My Simming Memoirs

Part 2: Dreams

USS Vindicator Senior Staff, by Josh Riker

Left to right: Commander M. L. Moses; Captain Chas Hammer; Ensign Kyrin Troi; Lt. Commander Josh Riker; Lt. Commander Alx

Chapter 6: My Ship and My Dream; Chapter 7: Ben's Nightmare; Chapter 8: Chip's Dream; Chapter 9: Prodigy Dreams; Chapter 10: Scott's Dream

 

Chapter 6: My Ship and My Dream

"Ahhhhh I would like to join." - Cadet Alx, September 7, 1996, asking to join the Vindicator.

During the second half of 1996, the dreams that would shape and drive Trek Online for most of its history were first articulated and set into motion. These dreams would lie at the very heart of the club, and we would struggle for years to make them into a reality.

August 31, 1996, proved to be a very important day in my life. After deciding to start up my own sim club on Prodigy, I signed onto AOL to see what had transpired there while I was on vacation. Amazingly, my E-mail box did not contain any letters from Chip. He had actually listened to my request not to send me any E-mails while I was away. Today, that really is not much of an issue. People often check their E-mail while they are away on vacation, or simply read all of it when they return. However, in those days, it was a courtesy to stop sending E-mails when you knew the person was going to be away for a few days.

Of course, the lack of E-mail may have been because Chip decided he wanted to tell me what he had planned for me in person, for shortly after I signed online, Chip IMed me and invited me into a private chat room. There Chip introduced me to CmdrCurok and informed me that he had selected Curok to be the First Officer of the Generation. To say the least, I was relieved. Now I could take my leave of the entire mess that was the UFP/SF, the forum protest, and the Generation to focus on my club on Prodigy.

However, my monumental day was not yet finished. Immediately after informing me about his first officer decision, Chip told me, "Chas, I want you to be my Vice President and I will let you have your own ship." Needless to say, I must have submitted a pretty good application. In fact, as I later found out, I possessed far more simming and command experience than Chip, which really isn't saying much for either of us. Of course, I did not know that at the time, but I did have a feeling that Chip was in over his head and didn't know the first thing about how to organize a sim or run a club. I was impressed by the info packet he had sent me on August 19, but as I would later discover, he had just sent me a revised copy of the ASG info packet where ASG was changed to UFP/SF. Clearly, when Chip found out about my experience as the Vice President of STECO, he decided he wanted to keep me around to help him with the club. That is probably why when I withdrew my application on August 21st Chip worked to talk me into staying.

Now, one would think that if I was having doubts about being a First Officer, I would have turned down being the Vice President. However, as we all know, I of course accepted Chip's offer to become his Vice President and command a sim in the UFP/SF. After all, it is not every day when you are made that kind of an offer. I quickly decided that, despite my strong reservations and concerns about the UFP/SF, the mess that was the club was now my mess, and I would do everything I could to fix it up and get it running. I would simply take the plans that I had developed for STECO and apply them to both the UFP/SF and to my new club on Prodigy. I further figured that since the UFP/SF already had a number of people in it, milling around and waiting to sim, I would take a few months and focus on getting the club up and running, step back, and allow Chip to manage it after I had set up the initial club machinery. With that, I would turn to Prodigy, start up, and run my own club there.

It was presumptuous, of course, but it was pretty easy for me to tell that Chip would appreciate help, and I have always exuded self-confidence, so I figured I would be up to the task. I really did not know how to organize a sim or ship, but I just though through everything that needed to be done, remade my STECO for AOL, and got to work.

All in all, I possessed a very simple dream, but my time table would turn out to be completely wrong, and my sense of impending doom would soon prove to be all so true. But, on August 31, and during the first few days of September of 1996, I was upbeat and brushed aside all fears and reservations.

I quickly took the E-mail that Chip had sent me on August 19th, combined it with my ideas about how to sim and organize a club, and wrote a comprehensive guidebook for the UFP/SF which would provide all club members with data on where to sim, how to sim, how the club was to be organized and governed, what the basic rules and legal procedures would be, how to contact and petition the leaders of the club, and so forth. Chip was quite pleased with my work and immediately approved its use as the club guidebook.

A guidebook really is one of the most effective ways to organize a club and keep everyone on the same page. It ensures that people sim the same way, follow the same rules, know what the club has to offer and know how the club operates. It provides a foundation of reality for the club.

In 1996, the guidebook had the immediate effect of organizing the protesters who expressed an interest in simming and focused their thoughts onto the new club and provided them with a document of what their new club was going to look like. And this club was going to be a radically new club, based on the principles of the lost generation. The sims would be for fun. Captains would be in charge of their ship and report directly to the president. And most radical of all, people could attend other sims in the club. It is hard to imagine today, but that is how rigid simming was. When AOL allowed people to spend more time online, many clubs simply forbade people from joining other sims within the club, and from joining other clubs.

At the time, Chip commented that he was impressed I worked so fast. The truth is I had things somewhat planned out for STECO, so it was just a matter of writing them down for the UFP/SF, and that did not involve much major work on my part. Years later, Chip stated if it had not been for my efforts during the first few days in September of 1996, the club would never have been born. I feel that the club guidebook was a key component of my success. For as long as I was the President of Trek Online, I would constantly update the guidebook. My belief in its power as the basic component in helping to organize a sim club has never wavered.

I really do not know why I was so timid with Rick in STECO and why I was so bold in asserting my ideas with Chip. Maybe part of it had to do with the fact that after watching STECO die I was not going to let the UFP/SF die before it even got started. Maybe it was because at one point in time, Rick proved himself to be a capable leader and simmer and I was just waiting for that to return, where as I could tell that Chip needed help. Or most likely, I felt comfortable with Chip. Since day one we got along and we would quickly become friends, where as with Rick it was a very cut and dry business relationship.

At the same time I was working on the club guidebook, I also began to construct my ship. After all, it was Labor Day weekend, so I had a few days off that I could use to work on the club. Chip had suggested that my ship should be named the USS Mariner, which was the name he was going to use for the Generation before he thought up the name Generation. However, I had another name in mind, a name which I had been storing in my head for a few months. The name was Vindicator.

The name USS Vindicator name came from Prodigy and my Orion sim. During the free for all sims on Prodigy, I had developed my own refitted Galaxy Class ship called the USS Orion. Part of the refit allowed the Orion to carry a Defiant Class ship under the belly of its drive section. One of my friends commanded the Defiant Class ship, named the Vengeance.

One day, after the sim where the Vengeance made its first appearance, my friend and I were trying to remember what we called the ship. I remembered it started with a V, so I said, "Is it the Vindicator?" That sparked his memory and he replied, "No it is the Vengeance, but I like that name as well." I also liked the name Vindicator and decided to store it in the back of my head in case I ever needed a name for a new ship.

The NCC number that I picked for the Vindicator, 16052, is derived from my old days of playing Star Trek at recess and after school. The class - Patton Class - was taken directly from my STECO plans to run a ship there called the USS Patton. While I would have liked to have ran a TOS or movie era sim, which is what I planned to do in STECO, Chip wanted all of the sims in the UFP/SF to be from the DS9/Voyager era of Star Trek, which is was what was airing in 1996. As a result, the Vindicator was set in the DS9/Voyager era.

The Patton Class is, of course, a class I made up. On Prodigy, in our random sims, we made up our own ships and classes all the time, but to people on AOL, it was a revolutionary idea. The point of simming in the first and second generations was - as I have said several times - to accurately recreate Star Trek. As a result, SFOL and many other clubs only used classes that had been seen in Star Trek. It simply was not permitted to make up your own.

The Patton Class was a battleship by definition. The Deep Space 9 series had opened up a vast new frontier for the Federation in both the Alpha Quadrant (Bajor, Cardassia, Maquis, etc) and the entire Gamma Quadrant. The Patton Class was designed to explore, patrol and defend those vast regions of space. In addition, the Patton Class incorporated all of Starfleet's most advanced technologies and was designed to fight the Borg. However, I never liked super ships or completely battle oriented sims. To prevent this, I made it so that Patton Class ships possessed a number of weaknesses. The most notable being that the ship was so jammed packed with new technologies that they often were not fully tested. As a result, they were prone to break downs and suffered numerous engineering and software conflicts. In addition, because there were so many things jammed packed onto the ship, there simply was not enough power to run everything at once.

These little quirks make the Vindicator feel more realistic. After all, real life naval ships each have their own unique characteristics, flaws and quirks. It also provided a layer of detail to the sim that could be developed and explored. But overall, the only mission the Vindicator had was to explore, patrol and defend the vast new territories opening up to the Federation, a very simple story line that all could understand and would leave us free to engage in all kinds of simulated adventures.

All of the information about the Vindicator was put into a welcome letter that I sent to everyone who joined the crew. Aside from info about the ship itself, in the letter I also welcomed the person to my crew and thanked them for joining, explained where and when the sim occurred, and provided a little blurb about my simming philosophy, (how I felt we were all here to have fun, to be creative, and to enjoy ourselves). In addition, I started that our ranks in the sim were imaginary and had no bearing outside of the sim. Simply call me Chas and if you ever have any questions, comments, complaints, etc, to feel free to talk to me.

I also wrote up a character info sheet, which new crew members were expected to fill out. I asked everyone who joined the Vindi to make up their own sim character and to write down some basic details about their character - such as name, age, race, sex, physical build, personal history, personality traits, abilities/talents, fears/negative characteristics, etc. While I had developed a strong belief from STECO to allow people to create and develop their own characters, I would try to work with everyone on the Vindi in refining their characters, or in rare cases where they made a Q or God like character which simply was not acceptable, I helped people create a new one. Again, it is all about attention to detail. When you get people thinking about their character, they begin to think about the sim, how their character will act in the sim, and as a result, a simmer develops a much more professional attitude. Also, the development of everyone's character, and the relationships people develop in the sim become the basis for many story lines, and it helps to create a framework that keeps a sim flowing.

With my ship and character info in hand, I E-mailed all of the protesters who were interested in simming, introduced myself, and explained that Chip had authorized me to start a new sim on Thursday nights at 8pm eastern. I provided everyone with the info on the Vindicator, and sent them the character info sheet to fill out if they wished to join. I also asked people to specify which posts they would be interested in. With in a few short days, I had received a number of responses. By about the 10th of September I had a crew in place and we were ready to sim. I had selected Moses to be my first officer, but since he was going to be busy on most Thursdays till December, I decided in the mean time to pick one of my crew members each week to serve as the first officer in order to give them some command experience. A few weeks earlier, at the STS academy, I had made an agreement with Moses that someday I would be the First Officer on his ship and he would be the First Officer on mine. Little did we know that our agreement would come into effect only a few weeks later. We figured it would have occurred years in the future, after we both, hopefully, became captains in STS.

With everything coming together, I soon announced to the public that the Vindicator would begin to sim on Thursday, September 19, 1996, at 8pm eastern. One month after being recruited by the UFP/SF, I had risen to the rank of Captain and Vice President, had organized my own sim, and helped to get the club onto its feet. Very impressive if you ask myself.

As a result of my competition, Chip got his act together and organized a crew for the Generation. Although he did not write up any thing about the Generation that was as extensive as what I had put together for the Vindicator, the little info packet/welcome letter for the Generation that he did write, which stated, among other things, that the Generation was an Intrepid Class, did help to generate interest in the sim, and this allowed Chip to recruit and organize a crew out of the pool of protesters. He also used the character info sheet I made up for the Vindi crew, which also helped him in his quest to put together his sim. (The Generation as an Intrepid Class was not to last, however. In fact, the Generation's seemingly constantly switching of its class without any major refit or destruction of the old ship caused the Generation to become the subject of many TOL puns.)

The Generation held its first sim on Friday, September 13, 1996. Given all of the bad luck that was to plague the club in the coming months, it probably would have been best had we not tempted fate and held our first sim on Friday the 13th. Regardless, the first Generation sim was fun for everyone who attended and the UFP/SF was finally up and simming.

Thus endith the lesson on how to organize a sim and club...

 

Chapter 7: Ben's Nightmare

"I am the sim director for the new Star Trek Universe Forum. That isn't going so well. Basically we got rejected." - Chip in an E-mail to Chas, August 24, 1996, explaining the situation with the forum.

Ben's dream was to create a new Star Trek and simming forum on AOL. As soon as I heard of the idea I thought it was complete lunacy and it would never happen, but many - including Ben - fueled by the growing reform spirit of the lost generation, were absolutely convinced that they could change AOL, and, like SFOL, get a forum of their own. The only problem was that AOL was rapidly changing into a legitimate, mature business. It was no longer the rough and tumble pioneering days where anyone with a good idea and the right connections had a shot at a forum.

In mid August, Ben and his team, including Uriden1 and Dan, made Chip the sim director of the proposed forum. Since they were going to be too busy running the entire forum, Chip was to have complete control over the sim operations. However, a week or so later, AOL officially rejected Ben's idea for the forum and his dream started to turn into a nightmare. Chip was informed, and he spread word so that all of the protesters could bombard AOL with complaints about the rejection.

This entire episode with the forum, Ben and Chip, probably deserves to go down in the annals of simming history as one of the strangest ways that a sim club ever came into being. I do not know of any other sim club that began as the result of a protest against a major corporation, and where the leaders of the protest informed one of the protesters to put together a sim club on the side because it may give the protesters a better chance of being listened to. But this strange episode was not to end there.

For all practical purposes, when AOL rejected Ben and his forum on August 24, the protest began to fall apart. Thanks to extremely good timing on Chip's and my part, we were able to recruit about 30 or so of the hundred plus protesters into our sim club before the protest completely evaporated.

After August 24, a few protesters did E-mail complaints to AOL. Ben and his team attempted to make some last ditch appeals to AOL, but it was all in vain. In reality it was Uridien1, not Ben, who had been communicating with AOL, and he actually managed to present his ideas to some very high AOL gaming officials before it was officially rejected. However, as a result of all of the time he had spent online in August talking with AOL, he had spent way more than his allotted 20 online hours and probably racked up a several hundred dollar bill from AOL for the month of August. As a result, when the forum was rejected, Uridien1 decided to cancel AOL, probably sometime around the end of August or the beginning of September.

When Uridien1 left AOL, something very amazing happened. Ben began to go around telling everyone that, miraculously, he (Ben) had contacted AOL, that the last ditch protest after August 24 had worked, that AOL had given him a forum, and that it was currently under construction. With Uridien1 gone, no one could confirm or deny what Ben was saying since apparently only Ben and Uridien1 had the names of the AOL officials to contact. Yet, at the time, being the skeptic that I am, after I had the club and my sim in order, I decided to investigate.

During the weekend prior to my sim, on September 14th and 15th, I finally met Ben and held two meetings with him and his so called forum staff. Being new to AOL (my short time on AOL in 1994 aside), I had a ton of questions and probably came across as an idiot. However, I was curious enough to have already been exposed to the gossip and stories about the now legendary break up of SFOL, and Paramount's supposed legal challenges to the name Starfleet. So I asked Ben about this history and any possible legal problems we would have. Quite naturally, I just wanted to sim and didn't want to have to worry about lawyers. Unfortunately, the chat turned into a huge argument and Ben constantly avoided all of my questions, did not provide any clear answers and just smiled and told me to trust him. Of course, this was due to the fact that Ben was lying about the forum having been accepted. His lies had convinced Chip and the forum staff, but I left the chat suspicious and convinced that Ben was lying. Ben probably left the chat feeling that I was on to him, that he had to get rid of me in order to protect his lie, and that I was an idiot so it would be easy to get rid of me.

Ben immediately sprang into action. He contacted Chip, and to this day I have no idea what Ben told Chip, but it was enough to convince Chip that it was a bad idea to have me in the club.

It was September 19, and the Vindicator was ready to sim at 8pm eastern. However, to borrow a quote from the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams, "things got rather muddled, but that isn't to say some very muddling things weren't happening." When I signed on early that evening, probably around 5pm, Ben began to IM me and told me that Chip didn't think very highly of all I had been doing for the club, that I was acting like a child and that he was going to stop my sim. Then, almost as if on que, Chip E-mailed me and ordered me not to hold my sim that night.

Well, to say the least, I was pretty ticked off, and after all I had done for the club. Plus, my ship was all ready to go, my crew wanted to sim, and I promised them that we would begin to sim on the 19th. Unlike Chip, I would stick to my announced deadlines. I was not going to postpone the sim and push it back to a future date, like Chip had done on several occasions with the Generation. At the same time, my sense of impending doom returned with a vengeance and I wanted to get out of a club where its leader would treat me so badly after all I had done to help him, so I did not care if I was fired for what I was going to do next.

I prepared two E-mails. In the first one I stated as nicely as I could, despite my rage, that I had heard from someone (I did not mention Ben's name because I did not want to get him in trouble for speaking up, at the time I thought he was trying to help me, I did not know he was behind the whole thing) that you (Chip) did not think very highly of me despite everything I had done, and that because my sim was ready, I was going to ignore your order and sim. In the second E-mail I very angrily and bluntly wrote that despite everything I had done for the club in a few short days (and I listed everything I did and blasted Chip for being incompetent and not doing his job), you (Chip) feel the need to ungrateful. I told him to 'buzz' off, that I was going to sim, and if he doesn't like it, too bad, I will just quit the club and take my ship with me. I decided to send the first, much nicer, letter.

I then sent a letter to my crew explaining that Chip did not want us to sim, and if anyone wanted to follow his order and not show up, fine, but I added, "By God, I am going to sim because I am ready."

To my immense joy, my entire crew showed up. We simmed, and we had a great time. The Vindicator's first sim was, in effect, a mutiny. We had ignored Chip's orders not to sim. Towards the end of the sim, Chip signed on, read my E-mail, and entered the sim room. He saw that all of us were simming and were having a great time. He saw that my crew was behind me, and despite whatever Ben had told him, Chip must have realized and appreciated all I had done for the club and that he needed me, so he wisely stated to all us at the sim that, "Well, I guess a lot of you guys didn't follow orders but that's ok." As a result, no one was punished for the Vindicator mutiny.

Amazingly, Ben actually took part in the Vindicator sim that night, and he did a good job simming. I was so impressed that I decided to make him the first officer at the next sim, and I was thinking about making him the full time first officer until Moses was able to sim. I also asked Chip if, in November or so, we could start up our planned third sim with Ben in command. Chip said he would think about it.

However, it would never be. A year later, when talking to Ben, I would find out that he never wanted me to be the Vice President of the club. Chip was someone that Ben could control and manipulate, but Ben feared that I would eventually take over the club and expose his lie about the forum. Ben planned to move back and forth between Chip and myself to try to stir up trouble and animosity between us. He hoped this would either lead to my firing or resignation. Ben also figured that I would have obeyed Chip's order not to sim, and had I done so, Ben would have seen to it that the Vindicator never simmed. But as soon as I proved myself by running the first successful sim, it became immensely harder to get rid of me.

Why, if Ben wanted to get rid of me he decided to sim and behave himself that night is beyond me. Perhaps it was part of his plan to stay on the good side of both Chip and myself so he could stir up trouble between us. If he disrupted the sim right out, he would have been unable to come to me and whisper rumors about Chip, like he did earlier that night.

But why did Ben feel the need to lie and engage this byzantine intrigue? Well, that is simple enough really. Ben's job was to get us and run a forum. He failed at that, but he did not want to loose the position of power and influence he enjoyed over Chip and the club by running the protest. In other words, Ben liked the ego trip that simming gave him. The only place he could now get power was with the sim club, but he had already given Chip authority over it. Ben was smart enough to realize that he could not take over the sim club, either by simply declaring Chip deposed or by launching some kind of coup. Further, Ben was smart enough to realize he did not know how run a sim club. However, he still wanted power. So, after the forum was rejected, Ben attempted to lobby Chip to become the Vice President during the days I was away on vacation, but that plan was dashed on August 31st when Chip appointed me as the Vice President. So, in reality, because I had beat Ben for the job, I was already an enemy in Ben's mind when I met him on September 14 and 15.

When Ben failed to become the Vice President, he, at first, hoped I would just simply fail on my own. But when it became clear I was very successful at my job and that I was going to sim, he sprung into action with his new plan to stop me from simming and to cause trouble between Chip and myself, but that too had failed. Now Ben thought thought his only hope was to drive me from the club. As long as Chip thought Ben was going to come through with a forum, Chip was going to listen to Ben, and Ben realized he could influence Chip because of that. But Ben realized I did not believe him and that he could not control me. The longer I stayed around and slowly worked to convince Chip that Ben was lying, Ben would see his hold over Chip gradually erode. Perhaps, Ben figured, if he could get rid of me, Chip would make him the new Vice President, in which case the forum would no longer matter.

Ironically enough, had Ben simply behaved himself, simmed and had a good time, he probably would have received a position of authority in the club that he so desperately wanted and quite frankly deserved for helping to get the entire club started. Eventually, he would have been appointed to command a ship in the UFP/SF. His position in the sim club would have been secure, and he could have announced, and lied to get out of his first lie, that AOL had rejected the forum again, but we have a great club and I have a great ship and we don't need the forum, so lets move ahead without AOL. Everyone probably would have listened and no one would have punished him for failing.

However, it is questionable as to if Ben would have specifically received command of the third ship. More likely, he would have gotten the fourth or fifth ship, for, unknown to me, in August, Chip had promised a ship to one Captain Sisko. However, she lived in the pacific time zone, and it proved very difficult early on to find enough simmers among the protesters to join the crew of her sim, which she planned to hold at a late hour for most folks in the US. Also, because she was in the pacific time zone, she was unable to attend the Generation or Vindicator sims, and eventually, everyone just lost contact with her. It was only a few days after I told Chip I wanted Ben to command the third ship that Chip got back to me and finally told me that he wasn't going to give Ben command of the third ship since he had already promised it to Sisko.

I had no idea we had a third captain, so between that little fact, and the Vindicator Mutiny, Chip and myself decided to start to talking - a lot. We talked about the club, about our simming experiences, about ourselves. Luckily, we quickly became friends and found that we could work together as a great team. Our rapidly developing bond defeated all of Ben's attempts to muddle and turn us against one another.

Both Chip and myself started to E-mail Sisko, but, she had fallen off the face of the Earth and never responded. We eventually decided to find someone else to be the captain of our planned third sim. Perhaps had Ben behaved himself he would have been offered command, but by the time we declared Sisko to be missing in action, Ben had begun to cause all kinds of trouble.

One week after the Vindicator Mutiny, Ben realized that his plan to stop me from simming had failed, and he probably was starting to realize that Chip and myself were become fast friends - so he realized his plan to cause friction and mistrust between us would fail as well. As a result, a change in strategy was in order. Ben decided he would attempt to disrupt and destroy my sims, and hopefully, cause me to become fed up and quit the club.

At the second Vindicator sim on September 26, Ben started to act up. He spent a good portion of the sim saying how he didn't want to be the temporary First Officer, that he hated the sims, why did he ever join this club, that he wanted to quit and so on. Than in a flash, Ben, under his CmdrDukeSF name, signed off, deleted that name, than signed back on as Sisko1701E and returned to the sim. For the most part, he sat quietly and did nothing to disrupt the sim. When the sim finished, Ben than started up again and said that he wanted to be the Chief Medical Officer. The ships doctor offered to switch positions with him, but Ben refused, and decided to quit.

After the sim I talked to Ben, during which he was a pain saying that he would quit, only to quickly change his mind and decide to return, than quit again and return again. Needless to say, Ben was no longer going to get a shot at being the first officer of the Vindicator, and after that little episode I wasn't going to let him have his own command. However, I was nice enough to ignore the little fact that he decided to quit and return many times in one night. I was still a young and naive captain. (On a side note, this sim was the first sim for a CdtJaceSF. Jace was a friend of LtCRikerSF (Josh), who intern was a friend of Uridien1, who was a friend of Ben. Just remember these people and their close ties because it will be important many pages from now.)

Ben did not show up for the third Vindicator sim, but he returned for the fourth sim and caused problems. Ben showed up with a new name, ComoBenSF, more or less in an attempt to cause myself and others to think that he outranked me since he had a commodore name and I was only a captain at the time. Of course, it didn't work. No one was going to listen to him even if he said he was the Admiral of the Turkish fleet because he was acting so immature. Regardless, Ben did manage to disrupt the sim. He showed up to the sim late, kept on asking what was going on, what was the mission and so on. Than he disobeyed orders, stole a runabout and went flying around on his own mission.

After that little incident, Ben decided to avoid me and not show up for the 5th Vindicator sim, but he was back, this time as EnsBenSF, for the 6th Vindicator sim on October 24. This sim, by the way, was the first Vindi sim that Moses was able to attend. It was also the first sim for a one CdtOdenSF who would eventually live out my dream of commanding the first Classic Era sim in TOL. At the 6th Vindicator sim, Ben again showed up late, and went off into his own plot which had nothing to do with the actual sim at hand. When no one paid any attention to him, he became mad at everyone.

All during these many weeks I kept on asking Chip again and again if I could kick Ben out, suspend him from my sims, punish him, or even simply poke him with a stick. But every time Chip said, no, don't do that, he will shape up soon enough. Plus, as Chip explained, Ben was working on building a forum for us. We cannot punish him. If we do, he may become mad and we won't get our forum.

I honestly believe that at the time Chip had a number of doubts about Ben and about the forum, but he was unwilling to act on them or express them publicly because Chip still held out hope that we would somehow get a forum. Plus, because he felt that he owed Ben his job, he was not yet ready to 'betray' Ben. The old simming world was very medieval in that sense. Feudal ties of loyalty were very important. Chip owed his position to Ben, so as a result, Chip was going to defend Ben no matter what. I owed my job to Chip, so I was going to look for out Chip and defend him, and defend my own crew who I had an obligation to protect, even if it meant having to fight Ben.

However, Chip's argument for the need to keep Ben because he was going to provide us with a forum was soon to lose its creditability. I decided if Ben was to be punished and stopped, I had to prove that Ben was lying and that there was no forum. I started to constantly badger Ben and tried to force him to tell me who he had been talking to at AOL and to forward me the E-mails he had relating to the forum. Ben eventually gave in and gave me the names of some AOL officials to contact. I E-mailed the AOL people myself to find out what was going on, and on October 28, I was informed by AOL that they had not talked to Ben for several months, that they had told Ben not to contact them anymore, and that there was no way we would ever get a forum. I of course informed Chip right away, and soon there after, any hold Ben had over Chip started to evaporate. (On a side note, AOL told me that they could not start up a new Star Trek sim forum for copyright reasons, which lends credibility to the rumors that Paramount sued AOL and forced SFOL to change its name from Starfleet Online to Spacefleet Online.)

In response, at the 7th Vindicator sim, which was on Wednesday, Oct 30 (We had the sim on Wednesday because most of the crew would be busy the next night, Halloween), Ben spent the entire time causing a scene. Angry that I had exposed his lie, Ben wanted revenge, pure and simple, and revenge would be his motivation for a long time to come, and he decided to take his anger out on my ship. In the sim, he went around on a rampage. He killed himself in the sim and he tried to blow up the Vindicator - making him the first person to attempt to blow up my ship (it later became a reoccurring humorous theme among TOL members to try to blow up the Vindicator). Luckily, no one paid much attention to him.

Despite all of Ben's disruptions, and despite the fact it had been exposed that he had lied to the club for months on end about the forum, Chip was amazingly leant. On November 5, in the clubs monthly newsletter, Chip published "A Tribute to Ltjg Ben." In it, Chip wrote, "Last Friday we decided to give up trying to get the forum. Ben took it pretty hard and these are somethings I have to say about him and his efforts."

It continued, "LtjBen is a person with many sides. Yes most of us think he is a pain, but the truth is that if it wasn't for him this group wouldn't be here today. In August I was just coming into the Bridge after work to talk some trek when I was approached by a person asking me if I would like to join a group of people who were trying to create a new Star Trek forum. I said sure and I will offer my services in the simming department if you have one. Fifteen seconds later I became in charge of a sim group. A few days later I met the person in charge of getting the forum together, Ben. He told me that things were looking good and we should have it in a few weeks. Well, it is now November and we don't have a forum. That isn't what this section is about though. I would just like to thank Ben for making this possible. He truly tried his best. He held meetings, wrote many letters to people trying to get them to help, and even made a web page. It is a shame that Aol doesn't "have room" for something he has worked so hard for. Ben I salute you and all of you efforts."

Ben replied to the entire club, thanked Chip for the tribute and declared that "You are looking at a new Ben." It was a very touching moment, or something like that. It was also a very amazing moment in that by now such editorials and discussion of club matters in public was becoming very common in the UFP/SF. No club at the time, and even very few clubs today, discussed such matters in public. The seeds for the republic had been planted.

A few days later, at the 8th sim, I found that Ben did change, somewhat. Instead of showing up late and going on a rampage, he showed up, sat there and did nothing. After a while, Ben started to complain that he had nothing to do, so I readjusted the mission, out of spite, so that it centered around Ben and I gave him lots of things to do. But Ben just sat there and did nothing. The next day, Ben started to criticize everything and say how boring and stupid the Vindicator sim was. When I told him I had given him plenty to do, Ben said, "You did? I wasn't paying attention."

Ben had hoped that all of his various disruptions and attempts to be annoying would either cause me to become so fed up that I would quit, or would cause my crew to become fed and stop simming. I was becoming fed up all right, but my anger was going to be directed at punishing Ben for all he had done, not quitting. I had tried to be nice, I had tried to work with him, I had tried to be lenient, but my patience was running out. He may have possessed some claims to legitimate power, as Chip pointed out, by running the protest which gave rise to the club, but his actions since that time had discredited him in my mind. However, in Chip's mind, as his editorial reveals, Chip still deeply felt that he owed Ben his job, and that despite all Ben had done he was not going to punish him.

Even as I write this I wrestle with the ethical ramifications of having expelled Ben from the club he helped to create. As we will see, Trek Online history is filled with a cycle of Ben being punished and later being forgiven because of that ethical debate. But eventually, his actions discredited all he had done in the beginning and he had to be punished. However, in November of 1996, after having refused to follow Chip's orders once on September 19th, I was wary about tempting fate once again and disobeying Chip's orders about not punishing Ben. As a result, I had tried everything short of punishment with Ben, but nothing worked because Ben was out to destroy me.

As far as my crew went, they were wonderful. They understood that my hands were tied because of Chip, and there was little I could do about it. They all continued to show up and sim, and just ignored Ben.

Yet, the next day, Friday, November 8, 1996, I finally had enough. For the sake of all that was good and holy in simming, I took matters into my own hands.

For part of that week and the weekend, Chip was away on a business trip. Command of the Generation should have passed down the ranks to Chip's first officer (who was also away) and so forth among his crew members. However, Ben decided to show up and insisted that he really was in command. Now keep in mind that Ben was, at this time, just a self appointed Lieutenant junior grade since that week he signed on under his Ltjg name. Arguments broke out between Ben and the crew as to who was in command, and lots of people became fed up and left, causing the sim to be canceled. This was Ben's first attack on the Generation sim, and when I signed on later that night, I found a rather nasty E-mail from Ben in my E-mail box sent to both Chip and myself about how he should have been in command, how he had a great sim ready for the night, and how Chip's crew just wrecked it. Now, why Ben tried to take over the Generation sim I have no idea. His world was collapsing around him and he probably had nothing better to do.

I figured if Ben had disrupted Chip's very own sim, now was as good of a time as any to try to punish Ben. This time, I figured, Chip may support a punishment. I sent an E-mail to Ben outlining all of his many disruptions over the months and because of all of them, I declared that Ben was now suspended from the Vindicator, and I expressed hope that Chip would suspend him from the entire club.

Now, before you get the impression that all I did as Vice President was go around disobeying Chip's orders, keep in mind that both times I had good reasons to do so. The first time my crew was ready to sim and there was no solid basis for Chip ordering me not to sim. If I did not had the courage to sim, the club probably would not be here today. The second time I disobeyed Chip's orders, Ben was a major threat to the club and he had repeatedly attacked and disrupted our sims. Furthermore, this time I had the legal right to punish Ben. As part of my general theory from STECO that captains should have full control over their sims, the guidebook gave all captains the right to punish or suspend anyone for disrupting their sim. That power had never been invoked on my part before because Chip had made it very clear he didn't want me to punish Ben and after two months of putting up with Ben, I had enough. Secondly, since Chip was away on business, as the Vice President I had the right, in theory at least, to take any action necessary to preserve the club if there was a problem while the president was away, and Ben clearly fit the definition of a problem. Ben had acted up on the Vindicator sim on November 7th, and on the Generation sim on the 8th, all while Chip was away.

Ben replied to my suspension letter, and sent his reply to his fellow forum cohorts. As a result, Saturday, November 9, 1996, turned into a large rolling argument between myself, Ben, and Ben's friends who went around complaining to anyone in the club who would listen that Ben was being unfairly treated. During the course of all of this, a Lieutenant on the Vindicator, named Scott, became caught up in the argument and he decided to volunteer to serve as Ben's lawyer. Fearing that this situation with Ben would quickly consume the club, I agreed to hold a trial. I laid out my entire case, all of the evidence and sim logs showing how Ben disrupted sim after sim and as such he deserved to be punished. As a result of the trial, Scott and everyone was convinced that Ben truly was guilty of some serious crimes and that it was just not a case of a personal vendetta on my part and trumped up charges against poor innocent Ben. (As we will see time and time again, Ben is very effective at playing the poor innocent victim and getting people to fell sorry for him and help him.)

As punishment for all he had done, Ben was suspended from all Vindicator sims. In addition, Ben was to attend Scott's simming academy. Scott was a first officer in another sim club called the Independence Group which possessed a simming academy. An agreement was reached in which Ben would attend Scott's academy. If Ben graduated from the academy and proved that he could sim with out goofing off or causing a disruption, he would be allowed to return to the Vindicator. The suspension did not apply to the Generation or the club at large.

The trial actually turned out to be quite successful in calming everyone down and making people feel that justice had fairly been dispensed. It was common practice in the first and second generation to give the captains and admirals total power over judicial matters. There was no hearing, no trial - just a letter from the appropriate authority saying you were out. But simmers in the lost generation had suffered from judicial abuses for years, and they wanted more rights. In the UFP/SF, Ben was given a fair trial, and the precedent in TOL for holding a trial to deal with matters of suspension and expulsion was established. Besides, the club was new. It takes time to gain respect and authority, and that had not yet occurred. If I or Chip had tried to act as a military dictator - as so many other sim leaders do - it would have been a disaster. Ben would have spread rumors and ripped the club apart. Perhaps Chip also realized this and this explains why he was afraid to punish Ben. Luckily, Scott came forward with the perfect idea to diffuse the situation.

When Chip returned on Monday and saw all that had transpired, he upheld the court's decisions and decided to suspend Ben from the Generation until Ben graduated from Scott's academy. If Ben successfully graduated but acted up again, Chip informed Ben that he would be finished. Chip finally saw the light and realized that Ben had been lying for all these months about the forum and that Ben could not offer the club anything of value that would justify ignoring his disruptive behavior. Chip had matured enough as a leader to be able to stand up for his club, even if it meant standing up against the person who gave him the club in the first place. He scolded Ben and told him, "This is your absolute last chance to be a part of a great simulation group. We are sorry we have to write this type of letter to you, but you have left us no choice. In my opinion you have a temper worse than a drunk Klingon and you need to learn how to control it. You do not run this group and you aren't considered real high up in it either. You have no right to disrupt any sim for any reason. You will be given another trial some time in December so we can re-evaluate. Until then you are to carry out your punishment like a Star Fleet officer and not like a baby."

Ben's dreams had been shattered, but even after being rejected by AOL and being exposed as a liar, his dream for a forum was not dead yet. Chip only announced to the club that "Last Friday we decided to give up trying to get the forum." Because of that fact, the few people 'working' with Ben on the forum did not hear the news that AOL had rejected the forum. They believed that the UFP/SF had given up on the forum, and that it was just a matter of finding a new club for the forum. Even in December, Ben was still sending out 'forum newsletter updates' to his few followers. He was eventually able to convince others that hope for the forum still existed, and that it was just evil, paranoid Chas who had convinced Chip to give up just as Ben was about to reach a major breakthrough with AOL. As a result, the club was to be plagued by the forum and attacks by Ben and his supporters for almost another year. In retrospect, much would have been solved had Chip simply followed the lost generation ideal of communicating. Chip was radical in publishing a monthly newsletter that actually dealt with club topics beyond just what had happened in everyone's sims, but he did not go far enough. However, I would learn from this mistake. In the future, I would try to explain everything I could to the club. In retrospect, the first MSM, published in September of 1997, probably ended the wars with Ben. As a result of my memoirs, everyone fighting for Ben could read about what had really happened with the forum, Ben, and everyone else. Over night, the wars stopped, and, completely exposed, Ben was left with little choice but to embark on a campaign to 'redeem himself.'

Regardless of Ben's attempts over the coming year to hold onto the forum, as early as November of 1996, Ben's dream for a new SFOL and a new simming forum had been shattered. Because Ben could not tell the truth and had underestimated my resolve, his campaign of disruption had failed to drive me out of the club. As a result, Ben's simming career had turned into a nightmare and a cycle of violence that would plague the club.

 

Chapter 8: Chip's Dream

"Hey, do I look any different as an Ensign?" - Ensign Jace Alexander, Oct 25, 1996. It can also be said that by October the club had matured from a timid newbie to a young and eager Ensign like organization.

It took a few months for Chip to mature into his role as a captain and the president the club, but as he gained confidence, his own dream for the future of the UFP/SF began to take shape. By late October, one could say that Chip had finally become comfortable with being a leader and as a result, the club gained its footing, the training wheels had come off, and to throw in one more cliché, had matured to become an ensign. Chip's maturation can be seen in the fact that he began to articulate his own vision for the future of the club, but more importantly, it can be seen in the fact that he began to take care of the paperwork, E-mail and talk to people who needed to be contacted, make routine decisions, and so forth. Up to that time, I had either been doing most of that, or in our many chats telling Chip what should be done. But Chip was finally beginning to assert himself and take actions without me having to remind him. So, I decided to step back and let him run things, just as I had planned to do in August.

Chip first articulated his vision to me in mid October of 1996, before I proved that there was no forum. Chip wanted to make a sim group, something that would offer Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Sea Quest and other kinds of sims. He felt that by offering so many kinds of sims, the forum would be much more successful and AOL would be more willing to support it. Ben only wanted to create a new AOL Star Trek club, a new SFOL. Even though Chip was not yet ready to punish Ben for his disruptive behavior, Chip was starting to show his independence as the forum's sim director by thinking bigger and articulating his own vision. What Chip really wanted to do was imitate the Alliance Simulation Group. But Chip hated bureaucracy and paperwork and rules as much as I did, so his group - as he saw it - would be an improvement on the ASG because it would not include all of the ASG's elaborate bureaucracy.

A few days later, when Ben's talk about a forum was exposed as a lie, and Ben was suspended for his constant disruptions of our sims, Chip's dream for a forum with many kinds of sims became a dream for a club with many kinds of sims. Chip began to articulate his vision for the club in public, and began to assert his command authority as the president. Chip had finally gotten over the mindset that Ben was the boss. It never made any sense to me that Ben should be in charge. Ben was immature, and he did little for the club. All Ben did was tell Chip to start up a sim club, and Chip and myself did the rest. Now that Chip saw we are a sim club pure and simple, and that there was no forum, he finally saw himself as the boss of a sim club and began to act like one. As I had hoped, I no longer needed to pick up the slack. After having set up the club, Chip was starting to assert himself. I could now step aside, let Chip run the club, and I would focus on running my own club on Prodigy. At least so I thought.

How closely Chip and Ben worked together previous to November of 1996, how much Chip really consulted Ben, I am not sure. From what I observed Chip did not seem to be too involved with the forum or ask too many questions about it since the forum was Ben's territory. Ben claimed to have helped think up the name USS Generation, and in the E-mail sent on August 21st, Chip said that he was promoting all of the first officer candidates to captain because the forum hosts wanted a sim every night. However, I do not know if the decision to run open sims every night was made by Ben. It could have been someone else, say Uridien1.

Ben, aside from trying to get me fired, trying to take command of the Generation on November 8, and trying to gain a position of power in the club, showed very little interest in the operations of the club. He didn't care for the work or issues involved, and he really did not know the first thing about running a sim club, which is why he put Chip in charge in the first place. Thus, as far as I know, he never contacted Chip about club affairs, never gave us any advise or made any demands, etc. (Except for the one demand for the Vindicator not to sim, which Chip followed.) All Ben wanted was power, which is pretty sad really, to cause so much of a ruckus over a simulated rank and position. But Ben enjoyed the power - he liked the delusion that simming provided.

However, the problems with Ben were not the only thing occurring during the first few months of the clubs existence. If anything, they were a huge annoyance, but they did not stop or slow the club.

Ever since August, Chip had been planning to start up a third sim in the UFP/SF. But who would run it? By October it was clear that Sisko had fallen off the face of the Earth (amazingly, she would return in the summer of 1997, ask what ever happened to the club, and disappear once more). Ben was no longer an option. Commander Curok, First Officer of the Generation, was usually missing in action due to his career and soon would have to leave simming all together. Moses had not yet officially taken his position as the First Officer of the Vindicator and also lived in the Pacific time zone, which is what caused so many problems for Sisko. Thus, the question was, who would run the third sim?

The question was solved not by Chip or myself, but by my Chief Engineer, Lt. Commander Josh Riker, who in October gathered together some of his simming friends into a ship of his own, the USS Endeavor. Chip and myself asked Josh to make his ship part of the club. He accepted, and so, on October 20, 1996, the USS Endeavor joined the UFP/SF.

Josh was friends with Uridien1, and became involved with the protest and club because Uridien1 had told him about it. However, Josh was never a leader of the protest or showed any real interest in working on the forum. Yet, because he was close to one of the main leaders of the protest, Josh, in August, felt that he could give himself the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Chip immediately yelled at him and told him to start as a cadet like everyone else, but Josh soon regained his rank on the Vindicator as my Chief Engineer.

Many of the early club members were involved in the protests. Others, like myself, were recruited into the sim club and did not care much about the forum. Josh represents most of protesters who joined the club - even those who were friends with Ben and Uridien1 - and were able to smoothly integrate themselves into the club and rise to leadership positions by just simming and having a good time. Had Ben and Uridien1 simply done the same, they too would have probably risen to leadership positions in the club.

After news spread that the forum was officially rejected on August 24, 1996, most of the protests simply shrugged their shoulders and didn't care too much. Some joined the club spawned by the protest, and others simply went their own way. Only a few hot heads with nothing better to do and possessing grandiose self delusions of power and importance clinged onto the forum idea and caused a great ruckus.

Josh was a good captain who inspired tremendous loyalty. He managed to build a small, but dedicated core of simmers around him to be his crew. However, I had concerns about the size of his crew. On nights where one person did not show up, there usually were not enough people to sim. I worked with Josh to try to recruit new people into the Endeavor crew and the club at large, but Chip had decided on a different, more traditional approach to club expansion - mergers (a merger defined as a club joining another club, not just one ship.)

Mergers between sim clubs have been the method of choice for expansion since time began - or at least since the sim club model first came into being. The USF grew to a large size by merging with other clubs. The FSF became large through mergers, and so did SFOL, the ASG, and everyone else. However, mergers were filled with hazards. Civil wars often occurred when mergers went bad, and, even today, it is very difficult to create a common club community with mergers because everyone comes from a different club, a different background, has different dreams about what simming should be, and so forth. However, these risks were mitigated by the fact that in the first and second generation, a person could only sim on one ship. As a result, no one - not even myself (:::gasp::: something I did not know, LOL!) - was fully aware of the hazards that mergers presented.

The club Chip decided to merge with was Scott's little Independence Group. During November, Chip began to work with Scott to ensure that Ben received a touch training regiment at Scott's simming academy, and from that, the two began to talk, and the idea of a merger between the UFP/SF and the Independence Group was raised.

I had nothing against the merger. I figured that because Scott was a crew member on the Vindicator he was familiar with our system and would be able to work with in it, and that would make it much easier for people from the Independence to take part in our community. In addition - because of my negative experiences joining SFOL and my positive experiences joining STS - I desperately wanted the UFP/SF to have a simming academy where we could train new cadets so that no simmer would (as I initially had) ended up not liking simming because no one took the time to properly train them. As such, I was all for the merger with the Independence Group. Because we lacked an academy, people recruited in the UFP/SF were sent strait to the sims. While I helped to train people as much as possible with the guidebook and all, I was very concerned that many new people were becoming lost and frustrated. Scott's academy, I figured, would solve that.

The Independence Group really wasn't much of a club, however - but neither was the UFP/SF. The Independence Group just consisted of the USS Independence which (note the reoccurring theme) simmed every Saturday AND Sunday night. After all, it was the lost generation and the attempt to make a club wide community once again resulted in someone thinking lets have everyone sim together every night. However, like STECO, the people in the Independence Group found a system requiring them to sim on two different nights caused problems. As a result, by the time Chip started talking to them, the Independence Group was planning to turn the Sunday sim into a separate ship or starbase sim.

The planned merger with the Independence Group was all part of Chip's dream to make a sim group. Combined the UFP/SF and Independence Group would give the club 5 Star Trek sims, a reasonable size. From there, the club would expand into Star Wars, Babylon 5 and any other kinds of sims where we could find enough people to make a sim feasible. If we had to, we would start up our own sims. If we could find clubs which offered such sims and merge with them, all the better.

Amazingly enough, I was not all that involved with the merger and development of Chip's idea to turn the club into a sim group. When he asked for help, I helped, but Chip was running the show and I stepped back and let him. (By this time too, I was busy working on Prodigy, as I discuss in the next chapter.)

On November 29, 1996, Chip publicly announced his plans for the future of the club, and as a part of that announcement, the UFP/SF became the United Sim Group (USG). Chip also promoted both him and I to the rank of Fleet Admiral. (Prior to this time Chip was a Commodore and I was a Captain.) The UFP/SF existed on in the USG as the Star Trek division of the sim group, and it would eventually be joined by other alphabet soups of Star Wars and Babylon 5 divisions. I personally had mixed feelings about the entire arrangement. I was only interested in a Star Trek club, but Chip was in charge, so I was going to do what I could to make his dream into a reality.

A few days after the creation of the USG, the Independence Group merged into the club. Due to this timing many thought that the USG was the new club created out of the merger of the UFP/SF and the Independence Group. Because of the name change (and with no other reality aside from names and words on a screen) people in the Independence Group did not feel that they were joining into an existing club, but rather that they were making a new club in which they would have an equal role and would share power. But that was not the case at all. As I understood it - as Chip articulated it to me and those of us in the UFP/SF - the Independence Group was joining the UFP/SF, and the UFP/SF was going to be the Star Trek division of the newly established USG. Chip and myself would be the co directors of the UFP/SF. Chip would be the President of the USG, and I would be the Vice President. Chances were that one day Chip would become the director of the Babylon 5 division in the USG, since that was where his main simming passion was, and I would become the soul director of the UFP/SF.

The Captain of the Independence was simply to be a captain, like Josh. He would just run his ship, and while we would consult him about matters in the UFP/SF, he would not have any position of authority outside his ship.

However, things with the merger became rather muddled. While the main point of contact with the Independence Group was Scott, he was only the First Officer of the Independence. Captain Pat Lynch was the one in charge, and I can only hope and assume that Chip talked with Pat and they had agreed to the merger. Unfortunately, before the merger went into effect on December 1, 1996, Captain Pat was suspended from AOL for cursing in a chat room or something along those lines. While the suspension only lasted for a few weeks, Pat apparently was so fed up with AOL that he opened a new account on the Microsoft Network and E-mailed his crew from there saying he decided to leave the ship and start up a new sim on MSN. As a result of the tone of Pat's letter and its implied abandonment of the sim, Scott took full time command of the Independence.

Both Chip and Scott claimed that Pat had agreed to the merger, so it went ahead on December 1 with Scott now in command of the Independence. To some of the crew members, however, it appeared that Scott had ceased power and had sold the Independence out to another club. Quite possibly, Chip and Scott may have sprung into action after Pat left command and merged the sim without having ever talked to Pat. But even if they had consulted Pat, the general consensus among the Independence Group was that Scott had cased power and sold out the sim. This would lead to many problems.

And there would be even more problems because Scott thought that due to all of the name changes with UFP/SF and USG, the merger had precipitated the name change and as such he would posses some kind of equal leadership role in the new club created by the Independence Group and the UFP/SF. This idea was only helped along when Chip promoted Scott to the rank of Admiral.

To make matters even worse, Uridien1 had returned to AOL. He quickly reestablished contact with Ben, and since Ben was a crew member on the Independence, Uridien1 joined the crew as well. Together, the two of them began to exchange stories. I'm sure Ben told Uridien1 all about how the protest after had worked after all, about his unfair treatment at my hands, and how I had convinced Chip to reject the forum just when Ben was about reach a break through with AOL. Together, Ben and Uridien1 convinced Pat, and to some extent, Scott, that they could get them a forum for the Independence. Only if Chip had told everyone that AOL rejected Ben and that Ben lied to everyone about the forum, instead of saying that we decided not to go with the forum, maybe the forum mess would have come to an end in November of 1996.

During his few weeks on the Independence, Uridien1 became friends with Pat. Outraged at Scott's apparent seizure of power, and selling the Independence and forum hopes out to the same Chip and Chas who had supposedly rejected the forum before, Uridien1 decided to take action.

As a result of the merger, Chip's Presidency would come to a cataclysmic end. The USG would be destroyed and what was left of the club would be plunged into a desperate struggle for survival. But despite the downward spiral of Chip's Presidency during December and January, his legacy is a tremendously positive one.

The main driving force of the lost generation was to create a club community. Out of everyone I have ever met during my simming career, Chip was - by far - the best person to do just that. Chip possessed a tremendous personality. He was a great person, pure and simple. His energy, his enthusiasm, his playful nature, his wacky sense of humor touched everyone who encountered it, and it set the tone for how the club was going to operate.

I still find it curious as to why people sim. I really have never been able to figure out why so many people do sim, do dedicate their time to their ship and club. For me, it is fun. It was my hobby. Because it is online, it is a hobby that does not get much respect, but I do not care. I simmed because it was fun, I ran a club so that others could have fun, and Chip was great at making sims fun.

Yet, as much as I wanted a club to have a sim community that was friendly, open, and humorous, I do not think I had the personally necessary to produced the community I wanted, but Chip did. I made a system that eliminated rules, opened the club, and focused on creativity and having fun - but Chip gave that system life and energy. To work, the club needed a serious administrator - like myself - and a larger then life personality - like Chip. Within the framework created for the club, these two personalities were able to balance professionalism and dedication with fun and wackiness - creating the powerful dichotomy that drove Trek Online to tremendous heights.

Somehow too, because Chip, Ben, myself, and later Scott, all had broad dreams, and because in a sense there really was no true leader of the UFP/SF, Chip, Ben, myself, and Scott all competed and worked to advance our own vision. As a result, the best aspects of everyone's ideas, talents and personalities were somehow assimilated together to make a truly dynamic club. Chip set the tone for the club and set us on the path to develop our own unique culture of smites, spam parties, MIBs and so forth. Scott gave us the idea for a republic. I gave us the organization which allowed the club to carry out its business - to be open and truly revolutionary in order to perpetuate Chip and Scott's dreams. Ben forced us to unite and in his own way - made us consider impossible dreams, giving us the mindset to think big.

Also, because there was no true leader, and because I really wanted a club where the captains controlled their sims and there was no outside bureaucracy to stifle creativity, people in the club who did not have grand visions of their own but who had little ideas about how to improve the club were able to present their ideas directly to the President or their captain and get involved in the club. This caused the clubs engine, our simming style, and our culture to rise up from the members - it was not imposed from above by admirals and their decrees. I think it was all of this - which was set up during Chip's Presidency - that made the club so unique.

The amazing thing is that none of it was really planned. Sure, we all had various ideas and we were swept up in the lost generation and wanted to make a free and dynamic simming community, but we had no idea that we would ever be successful; we had no idea how what we were doing was going to play out. We just implemented our ideas, took things one day at a time, dealt with tremendous challenges, and never gave up. Somehow, we survived and thrived.

 

Chapter 9: Prodigy Dreams

"Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angles." Longfellow - from Evangeline; Ship's Motto of the USS Orion.

Let us backtrack to August 31, 1996, but this time lets follow the story as it unfolded on Prodigy. Quite frankly, the Prodigy story is boring - no protests, no byzantine intrigue, no attacking of sims - sorry to disappoint.

On August 31, STECO died. The plans I had been developing to reform STECO no longer had a club to be applied to, so I decided to start up a new club. A short time later, when I found out I was the Vice President of the UFP/SF, I also applied my STECO reform ideas to the UFP/SF as well.

The first critical decision I faced on Prodigy was what to call my new club? After all, names matter.

Julie (my old STECO friend who I made the Co-President of my new club), and I tossed around a number of potential names. I forget what most of them were, but three names have stuck with me, The Alpha Quadrant Club, Quark's Bar, and Trek Online. Quark's Bar was an interesting concept. Everyone would play a junior officer on Deep Space 9, along the lines of the TNG Episode, "Lower Decks." The sims would be focused mostly on character interaction, lounging around in the bar, carrying out assignments on the station, and occasionally going on an away mission with a main character from the show. In the end, however, we decided it probably would be too constrained and too hard to pull off in a sim.

That left us with the names The Alpha Quadrant Club and Trek Online. I honestly do not remember which one of us proposed the name Trek Online. I know that one of us thought it up on September 1 and it was agreed to on September 3. Trek Online just sounds better, and has a better abbreviation - TOL as opposed to AQC. Plus, the name Trek Online conveys what we do - Online Star Trek simming - and is also playful - the history of the club turned out to be one vast online trek.

The initial plan to get Trek Online started was to simply turn my Orion sim - my loose collection of simming friends who met every few weeks - into a weekly sim for TOL. The Orion had met a few times during the summer (even while I was in STECO) and we had planned to meet again on September 3. The sim that night went well, and 8 people attended. I decided to hold the sim again the next week, but only 5 people showed up, the week after that, only 3. The problem was that my friends simply were not interested in simming every week or being part of a formal club, and school was beginning again for most of the people, so they did not have as much time to sim.

Per my plans to focus on the AOL club first, I did not do much work for Trek Online. I did not write a guidebook, ship info, character info, or assign ranks. All I did was try to turn the Orion from a monthly sim into a weekly sim. I had figured with it running, it would at least be a start, and when I had more time, I would develop the club and expand the sim. However, my plan to convert the Orion into TOL had failed, and I was becoming increasingly consumed by AOL and all of the problems with Ben, so I decided to temporarily put the Orion and TOL on hold. When I attempted to restart the sim and club only a few weeks later, I found it to be very difficult - the momentum had been lost. That is the reason why ever since I have always told my captains to keep on simming, even if only 3 people show up, because if you stop for a week or two, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get the sim going again.

In addition, Prodigy reveals another lesson. Despite all of my talents (not to brag, but hay, I was successful), because I did not focus on the details and put a lot of hard work into the club on Prodigy at the get go, I was never able to catch up. So, if you are thinking about starting a club or sim or taking over a club or sim as its new leader, do not think you can delay and figure things out later. Have a plan, have the details thought out, have your work and resources in place. If you do not, you will never be able to catch up.

By the end of October, Chip was beginning to assert himself as the President of the UFP/SF, and AOL had exposed Ben's Forum as a lie, so I felt confident enough to turn my attention back to Prodigy.

With the help of Julie, I wrote up a club guidebook, ship info and character info sheet for Trek Online. Most of it was similar to what I had written for the UFP/SF. Later, Julie wrote a series of mini guides for the Captains, Game (Sim) Masters, First Officers, and other posts. Such items would later evolve into Trek Online's Command Bible.

Everyone knows about the club guidebook because everyone receives it, but few are aware of the existence of the Command Bible, and for a while, its very existence was classified. After all, for a while Trek Online was at war and we did not want our command secrets to be revealed to our enemies. The bible was Julie's idea, and she has had a lasting impact on the club because of it. Basically, the bible is a guidebook for captains, first officers and other important types. It teaches people how to be a captain, how to run a sim, how to write logs and take care of paper work, when to promote people, how to deal with disruptive simmers, how to put on a fun and effective sim, and so on. It helps to keep the captains on the same page. Perhaps if the USG had a command bible, it not have been destroyed because all of the captains would have been on the same page and not killed each other. But, I never wrote one for the UFP/SF or USG because Julie did not come up with the concept till January of 1997, just a few days before the USG imploded.

For Trek Online on Prodigy I came up with my basic organization that was later expanded to AOL. All of the sims in the club would be grouped into a Bureau of Simming. The captains would have power over their individual sim. Each captain would report to Julie and myself. The President would work with the captains on developing their sims, would keep everyone in the club coordinated and on the same page, would take care of necessary paperwork, make day to day decisions, consult with the captains to make long term plans for the club, and so forth. In first and second generation clubs, the President took on the role as the Chief of Starfleet. As such, he was interested in issuing directives about simming content, making up missions for each ship, and generally micro managing the clubs operations. But I was interested in making a club community, so the President was given the job of overseeing the entire club and keeping it coordinated and together and functioning. The job of making up missions and micro managing the sims went to each captain. That simple devolution of power eliminated the need for a vast bureaucracy to ensure the president's will over the sims, and allowed the simmers to use their creative talents to develop their own wonderful and dynamic sims. Yes, the President lost direct control over the sims and what every week's mission was going to be, but I really did not care.

In addition, my STECO trivia would become the Trek Online Trivia Bureau, which run both chat trivia sessions and an E-mail trivia string. Later other bureaus were developed for Trek Online, such as an academy, and a newsletter/publishing bureau. Each bureau would be headed by a club member and would be sub divided as needed. The bureau chief would also directly report to the President. Since these bureaus were focused on providing activities for the club, they always remained small and focused on providing a productive service. As such, they never grew into a large bureaucracy. Most of the time, bureaus beyond the bureau of the simming were nothing more than the one or two people who had an interest in running a trivia session or publishing a newsletter or what have you.

The only thing that had changed - and where my plan was lacking - was in the area of government and justice - but Scott's dream filled in for that.

By November, Julie and myself had developed a wonderful system for Trek Online. The only problem was that we did not have many members. Only a couple of my old simming friends expressed interest in the club, so I went out, advertised and recruited. Unfortunately, I have never been good at such things, and I was attempting to start a club when most simmers were busy getting into the swing of things at school. Rick had a talent at recruiting, and he was helped by the fact that he was running his club during the summer. So, my efforts only netted a few people, but it was enough to scratch out a sim. Thus, on Tuesday, November 5, 1996, at 8pm eastern, the USS Orion simmed once again and TOL awoke from its slumber.

In December of so, I ran into Admiral Rick in a chat room, recruiting in an attempt to rebuild STECO. Despite his talents at recruiting, virtually all of Prodigy's chat rooms were deserted that winter, and STECO was never reborn. Chat had never become popular on Prodigy, and the competition from AOL even at this early stage was beginning to have devastating effects. (This, of course, also did nothing to help my efforts to build the club on Prodigy.)

Rick and I did talk for a little while about what happened to STECO. I told him that I had started up my own club called Trek Online. We parted ways with no hard feelings, wishing each other success and good luck. After that, I never again encountered Rick.

Aside from that, Trek Online on Prodigy was very uneventful. The only conflict to speak of was a conflict over the sim between myself and VtrCharile. VtrCharile, with my approval, commanded a group of Starfleet Marines on the Orion, and also acted as the chief of security. Unfortunately, he wanted every sim to involve a battle of some kind in which his Marines could go on an away mission, but I just was not going to allow that. I wanted to have a wide range of Star Trek missions. I tried to accommodate him as much as possible, and we were both very professional about it and never fought and never were bitter, but in the end Vtr decided to leave the Orion to try to start up his own Starfleet Marine sim. I would have liked it if his sim would have been part of Trek Online, but he refused.

Julie attempted to get her own sim, the USS Sierra, up and running, but with little success. She did recruit a few crew members and had an occasional sim here and there, but she just did not have as much persistence as I had. It was hard to find enough people to keep the Orion going - on many nights in November and December only 4 people would show up to sim. But because I had canceled the Orion in September and it took till November to get restarted, I decided to sim even if only a small amount of people showed. Julie would normally cancel her sim if only a few people showed up.

Yet, the sims were fun and those who could manage to show up had a wonderful time. I think the Orion was able to survive because our sims were so great, which caused the small hand full of people I could find to keep on coming back. Had there been a high attrition rate due to lousy sims, I would not have been able to recruit many new simmers to fill the gap because there just were not many simmers on Prodigy by this time, and there were few - and sometimes no - clubs to merge with.

That truly was the amazing thing. The dominance of bulletin board simming on Prodigy was never broken. For the longest time, Trek Online was the only Star Trek chat sim club on Prodigy. Occasionally other clubs would appear, and we would always have friendly relations with them, but they were always just as small as TOL, only a handful of simmers, and they would always die after a few months. By the time summer of 1997 rolled around, Prodigy was already a dying service, and most of the simmers who had been there for the summer of 1996 had already left for other online services.

Yet, somehow, my simming style and basic philosophy about communication, working with the crew, letting people be creative, along with my simply desire not to give up and to keep on simming, allowed TOL to survive and at times thrive in a sparsely populated and dying simming environment. Eventually, my dream of what the perfect sim should be became a reality with the Orion and my dream of what the perfect club became a reality on AOL. However, before that reality, I would face almost a year of hardships and one cataclysm after another. To survive, I would need to be persistent and never lose hope in the belief that some day I would be able to turn my dreams into a reality.

 

Chapter 10: Scott's Dream

"The president of the club makes the day to day decisions regarding the running of the club. His/her day to day decisions may only be vetoed by the club's two Vice Presidents, both of which must agree to veto." - Draft Constitution, Febuary 1997.

When I first heard about Scott's dream, I hated it with a passion. It was too new and revolutionary even for my tastes. Besides, I found it to be totally unnecessary - a republic, a government in a sim club? It is a sim for crying out loud, who needs all of that nonsense?

Would Trek Online have been better served had I listened to my initial reaction? Probably not. The more Scott talked, the more I thought about it, and as events in the club spun farther and farther out of control, the more it made sense.

I still do not think that a republic makes sense in a new or small club. A capable, egalitarian king makes more sense. After all, if the club is not yet established, or if it only has 30 or 40 members, all you need is one leader and one voice making decisions. If you have several people in charge, it creates unnecessary confusion. Even in large clubs - and real life republics for that matter - you still need one leader, one president.

Scott was always vague about the details of his republic. He said the idea came from his old sim club on e-world (Apple's attempt to run an online service), and he proposed various ideas for what the republic should involve - a council of COs and XOs, Co-presidents to check each others power, and a court system like had been used in the Ben trial - but he never wrote any specifics about exactly how the council would be run, what powers people would have, and so forth. Regardless, the ideas he did present were too excessive to be helpful to a sim club, so I opposed them.

I also opposed the timing of the republic. Scott wanted one to be established right away, but I did not think that was a good idea either. As I went around saying, "The colonists did not show up and write the constitution and establish the United States right away." It was my way of simply explaining in a metaphorical sense that the club was too young. We needed to develop and grow. (Of course, I fear that sometimes people think I was actually comparing the club to the United States and thus people think I'm a little crazy.)

My opposition on these two fronts, and the general personality conflicts between Scott and myself, caused us to constantly clash. Things became even worse as Scott's vision for a court system became very harsh and I opposed him on that front as well.

However, I was not against the idea of a republic outright. Carefully crafted and utilized in a club as unique as Trek Online - where we were building an open and free community - made perfect sense to me. If we were going to make a community, why not allow it to govern itself? A republic is not the answer for every club, and it was not the answer for TOL for a while. But when the club was ready, when it grew to a point that one person simply could not run it all and something was needed - we established a republic, as will be discussed in later parts of this memoir.

Plus, I honestly do not think Trek Online would have survived for as long as it did without the republic. 1997 saw the initial conflicts of a community trying to assert power over its destiny. Had we continued in 1998 and 1999 with an open community and with captains having large control over their sims - but with myself or anyone else set up at the top as a king or dictator - it simply would not have worked. Sooner or later, someone would have revolted. That is what happened in 2003. By that time, history had come full circle and the club had abandoned the republic but kept the open community. With no recourse to Penny - that egotistical, incompetent president - a revolt occurred.

Yes, there are things I would have changed about the republic we eventually developed. We did not need a court system or trials - they only caused more problems then they solved. Allowing the captains to make disciplinary decisions and having a judicial review - not a full trial - would have been far better. In addition, I would have never abolished Assembly elections. The balance between captains and elected club members was vital to the success of the Assembly. Without it, the Assembly became dominated by dead wood and ineffective captains past their prime that no one could get rid of. But aside from that, the revolutionary idea of a republic served Trek Online well. Scott's dream filled in the gaps that Chip and myself had not accounted for.