This is Planets Magazine Action News, coming to you live with a special report: The Capricorn War — Conflict in Echo Cluster!
Good evening; I’m Jim Chancellite. The top story for today is the destruction of the luxury liner “Cloud Nine” in the orbit of an obscure planet in the middle of nowhere, as well as her sister ship, the “Mary Celeste”. Reports are slow coming in, but we have confirmation that the Colonial science vessel “Charles Epps” was on the scene and has rescued hundreds of passengers. Apparent movement of the Cyborg fleet in the area has resulted in restrictions on external transmissions in the area, but we’ve got our embedded Colonial reporter, Hephaestus Tyrol, coming to us live from the Colonial Fleet. Fess, can you hear me?
HT: Coming in loud and clear, Jim.
JC: What have you heard about the orbital disaster?
HT: Things are still confused, Jim. Initial reports had it that there was a minefield accident in one of the outlying areas, but the “Cloud Nine” was more than a hundred light-yahrens away at the time —
JC: Excuse me, Fess. “Light-yahren”?
HT: Sorry, Jim. A Colonial “yahren” is roughly equivalent to one Imperial standard year. There are several other differences in weights and measures here in the Colonies —
JC: Yes; I see.
HT: *ahem* Uh… More recent reports show that there are elements of the Cyborg fleet operating in the area, and it’s possible that enemy action was responsible.
JC: But in that case, wouldn’t the “Epps” also have been attacked? We’re given to understand that it’s an unarmed research vessel that just happened to be in the area.
HT: Well, as to that, very few ships in the Colonial navy are completely unarmed. Even the “Cloud Nine”, a dedicated luxury liner and gambling vessel, had some rudimentary armament, though it’s not clear if the single torpedo tube was loaded at the time of the incident. We’re — oh, excuse me, I’m — HEY!!!
*sounds of a scuffle*
JC: Fess? Fess? What’s happening over there? Fess!
Unidentified Voice: Your reporter is currently under restraint for violating the Colonial Secrets Act.
JC: The… Who is this?
UV: I’m sure my superiors will contact you in a few centons.
JC: Hey! We’re conducting an interview here! Fess!
Well. We seem to have… uh… lost contact with Fess Tyrol over in Colonial space. We’ll keep trying — and I’m sure the producers right now are calling our lawyers — but for now, we’ll go for some expert commentary to retired Lt. Col. Tolliver South, right here in our studios. Colonel South?
JC: Colonel South? Are you there?
TS: …oh! Uh… yes, yes I am, Jim. Sorry; just having a cup of coffee.
JC: That’s all right, Colonel; at our age, we can all use some stimulation now and again. So — what can you tell us about these two ships?
TS: The… uh… the “Mary Celeste” had long been considered an unlucky ship, and it was not unusual for her to travel with less than a full complement of passengers. By contrast, the “Cloud Nine” has been long famed as the epitome of luxury and has always cruised full, ever since her initial launching back in the days of Emperor Spacesquad (of glorious memory).
JC: So the “Mary Celeste” was an unlucky ship, was she?
TS: Yes; there were even rumors of a curse that followed her. Two of her original captains had died, one from illness and the second from drowning, and several of her cruises were notably unsuccessful. But most telling was her previous voyage, where she was found drifting and abandoned while under ballast and towed into port as salvage — by the “Charles Epps”, as it happens.
JC: Oh, my! I hadn’t heard that at all.
TS: I thought it might surprise you a bit. We’ve just been researching the reports from that event, but they’re rather sparse; the one complete statement, by a J. Habbakuk Jephson, has just been shown to be a hoax, a work of absolute fiction. The one thing we do know is that the vessel’s registry had in fact been changed to that of the Empire of the Bird Men at the time of the incident — we got that from the insurance company.
JC: This would be as a result of the recent salvage… er… operation?
TS: It would appear so, though as I said, our research at this time is far from complete.
JC: Well, by all means return to your investigations, Tollie. This seems promising.
TS: Yes; I expect we’ll be at it for much of the night, Jim.
JC: I’ll have some more coffee sent over.
And that’s the way it is, today, the tennith of Shazzbot in the third year of the reign of Emperor Emork. Long may he reign! Stay tuned for tonight’s evening show — a revival of the old Doctor Who serial, “Mawdryn Undead”, on most of your local network stations.9