Vega Strike Elite

Vega Strike is a 3d OpenGL Action RPG space sim for...

Vega Strike Elite

Vega Strike is a 3d OpenGL Action RPG space sim for Windows/Linux that allows a player to trade and bounty hunt in the spirit of Elite. You start in an old beat up Wayfarer cargo ship, with endless possibility before you and just enough cash to scrape together a life. Yet danger lurks in the space beyond.

So you want to know about my early adventures, do you, kid? Well, it was a different time and age back then. Privateers flourished in the frontier regions of what was then known space. Merchants, bounty hunters, pirates, smugglers... and regardless of what you might think of me now, I was certainly one of them. Let me tell you of how it all began...

I wasn't much older than you are now when I first made my way from the relative security of the inner worlds to the fringe of civilization out on the frontier. Barely past my early twenties, I was, as most people my age were back then, in search of adventure. And, boy, did I ever find it!

At any rate, I managed to hitch a ride on the transport ship Oceana bound for an outlying mining base in the Celeste System called New Poona. Of course, you don't get anything for free in this universe, so I earned my passage by working as the ship's chef. It was my first taste of the life on a starship, but certainly not my last.

After some time, and a lot of improvisation in the kitchen on my part, we finally reached our destination. The mining base had been carved into the side of a gigantic asteroid, and didn't look like much, but the crew of the Oceana had assured me that it was the place to go if you sought employment on a ship. Said and done.

I slid down the ladder protruding from the Oceana and landed on the metal deck of the base's cavernous hangar bay with a clank. I took a deep breath of recycled air. This was it. My new beginning. The chance for me to carve out an existance, experience true adventure and maybe even end up rich.

Of course, it took less than one hour before all of my romantic illusions about life as a privateer had been cruelly shattered. A couple of hoodlums robbed me of all of my possessions, and though they amounted to nothing more than a small duffel bag with some spare clothes and a couple of credits, it was all I had. Ironically, it was my search for these thugs that brought me to the Stellar Dust Bar, where I would finally find my fortune.

The bar was, as always, filled with the usual rowdy spaceport crowd. Fighting my way through the smoke, I quickly came to the conclusion that there was no way I'd be able to find the thieves and recover my bag. I stepped up to the bar, and pondered buying a drink before I remembered that my last few credits were just as gone as my last pair of clean underwear. Things were not looking good.

"Hey there, sonny," a deep voice suddenly croaked behind me. I whirled around, and there he was. Captain Femi N'Kono. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but I doubt I'd be here today if it hadn't been for old Femi.

"You look like you could use a drink," the black man continued. He looked to be in his middle sixties, and his black hair had gone mostly grey. He had a short, thick white beard, as well as an equally white mustache under his nose. Wrinkles were visible all over his face, and his eyes had a tired look about them. "Let me buy you one."

Femi waved at the bartender who quickly whipped me up some colorful local drink, that tasted worse than it looked.

"Thanks," I said to the man, grimacing as the alcohol hit my system much faster than I had expected. "I didn't think people here were in the habit of helping out total strangers, what with the 'every man for himself' mentality and all."

"True, true," Femi said, while sipping on his own drink. "But I guess people change with age."

Things went fast after that. I was looking for employment, and Femi was looking for employees. After the usual introductions, he offered me the spot of First Mate on his Wayfarer ship, and I wasn't about to say no.

Soon I found myself inside the cramped cockpit of the Wayfarer together with Captain N'Kono. I had spent a lot of time on the bridge of the Oceana, so it didn't take Femi long to teach me the ropes. When he was satisfied with my understanding of the controls, he relaxed into the pilot's chair and produced an old pipe from one of the many pockets on his flightsuit. As he puffed on his pipe, filling the small cockpit with a vile smoke that made my eyes water, he fixed me with serious stare.

"There's one thing I haven't told you yet, sonny," he said, blowing out even more smoke. "When they finish fueling this girl up, our first cargo run will be through the Shangora Passage."

The sudden choking feeling I experienced had nothing to do with the smoke.

"The Shangora Passage?" I said in disbelief. On the Oceana, I had spent a lot of time listening to stories about the Celeste System from the senior spacehands, and I had found the story of the Shangora to be one of the most intriguing.

Femi nodded slowly. "I take it you've heard of it, then."

There were probably hundreds of stories like it throughout human space, but this one did have some merit to it. Some time ago, there had been an insurrection on the prison ship Shangora and they had diverted to a region of space not too far from New Poona. The two fighters and the marine transport the military had dispatched to bring them back had entered that region only to never to be heard from again.

Rumors were going around that the prisoners on the Shangora had formed a pirate clan together with some renegade marines. They had aquired ships from an unknown source, and now attacked anything daring to enter 'their' sphere of influence.

Whether that was true or not, ships had been disappearing in that region of space, and those few that had managed to make it past spoke of relentless pirate attacks. The military had yet to make a sweep of the area in force, citing lack of resources as the problem. But traders still passed through the Shangora Passage every now and then, because just beyond it lay the Johannesburg Refinery. The only other route between the refinery and New Poona was to go on the far side of the gas giant Hestia, skimming its rings and avoiding the Shangora Passage entirely, and bykhazite, one of the rare minerals extracted at the mining base, degraded over time when it was seperated in anything less than asteroid-sized chunks. As a result, truly pure bykhazite was a rarity indeed. As if confirming my thoughts, Femi spoke.

"I've managed to procure a shipment of pure bykhazite. If we can get it to the Johannesburg Refinery within the time frame of..."

In the end, I didn't have much choice in the matter. I suppose I could have left Captain N'Kono and his Wayfarer, but to what? I had nothing. And besides, old Femi actually made it sound as if he could pull it off. We left New Poona that night, and soon found ourselves travelling into unknown space.

Since everything was dead quiet when we first entered the dreaded region of the Shangora Passage, Femi gave me the first watch as he retreated through the small exit in the back of the cockpit to the bunkroom. The Wayfarer was heading on a straight course so all I really had to do was monitor the systems, but I couldn't help myself from staring out through the forward viewscreen at the stars beyond it. Was there something out there?

Femi returned and smiled knowingly when he saw me stargazing. "Beautiful, isn't it? There's something special about space."

The old captain proceeded to slump down in the copilot's chair. Many Wayfarers operated with only one pilot, but N'Kono claimed age prevented him from doing everything needed to keep the ship flying. The previous copilot, some guy named Hoffman, had gotten his neck snapped in a brawl on New Poona a couple of weeks ago. I hoped I'd have more luck than him.

I nodded to Femi. "Yes, sir. There certainly is."

Once again, he pulled out that awful pipe of his, ignoring my grimacing. "As a child, back on Earth, I used to stare up into the nightsky for hours. And the first time I got up into space on an orbital shuttle from Nairobi Spaceport..." he chuckled to himself, spewing forth more of the obnoxious smoke. "...they had to pull me away from the viewport. But lately... I've been wondering if there isn't something else for me after all."

Just as I turned to look at him in confusion and surprise over that last comment, the radar started beeping.

"We've got two bogies coming in hot!"

I immediately started turning the ship to face the approaching vessels. At the speed they were gaining on them, there was no way the old Wayfarer would be able to outrun them, so I figured we might just as well bring our weapons and forward shields to bear on them.

"Closing fast..." Femi said, hunched as he was over a monitor in the copilot's position. "Those are pirate fighters if I ever saw any. Charging laser!"

The Captain slapped a large switch to the 'on' position, and the Wayfarer's single forward laser cannon slowly powered up.

Space ahead lit up as the fighters launched several volleys of energy fire at the lumbering light transport.

"They're opening up!" I cried, and saw Femi slapping another red button in the corner of my eye. The ship shuddered a little as it fired an IR missile at one of the fighters.

The pirates, on the other hand, had just finished their strafing run on the Wayfarer, and swept past it on its starboard side. As they did so, I managed to hit one of them in the rear with the laser a couple of times and moments later the missile slammed into the already weakened shield, engulfing the fighter in an explosion.

"We got one!" I said, cheering wildly. It was the first time I saw another ship blow up, but again, certainly not the last time. "Fire another missile at the remaining fighter!" Things were looking up all of a sudden. Maybe we'd be able to escape this with both the glory AND the money!

Femi looked up at me, his eyes filled with dread. "I can't! We only had one missile!"

"Oh, brother..."

The remaining fighter had come around for another pass now, and the ship shook badly as pirate's thunderous blows struck home. I did my best to elude the deadly fire, but without luck. The fighter swept past as it finished its second pass, and started to turn around for a third one.

I desperately fumbled with the Wayfarer's helm controls, trying to bring the nimble pirate fighter into the reticle and let lose a barrage with the ship's forward weaponry. It was easier said than done, though, as the enemy weaved and jinked to avoid my fire at every turn.

Sweat began pouring down my forehead, my hands hurt from clutching the flight controls, and then... and then everything felt just right. I knew, at that moment, that if I made it out of this alive, I was going to be a pilot. This was where I belonged. Suddenly, the maneuvers of the pirate didn't seem quite so complex and menacing as they had first appeared.

"Let's... let's just dump the cargo! We lost this one, boy... dump the damn cargo, and we'll be out of here! He might just let us go," Femi remarked, looking even more tense than I did. But I shook my head.

"No! I can take him! I know I can!"

And just then, as if in slow motion, the fighter moved up and right into the reticle. Just as with the other one, its shields had already been slightly weakened by the few stray hits I had already managed to score, and all I had to do was press the trigger. The volley of laser fire raced ahead and struck the fighter right on the canopy which all but disintigrated in the following blast. The aft section of the fighter was still intact, but without a pilot, it merely floated away carried by its forward momentum.

Femi and I sighed of relief in unison. After exchanging glances, I resumed the course of our previous destination.

When we finally reached the Johannesburg Refineries and touched down in their docking bay, Femi left to finalize the deal with the contractor. I was left overseeing the unloading procedure, but the cargo robots worked fast and I soon returned inside the Wayfarer and allowed myself to collapse on the pilot seat.

When Femi finally returned, he clapped his hands loudly to wake me up. I blinked and tried to focus on his grinning face. The pipe had found its way back to his mouth again, and it bobbed up and down as he spoke.

"The deal's finished. The credits were transfered to my account. Five times as much as a regular run would've made!"

I started to open my mouth to say something, but he held up his hand.

"Now, none of this would have come through if it hadn't been for you, boy. And that's why... I'm going to give this ship to you."

I blinked. Had I heard that right?

"I've been defying death more times than I can count, and I think it's time I quit while I'm still ahead," Femi continued. "I've been saving up for the last couple of years, and with this run, I've got enough to buy myself a new life even without selling the ship. That's why I want you to have it, son."

My own ship!

"I... I don't know what to say! It's..."

Femi again waved his hand at me to be quiet as he sucked on his pipe.

"I know it ain't much, but this ship has done a good enough job to keep me alive over the years. But with the firepower going around these days... I'm not so sure. It should be enough to get you started, though. If you play your cards right, you might just be able trade yourself up. Good luck out there in the void, sonny."

And with those words, he left me. My own ship... it took some time for the thought to sink in. What was I going to do with it? Trade? Fly as a mercenary? Engage in some of the more shady activities on the frontier? A myriad of options appeared inside my head. Everything seemed possible now.

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