So let’s go back a bit, as far back as 3250… the days before the frame shift age, when hyperspace jumps would take two weeks and then be followed up by days of travel in normal space at 0.1c…

The Winston family was a pretty unremarkable lot, farming on the outskirts of the city of Newtown (Nirvana, Phekda). Phekda was then as it is now just a collection of city states with anarchy in its skies — the nearest thing to order being the descendants of the original religious settlers — and longing to leave, my grandfather started his business with loaned money. A straightforward shipyard selling spares and small second hand vessels. His brother, James Winston, was sick of life planetside and simply wanted to leave. With the help of his brother and the ill-judged use of a loan shark, he purchased his first ship and almost instantly got himself into trouble. Drunken with excitement, he foolishly took a shady assassination mission and made good of it…right in the heart of the Federation, right in Barnard’s Star. He managed to escape, but with his reputation in the Federation ruined, he quickly found himself in Alliance space. He ultimately became loyal to the Alliance, and many years later, he became a flight instructor for the Alliance security forces, eventually becoming chief instructor at Dublin Citadel (Gateway).

His brother with the shipyard — my grandfather? He remained in Phekda with his business, he found a partner, and had a son — Tyler Mack Winston. Leaving their son behind with the family one day, my grandparents went to retrieve a ship a few light years away. They never returned and the family never found out what happened. Their son was a bit of a handful and as he hit his teenage years became too much for his ageing grandparents to cope with — and so was forced into James Winston’s custody on Dublin Citadel. Somehow my great uncle managed to calm the boy down somewhat, but aged 17, Tyler Mack Winston (who by then just went by the name Mack Winston — he hated the name Tyler) was about to repeat the mistakes of his uncle — to buy a ship with money from a loan shark, and take on missions that were likely to get him killed. His uncle realising that he couldn’t stop his nephew from leaving stepped in, and made sure he was outfitted with a decent ship to make a living. And all would have been well. My father actually just wanted to be an explorer. In the pre frameshift days, this usually meant getting onto a science team of a large multi-crew exploration vessel. But to land these sort of jobs you needed experience, so my father set out in his ship to get flight hours. Not being a scientist or engineer, his best bet was to get a pilot job, and to do that you needed command experience. His plan: gain the necessary experience with his own ship. This went well for a while, then there was an event that would turn my father’s life upside down.

Remember how his uncle, James Winston, did that assassination at Barnard’s Star? Thinking it was all forgotten, James was travelling through Barnard’s Star to attend a flight instructor’s conference. How wrong he was. As soon as he set foot in the station, he was swarmed by police, arrested, and charged. Despite protestations that his assassin target was an outlaw (that much was true) the Federation authorities in the system were having none of it.

So my father went to Barnard’s Star to support his uncle. So did a bunch of other supporters. So did one certain Norman Mosser. The event was causing serious embarrassment to the Alliance, and to smooth things over, the Barnards Star authorities eventually relented, heavily fining James Winston but letting him go free.

But my father had now met Norman Mosser at a time of fear and weakness. Not much is known of Norman Mosser’s early life, except that he was of Imperial origin, apparently titled, and fabulously wealthy — the wealth gained by mostly by foul means. Why Mosser was interested in James Winston isn’t recorded, but the result was that Mosser and my father met, and Mosser saw something in my father — namely my father’s nasty streak — which Mosser worked hard to cultivate. Soon my father’s dream of exploration were gone, and soon his criminal record was getting longer and longer. My father turned out to be quite the sharp shooter, and took part in some highly audacious hit jobs — mostly in Federation stations, and he became a serious embarrassment to his uncle James. Eventually he met up with Maria Dupage, an Imperial citizen with very distant links to the aristocracy, who took a shine to him while he was briefly imprisoned in Liaedin for a docking pad loitering violation. Sadly their relationship wasn’t to last — Maria was shot dead in front of my father in a bungled assassination attempt. My father then lost any semblence of self control and went on a revenge rampage. But eventually things got too hot, and he was forced to lie low. In his sorrow, he took a hair sample of Maria to an illegal clone lab on the outskirts of Imperial space… and so I was conceived in a petri dish from my father’s DNA plus the DNA in my mother’s hair root, three years after my mother had died. My father then got rid of his ship, and found passage to Azeban, Eranin — and disappeared. Or so he hoped. Not being the imaginative sort, he gave me the name he thought *he* should have always had, just plain “Mack Winston”, none of this awful Tyler business.

Then one day, when I was only about two years old, some group — probably Federation backed — showed up and abducted my father. They left me, though. My father was taken at gunpoint in public.

The Azeban authorities found me and I was put into a foster home. Since I was so young when all this went on, I didn’t know anything of my father. I grew up just as any other Azebanian would grow up. But I hated it. I hated Azeban. I hated the Azebanian people — insular, and closed minded. I hated the communist party. I was treated with disdain because I was different. I wasn’t a native Azebanian, I didn’t have their thick-set build or blue eyes, I was a lanky product of a Phekdan-Liaedinian cross with eyes and hair as black as deep space as a product of many generations living under the harsh Phekdan light. I hated the Azeban communist party. As I left childhood behind, I hated that I was stuck in a stultifying job imposed by the communist party. While the Azeban communist party was not as despotic as most, it didn’t need to be — the Azebanian people did the job for them. My only escape was the space simulator. I spent all my time having fanciful dreams of getting away from this place — but getting a pilot’s license was not something that Azebanians could achieve easily. I even began to resent my foster family, who became more distant the older I got. They threw me out as soon as they could. And so I spent several miserable years forced to do menial work imposed by the party. I was frequently in trouble for speaking out.

But in all of this, there was just one member of my foster family, Joaquin Jacobsen — who I called Uncle Joe — who seemed to not treat me with contempt. But he was one of the very few people I knew who had been space fairing, but he was very old and had retired. He had been watching me in the simulator over the years, and had pulled some strings and quite unexpectedly, I found myself sitting and passing a flight test, and being given a pilots license. My uncle Joe had also been digging, and had pieced together my family history. He presented me his research just after I got my pilots license. Then he gave me the gift that would change my life forever. I realised with elation that this would be the day I could stick up a huge middle finger to the whole of Azeban, its foul communist system, its awful cruel insular population and get myself far, far away! I would hear at last the words “Frame shift drive charging” for real, and be away from Eranin forever. My adoptive uncle’s old Cobra Mk.3 was in mothballs in Azeban City, just waiting for her new pilot. Me! I left Azeban without permission of the party. Good riddance scumbags!

I did what any new pilot did — trading, courier missions and the like to make a living. My adoptive uncle had also given me another gift — a Sol permit — so I thought I ought to check out the birthplace of our species.

But it turned sour. On landing at Mikhail Gorbachev station in Earth orbit, I was immediately detained by the Federal authorities. They ran my DNA to confirm that I was related to the notorious Tyler Mack Winston. I protested my innocence — I didn’t even know my father! But they were unrelenting. I was interrogated for hours at a time and held for days. They even threatened to send me back to Azeban. Eventually they let me go, but immediately marked me as “unfriendly”. I had done nothing wrong! I cut my visit short, only very briefly looking down at the planet Earth with my own eyes. Aimlessly, I ended up travelling to LHS 331 in Alliance space. While the Alliance didn’t seem to care about my family history, my occasional contacts with officialdom showed me that they saw me with faint embarrassment the moment they saw my family history record. I remember the look on the immigration officer when they gave me the Alioth permit. With no animosity towards the Alliance, I decided that I would leave and see if even the Empire would be accepting of me. So I headed south, and eventually ended up in Empire space. I didn’t expect much — but at least the Empire didn’t reject me, or look at me as an embarrassment. I was just another commander, and my contributions were valued as much as any other’s. So I began to make my home in Imperial space…dreaming of a gleaming white Clipper, and all the while I would never forget how I was treated by the Federation in Sol.

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