team’s creating the vehicle’s damage states and generating the LOD versions that allow the best performance possible.

The Anvil Hurricane has also entered the final art stage, so work is being done to generate UVs, apply custom normals as well as final materials and decals, and finalizing the animations. The other departments are finishing their work before the Hurricane enters flight prep. Overall, the ship is on track to hit our Alpha 3.2 goal as seen on the public roadmap. Mustang.jpg

Revisions to the Mustang are still in progress and entering the final art stages before continuing through the pipeline. The updated starter ship from Consolidated Outland is planned for delivery in the Alpha 3.2 patch in Q2.

The last ship currently being worked on in Los Angeles is the Anvil Terrapin. The ship is currently having the final animations implemented, which includes the player getting in and out of the pilot seat, the door opening and closing, landing gear folding in and out, as well as the armored shell.

Finally, LA’s Vehicle Feature Team implemented a huge number of ship optimizations to help increase performance. As mentioned in the Studio Update, the goal with optimizations is to find improvements wherever you can, completing fixes that bring milliseconds down to microseconds rather than looking for a single ‘catch-all’ fix. The team also spent time converting items from Item 1.0 to Item 2.0 such as missiles, missile racks, object databank, EMP and various bugs and crashes to increase client performance.

CIG Austin




ServiceBeacon2.jpg This month, ATX designers worked on a few key things. One was the Service Beacon, which facilitates player generated content. The plan for 3.1 is to allow players to pay others for services such as “Personal Transport” or “Combat Assistance.” Once a contract is accepted, QT Markers will be created on the Contract Initiator so the Contract Provider can easily get to them. Both parties will be able to see where the other is person is while the contract is active. Either party involved in the contract can cancel at any time, but be warned, players will be able to rate the other person where contract completion is not easily determined. (For instance, when does combat assistance end?) The team is close to finishing the second sprint on this feature, and it is currently in the scope of the Alpha 3.1 release. Service_Beacon_Monthly1.jpg

ATX designers are currently organizing the work involved for the next three mission givers. This entails prioritizing their animations, and figuring out how to evolve their functionality. These mission givers exist in locations already in game, as the Object Container Streaming tech to add new locations is slated for the 3.3 release. These mission givers are:

• Luca Brunt: Who organizes races at Grim Hex and collects bets on the races.
• Recco Battaglia: Who organizes much of the mining tasks that are coming and going out of Levski.
• Wallace Klim: Is a drug chemist that has set up shop in the tunnels of Levski.

The new mission givers have not been committed to a specific release, but since they populate locations already in the game, they will be released when ready.


Work on the Constellation Phoenix made steady progress this month. The ship is coming along nicely with the modeling of ‘fancy’ trims and interior ‘set pieces’ (chairs, tables, bottles for the bar, etc.) being a focus of late. Following a positive Whitebox-Design review, the ship is pretty much functional in-game right now. Next on the agenda for the Constellation Phoenix is finishing up the UVs, a material pass and a start on the fine detail.


This month, the team provided support for the new Service Beacon system by allowing the backend services to manage all aspects of Service Beacon contracts and states. They’ve also been marching forward on bringing the fully diffusionized services online. During the process, they’ve made a number of extensions to the Ooz Language and core framework. The end result may not be as visually attractive as a new ship or planetside content, but Diffusion is the system that connects the players to these beautiful things. In addition, the Backend Service Team provided general support for 3.1 on both the game side and with DevOps.


Over the last month, ATX Animation shifted from working on Usables to bringing Persistent Universe Mission Givers to life. Good progress was made and the first two mission givers should be completed soon, allowing the team to move onto others. The team is also putting some finishing touches on the Shopkeeper characters (both friendly and gruff, male and female) and the Admin Office Worker.

Ship Animation finished work on the upcoming ships for 3.1, including the Tumbril Cyclone, MISC Razor, Anvil Terrapin, and Aegis Reclaimer.


DevOps has been supporting the Engineering and QA Teams with their performance and testing work. Additional effort has been focused on optimizing all aspects of server communication and data storage and retrieval efficiency, including network and database optimizations. The BuildOps portion of the team has continued to work closely with the IT group, expanding the build system to accommodate more granular build types. This will allow feature teams to work on their features independently, with less reliance on other teams, allowing for more rapid iteration of key feature development.

February has been a big ramp-up for ATX QA. The team has been cleaning up its remaining backlog from 3.0 and working with the designers in Austin on 3.1 preparations. They’ve been testing several shopping and commodity changes in anticipation of an economy playtest with Evocati. They have also been doing extensive test passes on probability volume, interdiction, Subsumption, insurance and NPC animations in collaboration with various departments.

On the operational side, the ATX QA Leads Team completed annual reviews and is now focused on collaborating with overseas counterparts on quality-of-life updates for the department. On the 3.1 front, the branch is up and running, which means that QA is in the thick of checking inclusions and completing a smoke to locate any bugs beyond those already found on Game-Dev. A large amount of playtest time has been spent on performance – with all the optimizations, refactoring and cleanup of old code going on, regular captures must be provided to the engineers for progress. New missions have begun to hit QA, along with new debugging tools to diagnose and log problems for developers. The team also started testing the MISC Razor, several ship weapon reworks and updates to the player chase cam. Last but far from least, QA has been very excited to get their hands on the Character Customizer and really start breaking it.

The Player Relations Team coordinated with several other teams to get 3.0.1 out to players, which helped alleviate the golf ball bug and other persistence related issues. As teams continue to work on resolving one-off issues, they’ve also shifted efforts to some overdue project work, such as creating a proper knowledge base and starting the process of adding new Evocati for upcoming 3.1 testing.

Foundry 42 UK




The Origin 600i is nearing art completion. The exterior is at final art polish with the turret and access doors now complete. Final polish on the interior focused on the captain’s quarters, cargo room, hub area and dorms to get the ship ready for handover to tech design.

The team has also been working hard on the Hammerhead interior. The corridors, turrets and cargo bay are complete. Meanwhile, work has begun on the bridge, captain’s quarters and lift sections. Also, the Reclaimer is now art complete, and will be featured during March’s episode of Ship Shape.

AEGS_Vulcan_DepotScene_PJ02.jpg AEGS_Vulcan_Promo_Refuel_PJ01.jpg The team has also been tirelessly working on concept ships. Not much can be said about them without ruining the reveal, but they are progressing really well. The Aegis Vulcan promo images were finished for the sale, and a new contract concept artist was brought on board to keep up with demands for future work.


In February, CIG Audio focused on optimizing and stabilizing code to improve performance for the 3.1 release. Both CPU and memory usage have been reduced, and one of the main initiatives in this area has been Dynamic Media Loading. This is still undergoing some testing internally with Audio QA to ensure nothing falls between the cracks, but if all goes well, it should reduce the memory footprint of audio by more than fifty percent. This is in addition to existing tech, such as streaming, which is already employed.

On the content side, sound design creation and implementation has progressed for rest stops and derelicts, and more sound effects were added to the new ships/vehicles that will be available in the 3.1 release. The Grim HEX and Levski locations’ sound design have undergone additional polish, with music logic and additional content on the way for those areas. Also, human-scale weapons (i.e. guns) received an overhaul, especially where the NPC perspectives are concerned, improving and iterating sonically upon the gameplay experience.

Where Squadron 42 is concerned the team has been in ‘pre-post production’, planning how coverage of cinematic sequences will work when the CIG Audio Team switches ‘modes’ and becomes akin to a sound post house after all the cinematic sequences land. Audio has also been lining up more raw source requirements to provide fresh material; building out the Squadron 42 internal Sound FX library was a big initiative this month. To that end, the team will soon be sourcing props and recording all kinds of ‘wild track’ material, as it’s technically known.

Also noteworthy were some big improvements to dialogue spatialisation and more advanced debugging tools to assist dialogue implementation across the PU and Squadron 42. Debug display is never thought of as particularly glamorous but it is invaluable in helping our teams deliver the best experience possible.


This month, the Graphics Team has been focusing on three main areas: the UI, performance, and gas clouds. The UI Team has been fixing various quality issues with anti-aliasing and render-to-texture resolution to ensure displays are as crisp as possible. They’ve also been making several improvements to the ship targeting displays, adding back older features into the RTT system such as edge-highlighting and electrical interference. On the performance front, some major improvements have been made to the multi-threading within the editor, which in many cases have doubled the frame-rate on complex environments such as the Squadron 42 Idris. For the gas cloud system, the team has been extending it to support multiple gas clouds at once, with the aim of allowing them to be embedded within one another. There has also been work done on debugging tools for gas clouds to help analyze the complex volumetric data sets and understand how the artists are using the system and where memory and performance can be saved.


UI1.jpg This month, the UI Team has been working with two teams to bring new features and polish to both ship combat and the PMA/VMA. The UI Visuals Team has focused on polishing up the look of the OwnShip/Target status displays, including adding these to the ship MFD screens and improving the overall visual look of the holoshader and surrounding UI. The team is working closely with the Graphics Team to dial-in shader requirements, which aim to improve the legibility of the holograms themselves, as well as the UI in general when projected upon bright backgrounds. The team has also been working on updating the Combat Markers on Item2.0 ships from the brackets that were present within 3.0 with some new geometry and fresh animations.

UI2.jpg Alongside the UI Visual Team, the EU-1 Gameplay Team has had UI involvement with the team focusing on polishing up the VMA and PMA mobiGlas apps. For these two apps, a strong focus has been put on improving the overall user-experience by fixing bugs present in the current iteration, as well as overhauling the mobiGlas layout in general to make more use of screen real estate and breaking the menu layout into a more intuitive structure. On the engineering side, the Star Marine Loadout Customization screen in the Front End has been converted to use the PMA code. This will make fixing issues on this screen much easier, as the PMA replaces the custom code that was previously released.

The Art Team, while primarily supporting these two features, has also spent time fixing issues raised in 3.0 and continued work on Chemline screens for Squadron 42.


Animation has continued to work on the bespoke assets for a wide variety of the supporting cast for Squadron 42, including crewmembers that serve alongside you. Animation work for the firing and reloading has continued on:

• Gemini R97 ballistic shotgun
• Gemini F55 ballistic light machine gun
• Klaus & Werner Demeco laser light machine gun
• Kastak Arms Scalpel ballistic sniper rifle

Female background exercise sets have been brought up to final quality pass, pending sign off review. Usable animation sets continue to be refined, eliminating bugs and tidying up popping issues on things like cup, plate and tray attachments.

Chakma continues to have his animation assets finalized, and the team has identified the remaining issues that need to be resolved before closing him out for good.

Player mechanics have been worked on for the newly implemented leaning system, allowing lean right and lean left actions in all stances.


Steady progress is being made on object container streaming. The team has been ploughing through the conversion of all the component’s creation routines, so that they can be run on a background thread. To give an indication of how much work is involved there are around 400 of them in total, of which 218 have now been converted, so still some way to go. The streaming can now be turned on, creating everything that is marked as thread safe in the background and everything else on the main thread, so the team can test whether everything is still working as they progress. At this stage it does slow down loading considerably, as it has to wait and switch between the two threads, but that will improve as more components are converted.

One FPS Feature Team is prototyping a new lean mechanic for the player, particularly designed for when a player is in cover. Because of the way a lot of the environments are built, the contextual cover system doesn’t always work that well, especially when trying to look around a corner with walls that aren’t straight-edged. Rather than locking players into a cover mechanic, the team is trying out more of a player-driven cover system, where the player is given the ability to manually lean around left and right, giving them more control and response.

A new feature team sprint has been kicked off on the first version of mining. The team is deciding how to setup different types of rocks with their mineral composition, how they will absorb energy, how players can extract the minerals, and break into them.


The team continued to work on animations for a range of scenes and enjoyed working more closely with design. As a result, animations are beginning to appear in-game and the scenes are developing overall. A new technical animator has also been brought on board to help implement more scenes in-game, and will be joining CIG in April.


Reststop_00.jpg Testing and refinement of the interior layout tool has continued. The team now has a locked down library of rooms, corridors and hero spaces to use for an initial version of rest stop interiors and art has now begun refinement of these assets to bring them up to a high visual standard. There is now a large range of different layouts artists can pick and choose from to decide which are the best to go into a first iteration of the complete rest stop. While none of said assets are final yet, the tool has proven itself in its ability to produce a great deal of variety, producing close to 200 different layouts from only one layout graph during testing.

Work continued on the utilitarian hangars and refinements made to the rest stop exterior. These elements were brought together in a final location to create the bones of a finished rest stop with design, audio and visual refinement continuing forward.


Vfx_monthly_report_Feb18_b.jpg Vfx_monthly_report_Feb18.jpg This month, the VFX Team made a “flight-ready” pass on three new ships: the Anvil Terrapin, MISC Razor and Aegis Reclaimer. Also, the Tumbril Cyclone received its VFX first Pass.

Two new weapons also went through the VFX pipeline: the Gemini R97 and Preacher Armament Distortion Scattergun. The Apocalypse Arms Scourge Railgun’s impact effects were revisited following a Design requested to more correctly portray the type of damage dealt out by this weapon.

The team also began some initial investigations into VFX-specific material improvements. They will be working closely with the Graphics and Tech Art departments to create a versatile material template that will provide many cool options for the team. Plans were further fleshed out for the core features the team hopes to move forward with this year, including the previously mentioned signed-distance-field integration, an improved lightning/electricity editor, and location-specific camera-bound VFX.


Face1.jpg Face2.jpg

The Facial Team was busy with the remaining face animations for Squadron 42. The next phase will be polishing and improving the animations, once they’re seen in-game. On the PU front, most of the Mission Giver faces have been completed up to an implementation pass and are ready to go in-game for further work.

The first Derby Studio tour occurred at the end of January. Two backers were scanned and should eventually make their way into the game. There were some serious and some NOT so serious scans! Prep work has started for the next tour, which is planned for March 8th and is exclusive to community subscribers. Improvements to the face scanner are being planned too, which should make it quicker and easier to get through a higher number of scans. Also, the scanner will be moved to another area in the studio. This will enable the team to shoot Motion Capture and Head Scan simultaneously.

Foundry 42 DE




DE_Environment_Art_02.jpg This DE Environment Art Team continued to update the look of procedural planets. With recent tech improvements in place, they updated some of the existing content to make the best use of the advancements, which includes more intelligent color and material breakup, overall improved terrain, and better orbit to ground transitioning. They applied a large amount of these changes to Yela, and will use what they learned in the process on other locations moving forward. A small Environment Art strike team focused on the landing zones in Lorville. They worked closely with Designers and Concept Artists to dial in the look and feel of the locations. The whiteboxing and layout phases are almost complete, and the team is preparing to push these areas towards final art.


Engineering helped DE QA track down the potential causes of performance issues occurring on Live. Each week DE QA participated in a 50-player cross-studio play test with their UK and ATX counterparts, plus some development team members to get the headcount to 50. A new automatic RAD capture system was implemented to perform a RAD capture when the client framerate drops below 15fps for at least 20 frames. This automatic capture process is enabled via CVar, and was whitelisted for use on Shipping builds. The threshold for the capturing system can also be tweaked by Engineering to capture even lower fps drops. Ultimately, this provides further details in an effort to more quickly address performance issues by defining more of the variables.

The team also started the initial testing of the Perforce Integration for Subsumption. This support for merging and integration via Perforce is necessary to allow sustainable workflows when new streams are created and worked in for various releases. Testing is in its early stages, but regular updates to the process are being made as new versions become available. DE QA also provided support for the Engine Tools Team by ensuring Editor issues were tagged with the appropriate Epic links, components, and sent to the correct Assignees. The Editor dashboard and Editor bug writing guides also received a revamp to ensure they have the most relevant and up-to-date information accessible by the Engine Tools Team and QA support.


The DE VFX Team continued R&D on VDB gas cloud tech. They’ve been experimenting with new ways to create VDBs by using particles that are being pushed around by velocity forces instead of hollowing out geometry. Using several hundred million particles can create very organic looking volumes that can be converted into a VDB and imported into the engine. They will likely use a combination of both particles and geometry to create the final assets. They’ve also been working with the Cinematics Team on effects for Squadron 42. This includes destruction R&D in Houdini, bringing it into the engine and dressing it with particles to give it the desired final look.
DE_VFX_01.jpg DE_VFX_02.jpg


In February, the System Design Team worked mostly on AI related features. For FPS combat, they polished low cover mechanics and timings, and added high cover functionality, which enables the AI to make better use of the environment by using both as they see fit. They also considered how the Vanduul work and feel in-game, and how they use their weapons and gear in Human environments, which are not their natural habitat.

For ship AI, the team focused on integrating the first layer of skills and traits. They worked closely with Engineers to figure out how it affected an AI’s behavior and how readable it was to the player. Since the list of parameters is extensive, they focused on the ones that provide the best effect that the player can understand. Once those are working, they’ll move on to skills and traits that are a bit subtler but add a nice flavor to the fights.

On the non-combat side of FPS AI, they worked with all the existing and upcoming locations to figure out what special actions and behaviors the population needs to feel like it belongs to that specific place. The goal is to tell a story, give the player the feeling that these AI actually live and work on there, and that their actions are affected by the location and vice versa. Ideally, once this work is done, all our locations should get a big boost in the level of immersion and believability. Additionally, they worked on the mining system, focusing on mining material deposits on the surface of planets and moons with a Prospector. The designs are still in the early phase, but they are looking into developing them in a way that easily expands to other forms, like space rocks, gas/liquid mining, comets etc. Mining is just one part of the economy, but once it’s in and functional, they can build the adjacent systems that will make Star Citizen’s economy feel alive.


This month, the Tech Art Team supported other teams, fixed bugs, improved existing pipelines, and prototyped new tools. For weapons support, they created a final preVis rig for the Klaus & Werner Demeco LMG and Kastak Arms Scalpel sniper rifle. Now that the rig is completed and implemented in engine it enables other departments to provide feedback at a very early stage in development. They also updated the Torral Aggregate Kahix Missile Launcher with a final art and animation rig.

They supported the Usables Team to make AI interaction more believable and the Cinematics Team with various implementation tasks. They also improved existing tools to make the animation pipeline faster and more stable. On sandbox and other R&D work, they worked on the Sandbox Editor-to-Maya live link implementation. They also started prototyping next-gen character customization tech. It will feature a runtime ‘wrap deformer’ that makes skin attachments such as beards, eyebrows, haircuts, caps, hats, helmets and similar objects deform realistically on customized/morphed heads even during animations. While this technique is commonly used in VFX and animated feature films, it is not usually (if ever) used in games. This implementation combines the unique strengths and features of this deformation method with the speed of traditional deformers like skinning and blendshapes. This tech, in combination with ‘gene splicing’, will allow Artists and Designers to populate both Squadron 42 and the PU using a quasi-infinite number of unique-looking NPCs.


The Engine Team focused on game code optimization, which is an ongoing process that will continue past the 3.1 release. As an important pillar, they started developing a telemetry system that allows them to gather, analyze, and present performance data continuously and across the company (eventually even in the PTU and PU). This way they should automatically get valuable hints on performance aspects to help optimize all aspects of the game.

They also worked on signed distance field for vehicle physics, made significant improvements to skin rendering, and continued work on object container streaming. They also created a roadmap for work on the procedural systems throughout 2018.


This month, the DE Weapon Art Team finished the rework of the UltiFlex FSK-8 Combat Knife, and continued work on the Kastak Arms Scalpel sniper rifle and Klaus & Werner Demeco LMG. Quite a few weapon concepts from the Klaus and Werner and Behring were signed off on and added to the weapon production pipeline. Work was also completed on the Gemini SMG and the reimagining of Joker Engineering continued.


The DE Build Team worked with the Engineering Team to get incremental build compilations closer to purely incremental, where the build system adds cache functionality to allow switching compilation configs without compromising the pre-existing build cache. This allowed Engineers to focus on streamlining how the code files link between one another to avoid any unnecessary linkages and re-compilations. They also isolated compilation stats, which are now being pushed to ElasticSearch for viewing through Kibana. The isolated compilation stats are built on a specific machine that is not participating in any distributed computation, so as each code change is pushed to the code-base they can verify if the change introduced a timing bubble for compilation. They also worked on various things such as troubleshooting our Dev-ops/build tools, moving the DataCoreBinaryExporter process back into WAF-data, and assisting Tech Animators to resolve a problem with how DBAs get compiled by WAF.



The DE Level Design Team worked on common elements, procedural rest stops, and flagship landing zones for the PU. Work on the common elements progressed nicely, and they finished a whitebox pass on the modular train platforms. Next up are admin offices, customs and ATC. They also worked on integrating the rest stops with the procedural tech. The rest stop will be the test bed to create multiple “base” pieces that the procedural tool will use to create the final layouts. On the planetary side, they worked on Lorville to make sure it has the required functionality. This meant whiteboxing train stations, terminals and space ports, all of these being common elements as well. Finally, they pushed to get the transit system tech functioning properly. This tech is essential for the Level Designers to be able to fully build the locations. The transit system is a background system handling everything from elevators to trains, and will be an integral part of most locations.


This past month, the Cinematics Team had the Gameplay Narrative Animation Lead from the UK come over for a knowledge exchange about scene setup involving AI characters. They were also busy with interior scenes from the first chapter of Squadron 42 that involve an Aegis Javelin. The Javelin underwent mesh improvements, including a viewing corridor to watch the stars, and that meant slight tweaks to the performance capture animation for a scene at that location. They also made progress on other scenes. With the pipeline still maturing, there is a need to revisit sequences from time to time. Cinematic environment art also progressed on several smaller sets needed for Squadron 42’s spectrum shows, as well as Vanduul interior environments.


DE_Lighting_02.jpg DE_Lighting_01.jpg

The Lighting Team continued to work on legacy tasks and volumetric fog conversion. The focus was on finalizing Grim HEX and converting the Star Marine maps of Demien and Echo11. In addition, they’ve been polishing and improving the look of the admin office so that they read better. Finally, they supported the Character Creation tool by providing a high-quality lighting rig that shows off all the detail in the models and textures when players create their character.


The AI Team continued to work on Subsumption implementation which resulted in more challenging ship AI. The team will be adding tweakable parameters for designers so players don’t face impossible challenges. While creating this basic ship AI, they also improved other AI aspects, like Quantum Travel, so AI ships can move freely around the universe in the future.

For ship combat, they’ve been busy developing a baseline Subsumption activity for dogfighting and expanding the existing dogfighting behavior already seen during the December holiday special. Now, AI pilots have a better awareness of the state of the available weapons, and will fire those that have a better chance to hit the target based on the hit prediction computed by the weapon controller. The player goes through a similar process when locking on a target based on the state of the reticles displayed in the cockpit UI. AI pilots now have access to the heating state of the weapons. This enables AI to stop firing a weapon as soon as there’s a risk of overheating, thus avoiding waiting for a longer cooldown period when the weapon isn’t available.

They also did numerous tasks related to AI FPS combat. They added support for using high cover. Now AI can smoothly transition into low cover or high cover, peek, and shoot at the enemy or riposte using blind fire. They made improvements on cover surface generation to reduce computation time and increase robustness for the system. Other small improvements where done on exiting cover behavior, such as when the cover gets compromised and the AI needs to leave quickly. Finally, they also spent time addressing and fixing bugs and optimizing existing code.




February was an opportunity to catch up on some backend bugs and errors, as well as introduce a new, more regimented structure for code review, QA and deployment process. This much needed reflection of the team’s internal process will only make it more efficient throughout 2018.


Turbulent has been working on the block/ignore feature with backend work starting to match the design and front-end work already complete.

The Custom Roles & Custom Emojis features are having small code reworks after an intensive code review. Diligence in keeping the code in order will only benefit the project as features are added. Expect releases to PTU with these features.

The team has also been working on the Spectrum overlay in-game, and is in close communication with CIG’s game-dev team. This work is laying the foundation for additional features, such as Spectrum Voice chat, planned for later this year.


The team is currently working on version 1.0.1-alpha. This version will add consistency checks, specific to hunting down the p4k bug that has so far been impossible to reproduce. The aim is to have the new release in PTU hands before the 3.1 launch to Evocati.


TURBULENT_PLatform-Bar-Improvements.jpg A month after release, community feedback is still being reviewed on the additions to RSI. The design (contrast & colors) inside the platform bar has been revisited, and the team has been working on changes to increase readability for all users. The feedback has also provided UX with direction regarding navigation, and small steps have been made to help users find the items they are looking for on the site. Expect to see these changes soon.

In the meantime, the team has taken the opportunity to solve some existing account/billing & subscription errors that PR has been dealing with. The hope is to reduce issues over time, which will reduce the queues and wait times. TURBULENT_Newsletter_sneak_peek.jpg

Work has been ongoing on a new version of the weekly newsletter. It will feature all the expected weekly content, an update on the roadmap, and a sleek new design allowing for better readability on different devices. Coming soon to your inbox!

Platform is introducing a necessary tie in to RSI backend services Diffusion. This long-awaited backend work will give platform and the game the bridge needed for future features. The first of these features will be a UEC to AUEC ledger, connecting your UEC credit purchases on platform to allow for in-game purchases


The Player Relations Team has been curating and writing the many articles to appear in the new Knowledge Base. This library of articles is intended to help backers when they run into an issue. This will replace the current support page, and provide additional information to the ‘How to Play’ section that debuted last month.

From this Knowledge Base page, users will be able to search for relevant articles, access and submit tickets. This massive increase to accessible information will be a boon to both players and the Player Relations Team.

Turbulent will be leveraging the Zendesk backend, however they are currently working on a redesign of the knowledge base interface, creating a flat and simple UI. Designs are only in a preliminary stage, and hope to be complete in the near future.


The Turbulent Team supported the concept reveal of the Aegis Dynamics Vulcan. They had fun putting together the concept ship page and have been happy to hear the feedback it’s been receiving. The Vulcan concept ship event will continue until April 2nd.

You can visit the pledge page here.




February was a great month for the Star Citizen community. By this point, you have likely come to know the new show schedule, which includes Calling All Devs, an updated Reverse the Verse, and a refreshing new take on Ship Shape. Along with Around the Verse, also enjoying a slight revamp in format, these shows continue to bring you the latest and greatest information about Star Citizen and Squadron 42. The team has also been taking the time to monitor feedback closely, so they can iterate on how to communicate directly with you, the Star Citizen backer.

Screenshot_10.png There’s no better way to get an answer about the game than straight from the mouth of the developers themselves, and Calling All Devs provides loads of great information while minimally impacting the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42. In February alone our devs discussed a wide variety of topics on the show, including Org tools, mag boots, persistence, scanning, weather, the Evocati, and even the illustrious Tessa Bannister. Curious which questions will be answered next? Make sure to tune in!

February also brought another installment of Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy. From the natural beauty of Xis and its protected species to the harsh brutality of QuarterDeck and the hardened prisoners who call it home, the episode provided a guided tour of the Kellog System.

Last month also brought two new episodes of Bugsmashers! This show pulls back the curtain on the nitty-gritty details of game development, and even included a sneak peek of the Origin 600i. AEGS_Vulcan_DepotScene_PJ02.jpg The Aegis Vulcan was introduced, and is now available through April 2nd. You can learn all about the Vulcan and its trifecta of support functions in the latest installment of Ship Shape here, or from a previous live broadcast of Reverse the Verse here. Distinctly based on your feedback, the Vulcan is also available in three liveries symbolizing its core functions: the base model bears military green for rearming, hazard yellow represents repairing, and CTR’s distinct blue signifies refueling. Intrigued? Find out more about this limited promotion here. More questions? Post them in the Q&A thread on Spectrum, and the top voted ones will be addressed in an upcoming Q&A Comm-Link scheduled for release on March 14th.

Throughout February, the team has seen a tremendous amount of awe-inspiring content submitted to our Community Hub. If you haven’t stopped by and explored the hub recently, the team encourages you to check it out. However, they are not responsible for getting Yela Yell stuck in your head.

Lastly, the Community Team is putting finishing touches on an official Request-a-Developer form that will make it easier to submit requests for developers to appear on streams/podcasts/videos. The team is excited to share how this process will work in the very near future.



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      Hello everyone,
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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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