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Game Armada Monthly Studio Report: June 2018

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Monthly Studio Report: June 2018

Welcome to Cloud Imperium Games’ Monthly Studio Report for June. This month, the team published Alpha 3.2, made progress on Squadron 42, and continued developing new systems ships and features for future releases. With that said, let’s dig into the details.

Los Angeles




Mining was an exciting endeavor for the team this month, as they saw it come together to deliver a whole new gameplay element to Star Citizen. Working closely with designers and engineers in the EU studios, the team brought the scanning aspect of mining to life and into vehicles. They’re happy to add to the pool of activities that players can engage in, and hope everyone has fun searching the ‘verse for valuable resources.

Turrets were another large focus for the team this month. Manned turrets received some improvements, such as the ability to focus target a ship and the removal of the counterbalance speed restriction. Players can now also operate remote turrets in vehicles, which was implemented with the Item 2.0 System.

Moving into July, the team will polish what they delivered in Alpha 3.2 and continue work on the many things needed for 3.3.


The team proudly launched the Anvil Hurricane with 3.2 and look forward to feedback from the community as they take it out for a spin. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into the Hurricane by the Art, System Design, and Tech Art Teams in LA, who collaborated with other global teams to get it flying. Additionally, the Tech Art Team wrapped up their damage passes on the other new and updated ships: the Aegis Avenger, Aegis Eclipse, Origin 600i, and Esperia Blade. They can’t wait for you to blow these ships up!

Meanwhile, progress was made on other vehicles: the Consolidated Outland Mustang Alpha rework is art-complete and currently in the hands of the System Design Team. Additional Mustang variants are close to being handed over to System Design as well. Tumbril Cyclone variants also made great progress on the art side, while the System Design Team is working with Engineering on new tech to support their release. Finally, System Design worked closely with the Art Team in Austin to wrap up their greybox phase of the Constellation Phoenix. LAVC3.jpg LAVC2.jpg


The Gameplay Team was happy to see the Group System make it easier for players to match up and play together. Currently, the team is polishing the feature to give players the best experience possible. After witnessing the response, the team continues to plan ways to improve upon the ways players can interact with each other.


The Narrative Team churned out a wide variety of content to flesh out and expand the Star Citizen universe. They released lore that highlighted commercials commonly seen on Spectrum in 2948 and featured an interview with controversial new Drake CEO, Anden Arden. Subscribers got to read the exciting final chapter of the new short story Hostile Negotiations, while a trip into the Jump Point archives saw the wide release of an Observist Dark focused on Grim HEX and the second chapter of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. Finally, June’s edition of the Subscriber magazine, Jump Point, explored the development of the Aegis Reclaimer, met the team behind the new mining mechanic, and explored the history of the MISC Prospector.

Behind the curtain, the team worked with design on further defining NPC behaviors like bartenders, bar patrons, security officers, and more. They fleshed out set dressing documentation to add further environmental storytelling to the PU and Squadron 42, wrote new mission text and clothing and armor descriptions. They wrote a number of articles slated to be included in the eventual release of the Galactapedia and provided copy for a myriad of community and marketing materials, including the Vulture promotion page and brochure.


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The Character Art Team finalized and released the Legacy Armor sets into the PU, as well as the new clothing that makes up the Olisar collection. The team appreciates the comments from the community – getting direct feedback from the players makes all the hard work worth it.

There are a few mission givers in development that are almost finalized, which you’ll see in the next quarterly release. The team is still committed to releasing everything that’s on the public roadmap, so work on other PU outfits and Hurston’s clothing collection are well underway.

With the PU getting a lot of attention this release, the upcoming month’s focus returns to Squadron 42 and its vast cast of characters. The team is creating levels with every character in a lineup, so they can see which outfit each one wears in a specific chapter.

As we saw in Around the Verse, a lot of development time went into the Vanduul armor, spear, and knife. Progress was also made on the updated flight suit and work was started on another major character.






Design was heavily invested on working through several issues remaining for quantum travel. This included helping groups travel together and tuning how quantum splines work to ensure an enjoyable experience when traveling from one side of a celestial body to another. Issues were also addressed to ensure that accidents between a moon’s surface and a ship moving at quantum speed are minimal.

While the majority of the team’s focus has gone towards improving the quantum travel experience, work has also gone into adjusting the economy by tuning rewards for missions, cargo deliveries, and mining runs. Work also progressed nicely on ensuring that bars in future releases feature a well-crafted and intelligent bartender to make the experience fun and believable. Although it’s still in the early stages, Design is excited about the first iteration coming to a PU pub near you!

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The Backend Services Team grew as a new engineer joined to help with the rewrite of Services under the new Diffusion Architecture. Several Services have already been rewritten while support for the legacy architecture continues. This month focused on taking the legacy p-cache and breaking it up into smaller, logical microservices. Much like replacing parts in a moving engine, legacy work still needs to be maintained until the new shiny goodness is ready to go. When implemented, it will allow for better performance, scalability, and functionality.

Here are some of the Services being created to replace legacy work:
  • Entitlement Processor Service: handles all purchased and rented items from the website and assures that real game items are created and managed.
  • Loadout Service: caches and manages the various loadouts for all ships and the player avatar configuration, including outfits and weapons. Right now, the game servers and clients can only access metadata from objects that are currently spawned on a game server. Usually, the devs want to view data of an item that has not been loaded into a game server.
  • Variable Service: solves the loadout problem above by decoupling the metadata from the items and providing a runtime cache and API allowing game servers and other Diffusion services access regardless of the state of the item.
  • Wallet Service: deals with changes in currency and manages the current balance in-game. An API is setup to allow for other services to query or modify the player’s balance.


Animation was hard at work on the next set of mission givers that will bring more life to the PU later this year. There was also rapid progress on the retargeting of male animations to female skeletons, which brings players closer to being able to choose a female avatar in the PU.

Animation also supported outsourcers by creating master retarget files to process all the motion captures shots for the PU, S42 cinematics, and gameplay. They also helped finalize the Vanduul pipeline, which makes converting motion capture data into in-game assets quicker and easier.


Ship Art put the finishing touches on everyone’s favorite stroke of lightning, the Anvil Aerospace F8! All that that’s left for them to do is to finalize the Level of Detail (LOD), make some last-minute material/art adjustments, and be on call to fix any bugs that arise during testing. Also, after an official kickoff meeting, work began on some early concepts ideas for the Origin 300i rework.

The team proceeded on the highly anticipated Constellation Phoenix. Extra care has been given at every stage of the process to ensure that the quality and luxury of RSI is properly showcased. The interior and exterior were fleshed out and are now going through an edit to cut back on some of the busier areas. Next up, the modeling portion in the master bedroom and flight-prep art (interior damage) will be finished, so Tech Art can start with their damage process. Once these steps are done, there will be another lighting pass to get the interior dialed in and closer to completion.

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The 3.2 release was especially rewarding for the DevOps Team as it included features they’ve been anticipating for a while. On the build side, they’ve been tuning and supporting the feature streams, which are a subset of the main development branches that the dev teams use. This project helped to further isolate each team’s specific feature work and stopped it from interfering with the work of other teams. This led to significantly more builds, as each feature team gets their own on top of the test and general use builds. For this month alone, over 200 unique builds were generated. Overall, the build support improvements have been very helpful and well received, but the team is still working out minor details and constantly tuning the branches for the best output.

The Publishing Team supported daily deployments to Evocati and PTU, and assisted the dev teams with the collection of server performance and bug reports. Server reports are typically more fun on a big publishing month because there’s so much new data to track and report. As many have already noticed, the team increased the pace of publishes again, completing 16 PTU deployments in June. These additional publishes helped the dev team work out the final touches of new features. The team also ramped up the servers in anticipation of Alpha 3.2 release and can’t wait to see them fill up.


The Player Relations Team coordinated with Evocati to test Alpha 3.2 on the PTU and prepare it for live service. They focused on the core features of 3.2, including scanning, mining, ESP improvements, quantum linking, and the new ships.

Now that 3.2 is live in the PU, the team would like to remind all backers of the new Knowledge Base. They’ve added quite a few guides for the update, and now have over 90 articles published. Players should check back regularly, as it will continue to grow with new ‘How To’ articles, patch notes, and live service notifications.

Finally, the team wants to encourage everyone to continue using the Issue Council (IC) to help triage and rate bugs/functionality. They’ll use your feedback to prioritize future updates, plus IC participation makes you eligible for earlier PTU waves.


QA helped push the 3.2 builds to Evocati and PTU, which included publishing checklists for build patches that went to the PTU.

On the game side, QA focused on the 3.2 features, bug regression, and performance testing. Things tested included the mining feature, the new ships, the Avenger rework, quantum travel, the group system, and kiosk purchasing and player wallet updates. They also tested updates to the Editor and Subsumption tools.

On the leadership side, it was business as usual coordinating testing priorities with counterparts in LA, UK, and DE.

Wilmslow & Derby




The Graphics Team focused on bugs that covered a wide range of topics, including fixes for SLI/Crossfire, missing LODs on mining rocks, and flickering shadows. They also added a few minor features to improve the overall player experience, such as adding drop shadows to all transparent ship UI screens, adding brightness/gamma/contrast support, optimizing the glass shaders, and fixing multiple issues with RTT on the ship-targeting UI which reduced the cost by a factor of 10.
After fixing the 3.2 bugs, the team’s focus has shifted to Object Container Streaming, which is crucial to ensuring this critical feature isn’t blocked.


UI supported the 3.2 release at full tilt, working on the Item Kiosks to add as much as possible ahead of the live release. Alongside this, the team supported the Mission Team by creating new screens for Comm Array missions, provided the Gameplay Team with quantum travel UI elements, and helped the EU Vehicle Team with their work on overclocking.
UI also focused on critical bug fixes ahead of 3.2. This included multiple issues with the ATC system, such as making the UI clearer for color blind players. Changes for the PMA/VMA included making select ship items uneditable and ensuring all armor pieces are displayed correctly.


The team worked on the new Spec Ops AI combat set and prepared it for full implementation. This set includes cover, high and low enter and exits, peeks, stepouts, blindfires, reloads, and grenade throws. Iteration and feedback on weapon recoil continued with the goal of providing a solid first-person experience across the full range of weapons available in S42 and the PU.

Preparation started to replace the AI base locomotion sets with finalized data. New capture footage was reviewed with an eye to implement improved AI motion sets and visuals.
Further animation work was completed on Master-at-Arms Chakma to fill in any gaps that the Design Teams had in implementing his behavior for Squadron 42. Work on the Vanduul concentrated on close-combat and weapons.
Player grips now allow varyingly sized objects to be held and carried in a more flexible manner, whether it be one or two-handed props.
Finally, the team completed general bug fixes for the 3.2 release.


The Gameplay Story Team delivered previsualization (pre-viz) for 150 scenes that the Design Team requested, which was achieved a week earlier than expected. This gave the team a couple of weeks to do more in-depth implementation work on high priority scenes. Pre-viz work on the remaining 66 scenes will happen during the first few weeks of July.


The Squadron 42 Gameplay Team worked with Cinematics to implement more functionality in the trackview tool to get new cinematic scenes working. Among other things, these changes improved the ability to animate the player by blending them into a cinematic sequence, gaining control over the player’s camera, and allowing a set amount of player-controlled head-look.
The Actor Team got one-handed grips working with props of all different sizes and shapes. They started with two different grip types, one for round objects like a bottle or a cup, and another for square items like a book or datapad. The animators created two versions of each grip, open and closed, and the code can blend between the two allowing the player to hold props of different and awkward sizes without the need for multiple animation assets. The programmers have also been improving the animations used when moving from standing to running and back again. They are trying to keep the response times fast by reducing the amount of foot sliding and animation glitches.
The Social AI Team held a mini summit with the Lead AI and Lead Engine Tools programmers and the AI team in Frankfurt to discuss the latest usable tech and the next steps in development. They are now looking to create a visual tool to help the workflow of setting up usables and reduce the amount of knowhow currently required.
The EU Vehicle Team continued development of overpowering and overheating items with a focus on the quantum drive, shield, and cooler. They also expanded item wear to account for overheating.
The Core Gameplay Tech Team moved Object Container Streaming to the stage where they can turn on the background loading of individual entities. Now, it’s up to QA to find out what bugs come from this change. They also worked on the base functionality of loading and unloading individual object containers. The individual features teams have done a fine job of making their entity components thread safe, as well as moving the Lua script over into C++, all of which is required for Object Container Streaming.


The Ship Art Team finished the remaining tasks needed to get the 3.2 ships ready for release. They also created trailers for the Esperia Blade, Aegis Avenger, and Eclipse, along with promotional shots for the Origin 600i. Other work included whiteboxing the Origin 890 Jump to establish the final room layout and proportions, and R&D work on future Banu ships, with a focus on the Defender. Finally, the Hammerhead is getting a damage pass for the exterior and LOD pass across the interior.
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The Audio Department worked on all four of the 3.2 flyable ships trailers. They supplied the music heard in the Hurricane and Blade trailers, music and SFX for the Eclipse trailer, and music, SFX, and dialog for the Avenger.
The Audio Department also supported the 3.2 mining feature with regards to UI, mechanical SFX, and beam SFX. Additionally, there was a focus on re-balancing audio in line with the IFCS 2.0 update.


The UK Environment Team has been finalizing assets for the new ship hangars, as well as making passes on their dressing, branding, and props. They prepared for upcoming sprints, including sprints for new habitation modules and security checkpoints. Elsewhere, the team investigated and began to whitebox ideas for new small points of interest to populate Hurston beyond Lorville. They did all this in addition to supporting the Alpha 3.2 release with usual bug fixing and maintenance.


As 3.2 drew to a close, the team completed flight ready effects on the remaining ships, including the Esperia Blade and Aegis Eclipse. They also worked on effects for the Avenger and Eclipse trailers. They finished off the remaining 3.2 weapon effects, including the Kastak Scalpel ballistic rifle, and continued to fine tune and fix any issues with the recent weapons 2.0 conversion. The team collaborated with the mining and scanning/radar feature teams to ensure the effects were as polished as possible. They also worked with the Graphics Team on numerous developments to the GPU particle system, including improved ‘spawn chance’ and more robust parent/child hierarchies.





The Environment Art Team continued their push on Lorville Section One Nine (L19), bringing more and more areas to a final state. With L19 coming alive, they’re kicking off production on the surrounding areas, including the procedural tiles that represent the wider city. Regarding organic environments, the team wrapped up the first pass on the Hurston biomes and moved onto defining Hurston’s four moons. Each moon has its own look and feel and reflects some of the elements found on Hurston itself. These new moons are an example of the planet tech system’s flexibility – being able to reuse, remix and create new locations using all elements built to date saves a lot of time, and the process is getting faster as the tools and assets mature.



The DevOps Teams in ATX and DE are coordinating a suite of tools to accommodate the various Feature Teams. This includes extending the existing auto-integrators behavior, which involves enabling classic chronological integrations as well as parallel, non-chronological integrations based on an acyclic dependency graph. This is similar to what’s used in code compilation to determine the ordering of tasks. Any stream of changes flowing via auto-integration can communicate directly to whoever the owner of the changelist is, or be deferred to a single stream stakeholder if they choose to oversee the resolution of integration conflicts themselves. As new options are added, a counterpart API is being rolled out to enable complementary tools to hook in. The first tool to hook into the API is a merging tool that handles laborious integrations from feature stream teams back into game-dev.


The Level Design Team focused on areas of the Persistent Universe, including the flagship landing zones of Lorville and Area 18, and the Rest Stop space station layouts generated by the procedural tools. They completed a versatile whitebox version of a security checkpoint that can be easily adapted to locations of different sizes and security levels, and revisited the interiors of the Refinery space station.



The Engine Tools Team improved the general game editor stability and usability, and fixed bugs for the 3.2 release. They added the Look Development Mode for artists to unify and isolate light setups for assets. Artists and Designers can now select any asset in any level and activate this mode to have a consistent light environment for tweaking their materials – it’s important to have a consistent and neutral material setup across all assets as it results in much higher visual quality. The Look Development Mode supports a flat light setup for tweaking materials to get as close to a neutral in-engine light environment as possible, along with a presentation mode to get the best visual quality out of a given asset. With the push of a button, this in-engine mode works with all asset sizes, from little props to capital ships. It’s a great tool, as it avoids error-prone and inconsistent manual light setups, so saves time on tweaking the assets for the game.
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The QA Team started June by joining the EU Gameplay 5 Feature Team. One QA member was embedded with the team to attend weekly sprint and planning meetings and work closely with Developers to identify and resolve issues related to the Transit system. The Transit system includes elevators, metros, trams, and similar methods of transportation. Memory testing with the logging of Environment Variables enabled is also underway. In the first run-through, QA assisted the Engine Team in identifying a memory leak within particle emitters. The Graphics Team quickly created a fix and confirmed it once the changes were checked in. This type of testing will be a regular occurrence to ensure the team can stay on top of any potential future memory issues.
In addition, they continued to test new versions of the Subsumption Editor, as well as stay on top of regression and inputting new issues encountered by the development team. The new Subsumption versions consisted of fixes that needed verification as well as a new option to allow subsequent messages to be skipped when there are multiple invalid callback functions generating warnings upon initialization. Functionality in how Activities read information from the platforms has also been improved. A developer can now directly edit an NPC’s schedule loadout via the Activity the platform is being called from. Physics refactoring has also started to pre-emptively catch any new issues from the introduction of these new changes. QA will be doing a weekly Physics smoke test every Monday to test the PU, Arena Commander, and Star Marine in the Game-Dev branch. Then, a report is generated and sent for review and any new issues introduced from the Physics refactor are addressed.


The Engine Team continued with Physics optimizations that allow for more overlap during terrain patch physicalization. They also optimized raycasting when flying over the planet grid along with shadow batch processing. Look Development Mode was introduced to the engine to enable the team to test shading setups in a controlled environment. They improved horizon SSDO quality and performance, which is now enabled by default. They started streamlining the asset pipeline flow for consistency in shading, cleaning up asset presets, and changing the plugin to improve consistency.
For general code development, they supported the inline function expansion in callstacks presented via JIRA and Sentry, and improved support to compile Linux targets through Visual Studio. They completed the first iteration of the mining painter, continued to work on the telemetry system, and made skinning and vertex processing improvements.


The Weapons Art Team completed all work, bugfixing, and polish for the 3.2 release. This included work on the Gemini F55 light machine gun, Klaus & Werner Demeco light machine gun, Kastak Arms Scalpel sniper rifle, and the Associated Science and Development distortion repeaters (size 1-3). They also spent time on Vanduul lances and knifes.
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The VFX Team worked on and optimized the 3.2 mining feature. They tackled effects for the fracture beam, the tractor beam that sucks up rocks, and for various rock impacts and explosions. They also worked on the cinematic destruction pipeline for the soft body destruction simulations. They smoothed out the pipeline for importing the soft body simulations from Houdini into 3ds Max, and then from 3ds Max into the engine. This will be used for bespoke, cinematic destruction sequences.



The System Design Team worked to make enemy ship AI more fun to engage with. Initially, it was built as realistic as possible, but that doesn’t always make for the best gameplay. For example, a computer is extremely good at using the decoupled mode, far better than any human. While this is technically the best solution for fighting in space, it also feels unnatural and unintuitive to the player. They want to strike a balance between realism and giving the player a fun, challenging experience by cutting down the number of unnatural maneuvers the AI can perform.
The team also focused on FPS AI for multiplayer, making sure they function similarly to the single player mode. The push with the Vanduul reached its completion and their behaviors are almost locked down. A lot of work went into how the Vanduul navigate the environment, attack, defend, melee, and react to various weapons. They also spent time on civilian and guard behaviors, adding as much life into them as needed. The team primarily focused on designing modular conversation vignettes, which are blocks of randomly changing dialogue that can be controlled by various AI parameters like morale, hunger, etc. Basically, it’s a giant tree of animation/line clusters. The AI simply navigate through them and every time there’s a vignette, it produces a different outcome based on those parameters, so the same combination of lines will be a rare experience. They also put finishing touches on planetary mining. While some improvements are still needed, they believe it’s at a point where players can enjoy it.


The AI Team was busy implementing new functionalities and fixing/optimizing existing systems. For Subsumption, they introduced the concept of global variables: for single player campaigns, designers might require the definition of generic variables available across different missions. Global variables are visible globally on the various missions and can be saved so that the game status can be preserved and restored for the players.
They also improved the way entities can receive ranged events. A ranged event is started when an entity is in proximity of another event. The proximity can be specified by designers in the definition of the event.
They introduced a new Subsumption task that can mark the entities to be notified so that the game code can efficiently calculate ranges only for the specified objects of the world. Work was done on improving and generalizing the way assignments are handled by entities. Assignments are a sort of command or suggestion designers can send to the AI entities. They can vary from ‘attack my target’ to ‘move to the specified position’, etc. Assignments are a very generic way to influence systemic behaviors and can be used to both script mission flow and/or give AI entities commands. The mastergraph is now responsible for bringing the assignment request to the execution phase, unless the behavior is defined to override the handling of the scenario. For example, while throwing a grenade, the behaviors might wait to handle an assignment that requests his relocation, while if the NPC is just patrolling, it can immediately fulfill the request.
The team had numerous people visit from the UK office for a week of meetings regarding the useable system. They discussed numerous use cases and possible improvements on the system and worked side by side on both existing and new code. Items that came from the meeting to be implemented are a new tool to speed up the usables pipeline, as well as new functionalities in Subsumption to describe complex scenarios of NPCs interacting with the environment. This ensures that their behaviors maintain a simple logic while the complexity remains embedded within the system itself.
Ship behaviors received significant improvements for the future Alpha 3.3 release. The team started implementing different behavior strategies associated with different ship types, so pilots can use the best capabilities of their specific vehicle. They also improved the way accuracy is calculated, so that ships attacking enemies feel more natural and are respectful of the new skill levels recently implemented. Human combat is also being polished. The team is currently going through as many use case scenarios as possible to validate the system works as intended.


The Tech Art Team worked on the Sandbox-Editor-to-Maya live link tool for synchronizing animations between the Digital Content Creation (DCC) and the game’s editor which, for this particular purpose, is essentially used as a rendering backend. Now that the underlying interprocess communication and object serialization frameworks are in place, animators will soon be able to see their changes on in-engine character assets live within the Maya viewport, rendered with all the advanced shading effects that the game engine provides. This will not only allow them to create better animations in less time, it will also facilitate animation asset and rig asset/deformation quality control and make for a much more immediate and precise workflow. They also integrated Motion Based Blending into Maya to enable the animators to easily remove any potential foot sliding after changes were made to an animation.
They implemented a ‘light rig’ switch into Maya that improves performance in heavy scenes and, in return, raises the frame rate during replay to make it easier for animators to work in heavily populated scenes.
Multiple FPS and Ship Weapon bugs were also addressed for the 3.2 release.


The Lighting Team focused on tasks and bugs related to the upcoming 3.2 release. In addition, they collaborated with the Environment Art and Level Design teams on Lorville. Their current goals are to provide a first pass for lighting and atmosphere across all areas, as well as ensure that the level is built to allow for easy optimization and better performance in the future.


The Cinematics Team worked with UK Gameplay Engineers to create a Cinematic FreeLook control system that works with Star Citizen’s unified 1st and 3rd person character rig. Cinematic FreeLook allows a player that’s locked in position during a 1st person cinematic to look around freely. Cinematic designers can specify up/down/left/right limits and steer the player’s headcam towards specific things, like a character, vista, or an important event in the distance. The original Cinematic FreeLook system was limited as the player’s body was not fully considered, so looking too far in one direction meant the player could potentially see part of their own face inside of their helmet. This new system allows the player to work in 1st and 3rd person with performance capture on the body/head, additive animation of the headcam rotation, and Cinematic FreeLook active. The FreeLook system works with the mouse and gamepad thumbstick input, as there are areas that slow down control towards the edges of the ‘look window’ and a smooth re-center after a specified time with no input.
They also gained the ability to run Mannequin fragments on any NPC in Trackview, which will create seamless blends between locomotion and those performing in scenes via Trackview. The Cinematic Animation Team also worked on testing how far they can technically push the Walk & Talk AI conversations. The goal is to retain the performance that the actors brought to these talks while running numerous real-time additives, such as layering upper body performance capture on top of a personalized per-character locomotion walk set. The tests have so far yielded positive results.

Platform: Turbulent



This month, Turbulent wrapped up the Friends feature in Spectrum, provided support for the latest Drake concept, and finished the services build for groups system 3.2.


The team deployed two Spectrum builds, ‘3.7.13-friends.2’ and ‘3.7.13-friends.3’. The main features included the addition of friends, friend requests, and the Message of the Day (MOTD). Lobbies can now have a MOTD that appears at the top when someone joins.
Friends and friend requests are now complete and easily accessible through an entirely new Quick Access Sidebar. Also, included in this sidebar are Notifications, Search, and Lobby Users. When someone receives a friend request, a transient pop-up appears and an orange dot is displayed next to the friend icon on the Quick Access toggle button. Friends can be grouped by common Organizations.
Additionally, the author of blocked thread replies can be hidden as an option under general account settings. A special thank you to the Spectrocati and everyone who helped test these new features!


The RSI Team supported the reveal of the Vulture, Drake’s latest ship. The Vulture is a light industrial salvage vessel that needs just one crew member. The Design Team had a lot of fun developing the page to house this rugged workingman’s ship. They also added new controllers in your account settings to allow better management of the content you want to receive in the weekly newsletters. Go to Account/Settings to pick and choose your RSI content.


Turbulent made multiple releases supporting the backend control for services. Each iteration of the service was followed by a round of support during QA. The work Turbulent did creates and disbands groups. It handles all the requests for invites, accepts invitations, and declines invitations to a group. It then tells the service that these players should be grouped together. This service also controls the necessary permissions around leadership of a group, including transfer when the leader leaves the group or chooses to move it. Additionally, they added a kick function if a member of the group is offline for a certain period.




With this monthly report, the team says goodbye to the second quarter of 2018 and welcomes Star Citizen Alpha 3.2!

Maintaining the quarterly release cycle, the team was proud to publish another content update, with players exploring the new content since last Saturday. From group systems to quantum linking and mining, it feels fantastic to see people having fun in the game on Twitch and YouTube.

Thanks to all the dedicated testers who helped make this release possible. The entire CIG team sincerely appreciates your efforts during Evocati and PTU phases.

While Cloud Imperium Games wasn’t present at E3, the latest PU trailer was shown at the PC Gaming Show, showcasing the beauty of the ‘verse. Watch it on our YouTube channel if you haven’t yet.

If you’re a content creator, there’s currently a contest running that celebrates one of the recent editions to the flyable fleet in Star Citizen – the Origin Jumpworks 600i. The team is looking for player-made commercials showcasing the beauty of this multi-role luxury vessel. Running until July 15th, it’s your chance to grab one of the fabulous prizes on offer, including a standalone Aegis Eclipse with complimentary Lifetime Insurance.

The Community Team has been planning a wide variety of activities for you to participate in throughout the year and into next, all coupled with sweet prizes. So even if this contest isn’t for you, there are some exciting opportunities coming for you to leave your mark in the Star Citizen universe. Seriously, there will be more contests in 2018 than EVER before!
The team is always amazed by the contributions made by the community – whether it’s fan art, a cinematic, a YouTube guide, or even a 3D print of your favorite ship. This month, they brought back the MVP (Most Valuable Poster). Every week, the team will select one piece of content submitted to the Community Hub and reward the content creator with an MVP badge on Spectrum and a mention on the MVP section of the Hub.

This month, Centurion subscribers received a limited Voyager-edition Klaus & Werner Arrowhead sniper rifle, while the Imperators netted an exclusive Pathfinder variant. The mighty Aegis Reclaimer spearheaded the ship of the month program that gives subscribers the chance to try out a new vessel.

With the Drake Vulture concept promotion still in full effect, the team recently released the Q&A on Drake’s dirty bird. Want to rip wrecks apart like a pro? Head over to Spectrum to see answers to the top-voted community questions on this unique industrial salvage ship.

Finally, the team keeps getting asked about the availability of CitizenCon 2948 tickets. The good news is that they will be available again shortly if you haven’t already snagged one. Make sure to follow Star Citizen on Twitter, or subscribe to the newsletter to find out when the next phase of ticket sales is available. CitizenCon in Austin, TX, is the perfect place to chat with the developers and get the latest updates on the development process. It’s also a chance to meet with org mates and old friends, or make new ones and recruit members for your crew.



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    • Przez Game Armada
      Hello everyone,
      Hopefully you all had as great of a weekend as those who attended BritizenCon in Manchester. The team members fortunate enough to visit the Museum of Science and Industry, where the event took place, are still talking about the fun they had, and the amazing members of the community they met. A big thank you to the organizers for putting on such a great community-lead convention.
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      Ulf Kuerschner
      Senior Community Manager
      *Screenshot by Angaeda

      The Weekly Community Content Schedule
      MONDAY, APRIL 29TH, 2019
      TUESDAY, APRIL 30TH, 2019
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      Community MVP: April 29TH, 2019

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    • Przez Game Armada
      This week we played though the Pacheco mission with Lead Designer Luke Pressley and Senior Live Designer Gareth Bourn along with a few guests.

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    • Przez Game Armada
      Jump Point Now Available!
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    • Przez Game Armada
      Welcome to Inside Star Citizen, the triumphant return of our weekly development update show. In this episode we learn about a new particle lighting system, public telemetry, Crusader’s city in the clouds, and upcoming improvements to a classic ship.

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    • Przez Game Armada
      Writer’s Note: Brothers In Arms: Part Four was published originally in Jump Point 3.8. Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.
      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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