At the annual Feast of the 100, a banquet for key business leaders on Capitol in Achenar, one of the after dinner speakers, Senator Denton Patreus declared the importance of the Imperial succession.
"We have a truly great Empire. Our grace Emperor Hengist is sadly not well, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Nevertheless, we do need to plan should the worst happen. The choice of our next Emperor is a vital one. The succession should not be about family bloodlines, but about who would be best for the future Empire. For past generations, and for Hengist himself, he was groomed for power for decades by his great father, and this has worked well for over a thousand years. It was not just about blood, it was about learning from his father. This time there is no such successor, so things need to change."
Reports are coming in that the slaves in Sorbago have taken control of many of the mines on Sorbago A1 and have massacred those in control. We have no reporters on the scene so cannot verify these stories.
A spokeswoman for Mastopolos Mining Incorporated, which runs the mines and much of the system, has issued the following statement:
"Our security forces have intercepted ships from outside the system bringing guns to the rebels. This is destabilising our workforce, and has got to stop."
Senator Torval, a major shareholder in Mastopolos, has sent some of her private warships to the system. She has also further increased aid for those assisting her in fighting off "these external rabble-rousers". In the meantime, the price of ore has risen in the area.
Arissa Lavigny, the outspoken courtier and the daughter of historic socialite Prince Aristide Lavigny (famously eaten by his own pet Linglang when Arissa was very young) has declared that the Prince was not her father.
She claimed that she is in fact the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Hengist. She spent many of her early years around the Imperial Court. Her father and mother were close friends of the Emperor, and perhaps now we know why. Her mother is still seen in court from time to time.
The information was conveyed in a press release and our requests for an interview with Arissa have so far been declined.
This would put her claim to the throne ahead of Aisling Duval's, but her parents being unmarried still means her claim is not solid. Palace officials could not be drawn to comment, but the fact that the Palace has not issued a denial is significant.
16 December 3300 was the day President Halsey declared the onionhead narcotic illegal in Federal systems.
The outrage amongst the Farmer's Cooperative may be tempered by the fact that her edict doesn't seem to have had much effect on Commanders' activity, quite the oppostite in fact, with Kappa Fornacis' finest produce being eagerly distributed to the black market throughout the galaxy, and especially within Federal systems.
We've heard a whisper that Madame President's dismay at this may lead her to start flexing her metaphorical muscles.
Meanwhile Senator Torval is looking to shore up her powerbase in the deadly game of Imperial succession that is being played out. Her wealth is built on slavery, and from the 26 million credits claimed by Commanders willing to offer Sorbago's slaves the 'opportunity' of a better class of slavery in the Empire via Mastopolos Mining Inc's links with the Senator it looks like she is gaining traction.
Senator Denton Patreus, meanwhile, is engaged in a more even fight. Ever the one to manipulate strife to his own ends whilst disguising his intentions with grandiose sentiments, Patreus has thrown his considerable resources behind the Jera Nationalists. The incumbent Jera Social Democrats are currently managing to hold their own in the battle for control in the system, with Commanders' support evenly split.
Federal Admiral Vincent has declared a blockade of the Kappa Fornacis system to prevent the spread of the narcotic onionhead.
Speaking after a meeting at the Admiralty in Quenisset on Mars he answered questions from waiting journalists.
"The local government is failing to prevent the spread of this vile narcotic through the galaxy, so we must do so on behalf of the Federation. Any ship carrying this narcotic will be destroyed by our forces."
The Farmer's leader, Georgio Algeria has put out a plea for help.
"Please help us. This is our livelihood. If the Federation doesn't like it then it must be cool. And you'll be cool if you help us. Come and back us against the oppressors."
The sick Emperor Hengist Duval has managed to appear in the Senate, albeit in a travel chair, to issue a decree.
He decreed Harold, his son, not of sound mind. This gives some credence to the claim in the more scurrilous news feeds a year ago that Hengist once referred to his son in not very regal terms in private.
"The little idiot is utterly bonkers. He couldn't find his own bottom with both hands."
This was of course, denied. This decree, as commentators have been quick to point out, means there is no clear successor to the throne. Unusually the event was excluded from newscasts, but those present said he looked frail.
Aisling Duval, arguably second in line for the throne if her parents were married, spoke out against slavery on the chat show 'Celebrity Pets', particularly the rebellion in Sorbago.
"We should accept that in this 34th century, this is a barbaric practice for people of honour. We should free the slaves in Sorbago. And for that matter Ngun, Eta Horologii, Kuyu, and Cemiess right away. This will happen anyway when my father becomes Emperor."
There has been some discussion among commentators that Aisling now appears to be speaking for her father. Senator Torval said in an off-the-cuff remark while leaving an awards ceremony:
"Well I suppose her soak of a father can't speak for himself any more. At least she could read the names of a few systems she had been given on a note. It would have been better if she could have been told how to pronounce them!"
In a popular move, Senator Denton Patreus has announced the already low tax regime for all Imperial Citizens under his patronage will be lowered to zero. Before boarding his private yacht he said to reporters present:
"It is the duty of the successful to provide well for their loyal supporters. Our many successes abroad have brought us vast wealth. I take pride that those under my patronage get the best medical care, the best assistance if they fall on hard times, and because of their support in the past, the lowest taxes."
Patreus is said to earn vast sums in interest payments on the many loans he has made to foreign governments to buy Imperial weaponry, which he also supplies.
Georgio Algeria, the spokesman for the Farmer's Union in the Kappa Fornacis system, has spoken out at the Federal President's declaration that Onionhead, the main export from the Kappa Fornacis system, be illegal.
At a press conference on Panem he said:
"Onionhead is great, cool. Loved across the galaxy. We make it, you eat it. Don't eat it if you don't want it. Call yourself President! We will keep making it and you will keep eating it. It's what we do. It's all we do."
Algeria would not be drawn on it in public, but it is clear the President's controversial actions have spread publicity for Onionhead far and wide and demand is higher than ever on the black market.
In a move that is sure to worry some independent governments, Senator Denton Patreus has announced his forces have been sent to aid the long-suffering rebels in the Jera system.
He answered questions on the steps of the Imperial Opera House on Conversion in the Achenar system.
"The left-leaning government in Jera has long been oppressing hard-working minorities. This is the fundamental problem with democracy - the bullying of the aspirational minority by the indolent majority. That bullying has to stop."
The Federal President Jasmina Halsey has declared the newly discovered rare narcotic 'Onionhead' illegal throughout Federal space. Onionhead is the fruit of an alien plant, only grown on Panem in the independent Kappa Fornacis system.
Halsey has said she is concerned by the effect it is having on Federal youth in that part of the galaxy.
"We must be strong and protect our youth from vile substances that are rotting their minds. This is why I have taken this difficult step."
Rumours of the slave rebellion in the Sorbago system have been confirmed. In a speech to business leaders, pro-slavery Senator Zemina Torval denied sending two of her personal Majestic Class Interdictors, the Boudica and the Elizabeth, to put down the revolt, but said:
"They have gone to Sorbago to help the local mining corporation keep the peace and to keep out the external forces that are trying to create a conflict."
Reports suggested the slaves are not being treated according to Imperial Law.
Torval has announced generous payments to those that help her, and has criticised the barbaric treatment of unregulated slaves outside the Empire in the past.
"I will personally sponsor any unregulated slaves brought to Synteini, Shinigami, Quile, LTT 9810, Tau-2 Gruis A, Naunei, and Tepertsi to be given full Imperial Rights and treated as Imperial Slaves."
The Imperial Palace has issued a statement saying that while the Emperor is unwell, it is not as serious as many commentators are suggesting. Nevertheless speculation is rife. The Chancellor, Senator Anders Blaine, has tried to quell the speculation.
"The great Emperor Hengist has not involved himself in the detail of politics for a long time. It is a terrible loss for us all that he is unwell, but even if the worst does come and our beloved Emperor passes away, we will have a coronation, we will have a spectacular ceremony and some great parties, but nothing will really change. The Senate and I will continue to run the Empire."
It is said that actions speak louder than words, and it has been noted that many shipyards throughout Imperial space appear to be concentrating on bringing numerous Imperial Interdictors run by key Senators to battle readiness with full squadrons of fighters. This is highlighted by the reduced number of new ships they are completing on the open market.
All five of the slaver Senator Torval's 'enforcers' – giant battle-hardened Interdictors – have left port, and her luxuriously equipped Majestic Class yacht "Xanadu", which still packs a punch, is ready to travel at a moment's notice. Senator Patreus's fleet is also mobilised, though this is not so unusual, but we expect some fireworks in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile in the Federation, another vote in Congress has gone against besieged President Halsey. She has been forced to remove her block on the Navy's latest budget. Shadow President Hudson declared this a major victory.
"Finally our once great Navy can operate again. Belatedly our heroes can return to full pay, and we can start to bring our fleet out of mothballs. Our Frontier States can once again see the justification for their taxes, and the powerful support we can bring to them."
We couldn't get a comment from the Alliance leadership, but we did manage to speak to a junior aide who wanted to remain unnamed.
"It's depressing they're at it again. I thought Halsey was better than that. Doubtless millions will die, and there's not much the Alliance can do except broker the odd meaningless set of peace talks after they've had at each other."
There have been some interesting goings on in the Lugh system, which was a peaceful, Federally controlled system until last week.
Then CMDR orfeboy started acting as agent provocateur for the Crimson State Group.
"Over the centuries those who could moved to the Lugh system to be closer to their point of attention and an underground following has grown over the centuries into now what is a sizable minority faction in this system.
Always persecuted and hunted in the past they have established themselves now as a force within the system where each and every right they posses had to be fought and worked for. But they will accept repression no more.
Now we want what is rightfully ours! The worship of the great God Lugh will no longer be oppressed and we will have dominance in this sector and eject the oppressive Federation out of this system declaring an independent Lugh!
We call on all ships for support.
Come to Lugh. Only do missions for the 'Crimson State Group'.
We need guns and weapons to gather forces for our uprising.
Our numbers are few but our resolve steadfast!
We will not fail. We cannot fail. We must not fail!"
With the help of many others, his campaign has seen Crimson State’s influence rise in the system from being a minor faction to such an extent that at the time of writing the system is on the brink of civil war.
Arguably the most powerful person in the galaxy, Emperor Hengist Duval, is sick.
He has ruled the Empire now for 67 years since his coronation in 3233 following the death of his father, Hesketh Duval.
Emperor Hengist is only 118, born only a week before the death of his grandfather, Hender Saik Duval. Some say Hender's spirit had already transferred to Hengist at that time.
The Duval Imperial line has been unbroken for almost a thousand years. There have been power struggles in the past, but the usurpers have been successfully dealt with behind closed doors.
This time is different.
Hengist has been not involved himself in politics for a long time, relying on his Chancellor, Senator Blaine and has taken a laissez faire attitude towards a handful of increasingly powerful and ambitious Senators whilst Harold, the current heir, quickly made a name for himself as a feckless playboy.
The warlike Senator Denton Patreus, last seen trying to destabilise the Eranin system during the conflict surrounding its 30th Anniversary of Independence from the Federation, continues his manipulative power-broking in the galaxy at large.
The preposterously rich Senator Zemina Torval is using her slaver corporation supporters and personal fleet of Majestic-class Interdictors to suppress revolts and to further her ambitions.
Commentators expect others to show their hand, too.
Much like in Imperial Rome on ancient Earth, Senators determine the tax rates of their supporters and both Patreus and Torval have become hugely popular back home as they have each used their huge wealth to lower taxation to zero.
There is a real prospect of the next Emperor not being a Duval. And the bitter fight for succession is about to spill out into the open.
Meanwhile, the Federation and Alliance of Independent Systems are watching with keen interest.
According to the experts at Wreaken Construction &Mining, all you need is a refinery, a mining laser and a little luck. Most rings in known space are depleted but for the individual there is still some money to be made. The current equipment is not configured to work with ice rings and the best yields will be found on metal rings far from populated space.
Our contact at Universal Cartographics, James Urquhart, was keen to point out that data is available in any of the mapped systems, showing both the type of ring/belt and the level of reserves. Reserves have been categorised from Depleted to Pristine and belt composition comes under one of the four types.
Achilles Aerospace's recently unveiled FSD interdictor product line has prompted Federation-wide renewed calls for frame shift interdiction to be classified as a crime - a proposal strongly rejected by several independent systems in this sector.
A spokesperson for the Achilles division, which specialises in ship modifications, refused to comment on what is becoming a political issue, other than to reveal that sales of the FSD interdictor module are performing beyond expectations.
Security analysts recommend that whilst interdiction remains legal, super cruising pilots should pay attention to vessels approaching from behind, as this is the device's required position to tether the two craft together and begin the process of interdiction.
Starport services across the sector are defending their fuel pricing strategy amid claims of price fixing.
A representative for Tranquillity Stops, 'the Galaxy's favourite services', angrily refuted claims of impropriety.
The spokeswoman told us:
"Whilst pilots can fit a fuel scoop to their vessel and attempt to skim the surface of stars to refill their tank for free, anyone with an ounce of sense will understand the dangers of such an activity."
She added that, measured against the potential thermal damage and risk of interdiction, fuel prices were actually "quite reasonable".
The Pilot's Federation has made the Universal Cartographics Discovery Module a standard component in all Sidewinder loadouts.
The Discovery Module is activated via a fire group, and works at both standard and supercruise speeds.
Once charged, it emits radiation bursts and analyzes reflections and reactions to build an overview of local unknown bodies.
Pilots can perform close-range scans of stars, planets and moons using standard targeting procedures. After a short delay, the on-board navigation computer will be updated with details of the body.
Exploration data can be traded with Universal Cartographics in starports, and growing demand has seen upgraded discovery modules and detailed surface scanners made available.
Now into its fifth day, the Eranin civil war has escalated quickly.
The system's independence celebrations saw mass exports of celebratory liquor, a practice banned in short order by the Federation.
The perceived Federal opposition to the Independent communist regime sparked anti-government protests and the rise of pro-Federation rebels in Eranin.
War erupted on September 26 and spilled out of the system with rebel attacks on targets in Wyrd, and retaliation against Federal Navy assets in i Bootis by Eranin Defense Forces.
At the weekend, Azeban's provincial city of New Fresno fell to the pro-Federation rebels, triggering an exodus of loyalist refugees.
Rumors persist of Imperial involvement.