My Simming Memoirs

Part 5: Golden Era

A scene from the TOL Park Comic Strip, by Robin Knight, 1999.

Chapter 28: My New Team; Chapter 29: Internet Ventures; Chapter 30: A day in the life; Chapter 31: SciWorld and the Tournament; Chapter 32: Summer Fun; Chapter 33: Ben's Punishment; Chapter 34: Not Quite Retired; Chapter 35: Robin's Story; Chapter 36: The Vindicator

 

Chapter 28: My New Team

"If this doesn't work, don't smite me, and if this does work, keep me in mind when writing DHR :)" - Sergei 'Aaron' Muronovich, in an IM with me, October 28, 1998.

Every simmer should experience a year like 1999. With a hundred lively and dedicated members, 15 sims, and activities ranging from trivia sessions to sim master guilds, Trek Online reached its peak. And boy, what a fun time we had! It was a great club filled with craziness and silliness, but it was worked into the sims in subtle ways. People would take technobabble to new extremes, try to avoid the good doctor with ever more complex excuses, and hide jelly bean machines under their station. They were little things to lighten the sim, but overall the sims were always professional, intellectual, and involving.

Outside the sims is where the club shined. We became a true online community. Many friendships were made, and every time enough TOLers gathered, our wacky imaginations came into full force, giving life to an imaginary realm called Trekonlina. Suscessive people added to Chip's smite buttons, giving rise to intrigue, romance, and pools filled with pudding.

In 1999, peace and plenty returned to the simming world after 2 difficult years. The clubs that survived 1997 and 1998 - Trek Online, United Federation of Populated Planets, Member Focused Simulations, Star Fleet Elite Force, the Intergalactic Simulation Organization, and Federation Sim Fleet, among others - were strong and thriving. The weak had been swept aside, so every where you looked there were good sims and good clubs. Because we had finally become adjusted to unlimited usage, and because AOL still had the simming forums, message boards, and chat rooms in place, it was easy to recruit.

But just because the forces line up doesn't mean things will be successful. That's where leadership and a bit of luck comes into play. Leaders have to understand the forces and to put them to good use, and the leaders of 1999 did their job. In the Simming League, the leaders of most of the major clubs on AOL joined together to tackle the problems of the day. Through the League, we were able to maintain a peace that allowed 1999 to continue uninterrupted by war or disaster. With many clubs and simmers knowing that the League was out there, and as a result not having to worry about spying, wars, and trouble makers, clubs were able to focus their time and energy on simming.

Through the League, events like the SciWorld Convention and the Tournament of Simulations brought the whole simming community together. Through the League, TOL was able to spread its ideas and culture, for TOL was considered to be the best club of 1999. Leaders of many clubs came to study TOL and learn from our government and sims. Some people, like Gillis (who you will hear more about later) mimicked TOLs culture in their own club. Others, like OBhoy from the United Federation of Populated Planets and Maki from the Online Simulations Association, copied our constitution and government.

I still find it remarkable that TOL managed to survive through 1996 and 97, let alone become one of the leading clubs of the simming world. I made plenty of mistakes, but I had a goal and I was determined. I reflected and learned from my mistakes, and I was blessed to have many hard workers around me. That made up for the shortcomings and saw us through.

By the end of 1998, many of those hard workers and old time advisors - such as Chip - were beginning to retire. But new voices were rising to make their mark on TOL. Among them were Clodo, Mike, Robin, Aaron, and IR.

From the outset, I was impressed by Clodo. He possessed raw talent and a limitless imagination. At the trial of Uridien1, where Clodo served as a member of the jury, his seriousness, dedication, and thoughtfulness proved he was ready to be a leader. Three months later, I promoted him to captain. He made his sim - the USS Stonewall - one of the best in TOL, and I regard him as the best captain the club ever had.

After I promoted him to captain, it took me a few more months to trust him on a political level. But after getting to know him better and testing him to see how he responded in various situations, it was clear that he was loyal to TOL and that he had no burning ambition to run the club.

After my experience with Scott, I was hesitant to name a new Vice President. All during 1997, I went without a Vice President because I didn't want anyone to be in a position to rise up against me as Scott had done. I also was hesitant to restart the simming academy. I always liked the idea of having a simming academy, but I came to realize the power it give to whoever ran it. That person would get to know all of the cadets who joined the club and would enjoy a popularity and level of connections within the club equal to mine. As a result, during 1997 and into 1998, the academy existed in theory. I would process the applications of all new club members, and if someone really needed training, I would train them myself, but most cadets I passed by saying, "due to your skill (or experience or whatever), you do not have to attend the academy."

However, by 1998, I trusted Clodo, so I worked with him to rebuild the academy and I made him the Academy Commandant. As with everything else he did, Clodo poured himself into the work and did an excellent job. He recruited and trained teachers and a staff, processed and personally welcomed every new member into TOL, and established a system that trained new simmers and made everyone feel welcome. It was his efforts in the academy that allowed TOL to retain many of the precious few who joined TOL during the recession of 1998.

After seeing what a wonderful job he did with the academy, I made Clodo my new Vice President on July 1, 1998. Clodo was exactly what I needed in a Vice President. He was a capable administrator. I could assign large tasks vital to the club to him - running the academy, maintaining the website, and overseeing the activities - and they would get done. He did not seek power and he didn't like the lime light. If he had a problem with me, he would disagree with me in private, but he always support me in public.

Clodo's personality was also a good balance to mine. In public, I've always been distant and aloof, and because I was the big imposing boss, many people who didn't know me were afraid to approach me. Clodo, on the other hand, was very approachable and non threatening. People could talk to him. I'm sure he smoothed out a number of problems I never knew about, and brought other problems to my attention that I had not been aware of. This greatly contributed to the peace and prosperity that TOL enjoyed during 1998 and 1999.

However, Clodo wasn't going to be my successor as President. If he wanted the job I would have given it to him, no question about it. However, I knew he didn't want the job. There were others - Robin, Aaron, and Mike, who wanted to be President - and as a result they could never have been my Vice President. I was just too paranoid after Scott to give someone who wanted to be President that much trust and authority.

Mike was never an advisor. He was a friend, a wonderful captain, and a force of nature to be reckoned with for sure, but never an advisor, mainly because he wasn't interested in it. TOL was very lucky to have him on our side (most of the time). He infused as much energy and wackiness into the club as Chip - and when you have to bring the club to life each day through words on the screen - its good to have people like Mike around to provide those words with energy.

Robin never set out to be my advisor. She wanted to be a critic, and during the Constitutional debates she became my leading critic. Robin wasn't against having a republic per say, but she thought I was going to far in certain areas - especially when it came to the Court. She felt that courts had no business in simming and that it would just be a pressure cooker that made things worse.

After the constitutional debates she continued to oppose me - in private and in public in the Assembly - on all number of issues. Other sim clubs would have viewed such opposition as a serious problem, and open debate as a dangerous development, but because it was channeled into a political system and into the Assembly, what could have become another Scott situation instead became very constructive. She would debate, I would debate, others would debate, agreements were reached, votes were held to solve impasses, and it all worked very well.

I have a strong personality, and I like to surround myself with people who will stand up to me. Clodo stood up to me, all be it in private. Robin sure stood up to me, but at first I was put off by her because she seemed to be opposing me just for the sake of opposing me. However, after a while I realized that Robin wasn't grandstanding. She loved TOL and wanted the best for it. After a while she too realized I wasn't on an ego trip, and that I didn't take the business of republic and constitution as seriously as she thought. I just used those terms because I realized the symbolic value they possessed and that they caused more people to get involved in the club at all levels because people felt ownership in the club. (No one would care about bylaws and a leadership council.) As a result, during 1999, she slowly transformed from an advisory into an advisor, and finally into my anointed successor.

In many ways Aaron was Robin's opposite and he became my enforcer - both jokingly at parties where he and his MiBs (Men in Blue because Men in Black was already taken) would smite and reeducate those who attempted to throw me into a vat of spam or pool of pudding - and in a very real sense as TOLs Chief Justice and the person who kept Ben and other trouble makers under control. But like Robin, Aaron had his own strong opinions and was not afraid to speak his mind to me, or to Robin for that matter. I had to manage their personalities to keep them from killing each other, but somehow I pulled it off.

On a cultural level, Aaron was Chip's successor. In May of 1998, Chip retired from command of the Generation - and the club sent him off with an epic battle where Chip went out a hero against the Jeh'madar. Command of the Generation passed to the first officer, Wormella. She had been with the ship since 1996, but she lived in Wales. Her dedication was such that she would sign on very early every Saturday morning her time to sim. However, by the time she took command her interest in simming was begin to decline, she was growing tired of simming in the early morning, and she saw being promoted to captain as the culmination of her career. After a few months, she stepped aside and Aaron became the captain of the Generation.

Aaron was every bit as good of a captain as Chip, and their approach to simming was similar. Both loved to combine action with silliness, and were always able to pull it off. But beyond that, as Chip slowly faded away and quietly exited the club scene in 1999 (an exit befitting the true gentleman he was), Aaron stepped forward as TOLs cultural leader. Aaron added to Chip's culture of smite buttons by inventing the MiBs and other TOL cultural oddities. How he came up with this, I have no idea, but the MiBs were a hit, appearing in cartoons and after sim parties filled with extreme wackiness.

And, of course, there was IR - the club's philosopher. He liked to stay in the background and kept to himself, but his quiet nature belayed his awareness and insight. Whenever I was confronted with a deep issue or serious problem, I made sure to seek him out.

These five people - Clodo, Mike, Robin, Aaron, and IR, became the team that drove TOL during 1999.

 

Chapter 29: Internet Ventures

"I wanted to do something for the club, something that all the club could enjoy, build upon, and be proud of. This club's done so much for me(really, it has...its nice to be able to talk to someone that you don't see and will probably never see in your life about things in your life and share common interests) that I really wanted to do something special for it. I didn't even have to think...the answer was all too obvious...all I had to do was actually do it." - I. Relayer, in an E-mail to the club explaining why he gave TOL a tremendous gift. June 21, 1999.

After witnessing how badly Chip's retirement from the Presidency had gone in 1997, the issue of my retirement long weighed on my mind. By 1999, I was beginning to feel that it would be my last year in office. I was at the top of my game, and I was watching all of my dreams and more achieve fruition, but under the surface I could feel that I was growing tired. In January it wasn't much, but I knew myself and I knew by the end of the year I probably would be ready for retirement. I, of course, didn't tell anyone, because a lot could have changed in a year, and I didn't want to make myself a lame duck.

However, I did begin to test possible successors. Clodo, as I said, would have gotten the job if he wanted it, but he indicated quite plainly that he didn't. So my first choice was Mike. Yes, Mike. He had his problems, but he had learned from them and grown as a leader, and I respected that. He was a good captain, and he was dedicated to the club, so I gave him a bigger challenge - a mini club - to run.

During the end of 1998, Chip, Mike, and IR approached me about expanding TOL onto the internet by establishing a website (aside from the few sad web pages I stuck up on my AOL members site), launching internet relay chat sims, and other assorted things. I agreed and TOLi (the Trek Online Internet Division) was born.

Things proceeded quickly. IR worked to acquire a domain name for TOL, and Mike programmed a MUSH - a virtual text based roleplaying environment - for the club. In the MUSH, people could explore the city of Trekonlina, stumble across hidden MIB weapon labs and reeducation centers, run amuck in my house, and visit Scott in his apple orchard (he's a big Mac fan). Mike also convinced an irc sim, the USS Genesis, to join TOL. The Genesis had been part of the New Federation Sim Group (NFSG) - a member club in the 1998 Simming League. But the NFSG died, leaving the Genesis on its own.

Had I been smart, I would have allowed the Genesis to join TOL as a regular sim. But because it was off of AOL and there was precedent with the Prodigy and CIS sims being separate, and because I wanted to test Mike, I turned TOLi from a loose collection of special projects into a true division on par with Trek Online Prodigy and I put Mike in command of it.

At the same time Robin signed up with the new Prodigy Internet service. I decided to charge her with reviving the TOL Prodigy division (which died at the end of 1998 with the demise of Classic Prodigy). Thus I was able to test both Mike and Robin (my second choice for President) at the same time.

However, taking these actions opened up a whole can of worms that hadn't been considered when we drafted of the constitution. Questions were raised over what was a division? Did Mike and Robin have as much power as I? Did the Genesis have a seat in the Assembly? TOL had been able to avoid these questions because when the Constitution was written TOL Prodigy was pretty much dead. There was only the club on AOL at the time.

In preparing for TOLi, I pushed a constitutional amendment through the Assembly that made TOLi a separate division, but I as the President would have the power to appoint and remove its director. My reasoning for this was as follows - in 1999 the internet was divided. AIM didn't exist, so in order to IM a person, they had to be on AOL. Internet message boards weren't reliable, so the Assembly met at our AOL message boards. This made it impossible for someone from the internet to take part in the Assembly. As a result of these physical barriers, any internet sims would be isolated from the sims on AOL - just as the club on Prodigy had been isolated. As a result it made no sense for TOLi or Prodigy to be integrated into the constitution and politics of the club on AOL. However, I wanted to keep TOL united as one club. I wanted everyone to follow the same rules and be a part of the same community, so everything had to be linked somehow - hence TOLi was placed under the defacto command of the club on AOL and was required to follow the same rules and procedures so that if someone from AOL went to the Genesis and vice versa, they would recognize it as a TOL sim.

On paper it seemed great, but it didn't work in reality. Robin saw ahead to the day when the internet would be integrated and found the divisions to be silly. Mike wanted more independence and power as the head of TOLi because the Genesis had its own rules and style from the NFSG that didn't fit into TOL. After a while, Breon, the captain of the Genesis, started to speak up, and brought things to a head.

Perhaps had Mike been successful in expanding TOLi by adding new sims, it would have been a different story. But by the spring of 1999, the Genesis was still the only sim. It didn't make sense to Breon to have a whole layer of pointless bureaucracy over him (ie Mike), and he didn't like having rules and simming styles from TOL being imposed on him.

In April, Breon come to me and vented his frustrations about being treated as a colony. In response, I decided to do away with the divisions and bring the Genesis into the club as a full member, with a seat in the Assembly and all. At first, Breon was fine with this, and it made sense to everyone else. TOLi only had the Genesis, and Prodigy hadn't gone anywhere, although Robin did list her sim as part of the Prodigy division even though it wasn't on Prodigy (probably out of protest to the idea of having divisions in the first place).

But than, something very strange happened - Breon freaked. I'm not sure why. I think the days of deliberation and politicking with Mike, Breon, Robin, and the Assembly to reach a consensus on the issue in April scared him. After all, TOLs way of doing things was alien to most of the simming world. In addition, Admiral Bromb from the MFS - my old antagonist from the 1998 Simming League - was a crew member on the Genesis, and I'm sure he was busy talking Breon out of becoming a full TOL member. But the matter was sealed when Aaron, being the enforcer, went to Breon to remind him that he had agreed to this new arangement and it wasn't very honorable to try to back out a few days later. Words were exchanged, Breon pulled the Genesis out of the club and restarted NFSG. But when it was all said and done, there weren't any hard feelings between us. NFSG grew and prospered, rejoined the Simming League, and worked closely with TOL.

Thus ended TOLi.

Luckily, because the Genesis was isolated from the rest of the club, its leaving TOL had no impact - aside from Aaron becoming upset and cursing out Breon. All of the Genesis crew members were contained on the Genesis and TOL continued to prosper after it left. In retrospect, regardless of what I did, the Genesis probably would have left sooner or later. It was set in the 25th Century and had a very intense story line supported by ranks, rules, and styles that didn't mesh withTOLs system.

But the Genesis was a critical test for the club. It would have been easy to allow the Genesis to be on its own in TOL, and to start up a NFSG fleet in TOL. The club could have become another simming group filled with internal barriers and divisions. But I stuck to my desire to have one open and united community. We tried to make it work within the confines of the technology of the day and the Genesis' unique history, but in the end the Genesis just couldn't fit into TOL, so it left.

TOLi put Mike out of the running to be the President, but it wasn't because Breon left. During the few months he ran the division he didn't take any initiative. He always came to me for orders and didn't do anything unless I told him to. Robin, on the other hand, impressed me. The Prodigy division didn't go anywhere because it turned out that Prodigy Internet was just a collection of websites, but she took initiative by moving her ship to an internet chat room, and by starting up new E-mail and Bulletin Board sims for the club.

However, there is a better ending to the TOLi story. There had been the occasional talk of creating a proper website for TOL and replacing my few amateur webpages devoted to the club on my AOL members page. Unknown to me, Mike, Clodo, Robin, and IR had been working behind the scenes. IR purchased the domain name trekonline.com, and surprised everyone when he E-mailed the club to tell us the news. As he explained, it was his gift back to TOL. "I wanted to do something for the club, something that all the club could enjoy, build upon, and be proud of. This club's done so much for me (really, it has...its nice to be able to talk to someone that you don't see and will probably never see in your life about things in your life and share common interests) that I really wanted to do something special for it. I didn't even have to think...the answer was all too obvious...all I had to do was actually do it."

 

Chapter 30: A day in the life

"And somebody spoke and I went into a dream." - Paul McCartney

"Ahhh. Uhaaah. Ahhaahhhhhhhhaaahhh..." - John Lennon

Too often when writing history, one is carried away by the big events that shape the story - epic battles, political debates, and stories of intrigue, triumph and failure. The day to day events are lost.

1999 was a good year for TOL. Everything came together. There weren't any epic struggles or disasters, it was just one good day after another where we enjoyed simming and each other's friendship. So please allow me to recount a typical day in my life as the President of TOL. The day presented here is not a factual day, but is based on historical records and my memory of what a day in 1999 was like...

I return home around 5:30pm and after getting settled, I signon and find several E-mails in my box. The first three are for the Trekinest Trek Trivia in Trek Online E-mail string. "How did she know the answer?" I ask myself.

Next is a log from the Stonewall, I quickly read it and scrole down to the attendence info. "Very good turn out," I think to myself, "Clodo always does a good job." As I save the log to the Stonewall folder on my computer, a thought crosses my mind. "I had to ask him something." I open the TOL notebook next to my computer and flip to the most recent page. "Ahh yes, I need to check up on that new cadet. Has he been sent to the Endeavor yet?" The cadet also signed up to attend the Dark Falcon, and they could use a new cadet. If its not too late, I want to send him to the DF.

"Well that answers that" I mumble as I read the next E-mail - the official welcome letter from Clodo to the new cadet posting them to the Endeavor. I make a note in my book to get someone new to the DF as soon as possible. Following the official welcome letter is Clodo's typical reminder E-mail to everyone. Amy, welcome the person onboard your ship. Chas, send him the guidebook. LadyJ, he wants to take part in the trivia, so add him to the string. I do my bit by E-mailing the guidebook to the new cadet.

Robin IMs me to say "Hello." After I reply with "Hi," she follows with a completely random question, "If God can do anything, can he create a math problem he can't solve?" I sigh, knowing this only a distraction and her way of softening me for unpleasant news, but I play along anyway. "Yes, its called life," I respond.

Wanting to see how she breaks whatever news it is to me, I try to get her off onto another subject. "So we're going to have the Genesis join TOL outright."

"Wow, they get to become a part of TOLs messed up bureaucracy."

"Bah :::smites you:::" I type "TOL doesn't have bureaucracy... there is a difference between that and political institutions."

Robin quickly snaps back, "It's all the same around here... the Assembly, the Courts. Mainly the courts, because they don't do anything and thus by definition are a bureaucracy. They are unnecessary. They are just a pressure-cooker."

"They do their job when needed, thankfully which isn't very much. Look at their folder, there are only 17 posts. But when the court is needed, they are there to resolve problems, like with Ben and Bo. They both were problems for TOL, so they were dealt with. Besides, in addition to helping us with day to day stuff, the constitution, courts, assembly, is all there so that when I'm no longer President, and if the club ever collapses again, there will be institutions in place to help save the club, and institutions are far better at that than having to rely on the will of a potentially flawed leader."

"Umm... no. Ben and Bo were annoyances to you," Robin retorts, not wanting to be dragged off topic and into a larger debate.

"They were more than just an annoyance to me."

After a long pause, Robin comments. "Yes, well, I could whine about my problems with people too. But if they don't bother you, you probably wouldn't do anything."

"Who do you have problems with?" I ask, trying to get the chat back to what I suspect is Robin's original point.

"At the moment, Aaron. Look at his new website for the Generation, he is using copyrighted materials. I tried to get him to contact the author, because there was an e-mail address to contact the webmaster where he could have gotten the author's permission. But he wouldn't do that and I am quite frustrated, what can you do about it?"

At that moment Aaron signs on and IMs me. "Hi, don't listen to Robin. She is going to say I stole copyrighted material."

"Speak of the devil" Robin IMs me.

Aaron continues, "I did not steal any copyrighted material. First of all, its not copyrighted, and second I gave thanks on the site anyway, so big whoppy. Anyway, I have the hugest headache. Hugest or biggest? Which one is grammatically correct? ;P."

"Biggest, I believe," I reply to Aaron, "But don't go by me, you have seen my writing, heh."

I turn my attention back to Robin and write her, "So Aaron just IMed me, and I'm looking at his website now. He did thank the author and link the site, and as far as I know that's all he needs to do."

She responds, ":::smites you::: See, you never listen to me."

"Bah, fine. I'll make him E-mail the author too. Now, do you want to see a bureaucracy? (Link to the ASG organizational flow chart). That is a bureaucracy."

As Robin takes a few minutes to look over the ASG site, and as I tell Aaron to e-mail the author just to be on the safe side, an ensign IMs me asking a few questions. After the ensign is deconfused, I return to checking my E-mail and see a new trivia question. I quickly reply, "Dreadnought Class." I know I got it right. It's just a matter of the person who asked the question to write back, saying I got it right, and handing the floor over to me to ask the next question.

Robin finally replies, "I guess it does make me feel kind of lucky not to be one of 50 commodores in a club, and wow, the ASG sure does have a lot of Fox Mulders."

"I think its the same person." I respond.

"Err... umm... unspiffy."

With the tension between us now relieved, I type, "Anyway, I need to get some food, I'll be back later."

With that, I sign off and eat dinner.

Three or so hours later I sign back on and pop into the end of a sim to check how it's doing. As the crew sims away in the background, I check the message boards and see that in Mike's latest post he parked his shuttle right outside my window and is waving at me. I also visit the Orion House - my White House - and see that Clodo is lost in the Vice Presidential sub sub sub basement. After waving back at Mike and dispatching some MiBs to rescue Clodo, I check the Assembly to see how the vote on my bill is coming along. "Voting is a little slow." I say to myself, "People seem to be waiting."

After the sim ends I chat with the crew, my favorite part of the job. Sure enough, because everyone lingers to talk to me, an after sim chat party brokes out. Someone apparently threw a jelly bean. It missed the target and bounced off Carrie's head. She is looking for the perpetrator with the intention of dunking them into a vat of spam while Mike is running around claiming he just saw the moon explode. These parties allowed everyone's imaginations to run unfettered by the rules of simming and the Trek universe, and the little inside jokes and games gave the club great unity.

After giving up on trying to convince people about the moon, Mike attempts to eat someone - another inside joke. I quickly IM him, "I thought you said you aren't a cannibal?"

"Me?? No, no, I'm not."

"You could have fooled me."

"Good! I like fooling people. :::nods:::" Mike switches to the serious, "So I am going to talk to Bo tonight."

"All right", I reply, "sometimes he gets carried away, don't worry about him too much."

Clodo begins to IM me. So far it has been a pretty light night, I think to myself, normally I have 5 or 6 people IM me at once.

"Hi Chas. I disagree with the new bill."

"Oh?" I ask Clodo.

"I think Robin is right about this one. It's just going to make unnecessary work for everyone."

"All right, I'll pull the bill." Clodo was one of the few people who held a veto power over me because I trusted him that much. He didn't speak up against me often, but when he did, I would usually always listen.

"Thanks."

I return my attention to the chat party and see Carrie swimming around in a pool of chocolate pudding. I check my E-mail once again and find an apology from Robin to Aaron, and I see I got the trivia question right and that the newly waxed floor has been handed over to me to ask the next question. However, before I can think up a question, Maki, my VP in the Simming League, IMs me to find out about the preparations for an upcoming event. Shortly there after, Aaron IMs me to warn me that he fears a civil war will soon break out in club AB. I discuss the situation with Aaron and inform Maki.

"Yea, ever since Phil disappeared it hasn't been very good over there." Maki comments. "I always found it strange that he just disappeared like that."

"Ah well." I sigh, "We can have the Court try to resolve any disputes, and warn them in AB that they can be punished if a war breaks out."

"I know, but it is getting late" Maki replies, "I should go to sleep, we will talk about this tomorrow."

"Agreed, I'll talk to some Senators and see what they think. Good night Maki."

Soon there after, I wrap up my IMs, send out a trivia question, and sign off for the night. Another day as President completed. Tomorrow I'll have to write up my monthly update to all of the captains to let them know how I think they are doing and what I plan for the next month, and I look at my list and see that I never got a chance to talk to IR about sending out more logs.

One of the keys to Trek Online's success was that I hounded my captains, even the good ones. In a system where there were few rules on the individual simmers (thus helping to promote fun and creativity), it was up to the captains to keep their sims under control. As future presidents of Trek Online discovered, when you do not keep a close eye on your captains - when you do not make sure they take care of the paper work, make sure the sim starts and ends on time, set an example of professionalism, and keep the crew from dominating and letting the sims descend into slap stick battles - things quickly fall apart.

 

Chapter 31: SciWorld and the Tournament

"I got started in the simming business well over two years ago and have never looked back. While I am still considered a 'novice' simmer, as you will see, I don't lack spirit! You'll hear a lot about why I created SciWorld. There are many reasons:

Just for fun... how often do you get to do this much in one weekend?

For groups to promote themselves.

To promote peace between the groups and get them together for an event."

-Ender Maki, during his speach opening the first SciWorld Online Convention, March 18, 1999

In 1999 - for a few short months - the Simming League rose beyond its normal day to day functioning as a political institution for simming leaders and became what Bromb wanted it to be - an organization that advanced simming.

Ender Maki of the Online Simulation Association (OSA) and Troi of the Intergalactic Simulation Organization (ISO), stepped forward with two grand ideas - the SciWorld Online Convention and the Tournament of Simulations.

The "All of simming is in danger" essay had attracted new clubs and tallent to the League. A new constitution was written that gave more power to the President and individuals to run League functions, thus removing the Senate and its politics from approving every last detial.

The first person to step forward in the new League was Maki, and his sim club, the Online Simulations Association (OSA). The OSA was a radical experiment. Formed by the merger of 3 good sized clubs in late 1998, it actually held together for a year - but in the end it did fracture apart. I was brought in as an advisor to several high ranking members of the OSA, and TOLs style of government helped to influence the OSA, and especially Maki.

Shortly after the New Year - as the OSA was joining the League - Maki told me about an idea he had been working on with Tashak, a fellow OSA member. They were thinking about having the OSA put together an online simming convention - a week of sims, games, chats, and workshops about simming. A simple idea, but no one had ever done it before, because, as it turned out, it was very difficult to pull off.

I immediately liked the idea and suggested making the convention a League event - that way it could involve a dozen clubs and thousand of simmers. Maki agreed and we began to get to work.

Our first approach was to put together a massive master schedule where we figured out all of the events we wanted and placed them into appropriate timeslots. It was a thing of beauty, let me tell you. The only problem was that as soon as we put out feelers to find people to host our events, there was little interest. People instead had ideas for their own events, so we quickly abandoned the top down approach and instead reached out to a lot of people, told them about the convention, and asked if they would be interested in running a sim or event.

It was a time consuming task - having to coordinate with people, get all of the scheduling to work, help people develop their events, and what not. Maki, Tashak, and myself spent three months - from January to March, putting together SciWorld. I didn't think we would meet our date and be ready to hold the convention as we had planned in mid March, but somehow, everything came together, and the SciWorld Online Convention was held from March 18 to the 22nd, 1999, and was a huge suscess.

Over the course of the 4 days, we had nearly 50 sims, games, trivia sessions, special chats, and simming workshops held in various AOL chat rooms open to the public. The most astounding feature of SciWorld was, in my opinion, that for the convention almost a dozen clubs opened up their normally closed sims to the public.

SciWorld was a prime example of what the League could accomplish if it worked towards a common goal. I don't know if the convention had any major impact on simming - if it caused people to join a new club, or if it aided in the spread of ideas, or opened new lines of communications - but I know that hundreds of people took part in convention and had fun. For almost a week, all of the artificial barriers and borders that the simming world had developed were lifted. It's one of my proudest simming moments.

The convention was such a huge success that even the NAGF forum on AOL stood up and took notice. It attempted to organize its own simming convention, but was unable to pull it off. That has always been a source of pride for me. The Simming League and three dedicated people were able to pull off an event that not even AOL - with all of its resources - was able to.

For our efforts, Maki, Tashak, and myself recieved the Simming League Prize for Peace for bringing the simming world together and demonstrating what was possible if people just realize this is a game and work together to promote fun.

Building on the success of SciWorld, Troi the leader of the Intergalactic Simulation Organization (ISO) and Senator to the Simming League, came forward with a second grand idea. She thought - clubs are always bragging about how they have the best sims, so why not organize a tournament to see who was right?

Thus, the Tournament of Simulations was born and organized by the Simming League. Many League member clubs, and some who weren't members, agreed to take part in the Tournament. During June and July, neutral judges roamed the simming world, witnessing the best sims of each club and keeping score. When it was all said and done, TOL secured its place as the best club of 1999 and a prime example of the Third Generation. Trek Online, and my ship, the USS Vindicator, was found to be the best overall sim, the most creative sim, and to have the best sim master. I came in third in the best captain category - but hey, you can't win them all.

To see all of the struggle and hard work by myself and others pay off... to see my club and my crew receive the recognition they deserved was absolutely amazing.

 

Chapter 32: Summer Fun

Clodo: "Anyone want to marry me?"

Anne: "Sorry, No Clodo."

Robin: "No Clodo."

Malu: "Sorry Clodo."

-Poor Clodo, at my wedding, July 26, 1999.

By the summer of 1999 I was sure I would retire when my term ended in January. The club was thriving and I had achieved all of my dreams, but I was becoming busy in real life and had less time for the club. Plus, after three years of bring life to words on a screen I was beginning to burn out. It didn't effect my performance, but there was an attitude shift. For example, when I started, I responded enthusiastically to questions from cadets. But by mid 1999, it was always the same questions. I still responded to them promptly and effectively, but I grew tired of doing it. I know of leaders who stay in power by delegating these tasks to others and building bureaucracies that isolates them from the day to day simming, but that wasn't TOL. I knew if I did that for my own personal benefit, it would destroy the unique community and openness of TOL.

But knowing that I was soon to retire, I loosened my collar and began to do things that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing in earlier periods. For starters, I got married.

Amy, the captain of the Endeavor, is a good friend of mine, and for many months our two sim characters were engaged in playful flirtation. It started at a Vindicator shore leave sim, and Amy happened to be there enjoying a vacation from her duties on the Endeavor. My reputation as a great warrior and dashing hero had proceeded me, and as a half Klingon, Amy became intrigued with my quiet aloofness... Klingon's don't know many quiet warriors. She began to peruse me in sims we both attended and at after sim parties, and I would politely rebuff her. We both got a kick out of turning heads and spreading rumors that frosty old Chas may be loosening up, so we kept at it.

This mysterious playfulness is more reflective of my real life personality, but sadly I never had many opportunities for it to come across online. As the leader I learned that I had to stay distant and aloof. It's hard to command someone and be friends with them at the same time.

After a little while, we decided it would be interesting if TOL had a first lady, and that a relationship would be a fun way to develop and explore our sim characters. So, Amy slowly won over Chas, and we put together a few sims to explore our character's relationship.

Finally, on July 26, our two characters got married at an Orion House ceremony. Clodo performed the ceremony, Mike was the best man, Carrie was the maid of honor, and Robin ended up with the bouquet. Lots of bloodwine and much silliness followed at the banquet.

After the marriage, Amy threw herself into the role of First Lady and took control of the MiBs when Aaron retired (I think she had a little too much fun controlling the MiBs). We continued to hold sims that explored our character's relationship, but we were careful not to have too many because it was hard to involve others in them. The one sim that stands out the most in my mind is where Amy's body had been taken over by an alien critter. She had gone to engineering, put up forcefields, ceased control of the systems, and taken people hostage. The only person she, or the alien controlling her would talk to and allow into engineering was me. We determined that the only way to get the alien out of her was to kill her, and than hopefully revive her.

I slowly made my way to engineering, trembling and numb. I started to talk to her and got her to come down closer to me. When she did, I pulled out a phaser and did my duty. The alien critter left her body and I vaporized it. I quickly rushed over to the controls, lowered the forecefields, regained control of the ship and beamed us to sickbay.

As I stood watching her turn white as the doctors worked on her, I collapsed to the floor crying. Luckily, after a few tense minutes, as is always the case in simming, she was revived. She smacked me and than we embraced as the sim ended. Afterwards, one of the crew members IMed us and said the sim had made her cry. What a moment...

In addition to getting married, I spent 1999 returning to my simming roots. In the fall of 1998, outside of TOL, Moses (my old academy pal and long time compatriot) and I launched an experimental sim called the USS Darkflame. The premise was simple. We had no set crew, just a pool of interested people who would receive updates about the sim. There was no captain and no set ship per say, although we always called it the Darkflame. Every week would be something new and different depending on who showed up, just like it was in the early days of simming. We both had a great time at the sim, and we wanted to keep it separate from TOL to let this unique idea develop on its own.

The Darkflame was successful, and we decided to expand it to make a new club over the summer of 1999, named Trek Theater or Outer Realm Sims (we never did decide). But after a few weeks we gave up on the club idea because I was too busy with TOL and Moses was busy serving as a captain in what was left of STS. The Darkflame continued to sim into the fall, but eventually many of the key crew members joined TOL and the sim fizzled. Don't get me wrong, TOL was always my club, and I loved it, but I was always joining other clubs on the side and experimenting in order to keep my skills sharp and to broaden my prospective. I didn't want to become an out of touch admiral.

In TOL, the Darkflame had inspired me to start up a sim called New Horizons. It was the same concept, open to all, and every week it would be something new. It attracted a small following in TOL, but because in TOL it was run as a bulletin board sim, it really didn't catch on.

But Moses and I weren't the only ones who were experimenting with the fundamentals of simming. During the Tournament of Simming, I was introduced to an independent ship called the USS Dark Angel (no relation to the Darkflame). While there was a set ship and captain, it was very much like the early days of simming on Prodigy. There was a pool of simming friends, and whenever enough of them were online, they would get together and sim. I watched some of their sims and was blown away by how dedicated and professional they were. And the judges of the Tournament apparently were impressed as well, for the Dark Angel blew away all of the big name sims and came in as the second best sim (behind the Vindicator).

Vid and a few members of his crew joined TOL, and we began to talk. Eventually, the idea of the Dark Angel joining TOL arose. I know Vid didn't like having to do all of the administrative work of a club for just a sim... of having to recruit, train cadets, take care of paperwork, write a newsletter, and deal with other clubs. I was hesitant, given my experience with the Independence and the Genesis, but I saw that the Dark Angel would be a good addition to the club. I proceeded carefully, I talked to all of the crew members of the Dark Angel and educated them about TOL. Vid and I reached an agreement that the Dark Angel would become a provisional member for 3 to 5 months, during which time both sides would see how it worked out. If at the end of that time the Dark Angel wanted to stay in TOL, and TOL still wanted the Dark Angel, the DA (Dark Angel) would become a full ship in TOL and would get a seat in the Assembly.

A vote was held, and both the crew of the Dark Angel and the Assembly approved the plan. As it turned out, there was no need for hesitation. The Dark Angel fit into TOL nicely. The simming style was similar, the rules and procedures were similar, and everyone on both sides got along. Soon the Dark Angel was adding its own inside jokes and wackiness to TOLs culture.

 

Chapter 33: Ben's Punishment

"Chas I am very sorry about that. I heard from Ben about VF being dead and I thought he was still in TOL." - Tracy, explaining to me why she joined up with Ben again, in an IM, August 14, 1999.

The only major problem of 1999 was caused by the same guy who made trouble in 1996, 1997, and 1998. If you are getting tired of hearing about Ben and his exploits, you can imagine how thinly he was wearing on my patience by this time.

If you recall, Ben terrorized the Vindicator, destroyed the Freedom, and waged war against the club. However, he reformed (kind of) and helped me bring down LeaderFed, so he was allowed back in TOL in 1998, only to drive several Viper Flight captains into retirement as he tried to take control of the sim. After I stopped him from taking over the sim, Ben left the club and remained quiet during most of 1999, but in August he returned to make another play for Viper Flight and to cause trouble in the Simming League.

Matt had failed to revive Viper Flight and control Ben when I put him in command of the sim in late 1998. I would have removed Matt from command immediately, but he was running against me for the Presidency, and I didn't want there to be any appearance that I was removing him for political reasons. However, when the election was over and I was soundly reelected, I sacked Matt and took command of Viper Flight myself in February. I ran VF until August, when I put Cosair Shane, an old Orion crew member, in command. During the transition period, it looked as if VF had stopped simming, so Ben and Tracy, VF's old CO, immediately pounced and tried to lay claim to the sim once again and take it out of TOL.

At the same time, the Simming League was flying high, having enjoyed several months of peace and astounding successes with SciWorld and the Tournament. However, in August I announced my plans not to run for reelection as the League President when my term ended in September. Being a lame duck, Ben became more aggressive.

Gillis (remember, I promised you would hear more about him), was the head of a sim club called the New Federation League (NFL) and its Senator in the League. At the time Ben made his second play for Viper Flight, Ben was NFL's academy director and Gillis was very impressed with his work (he soon found out that Ben had stole it all from TOL). Gillis had attended a few TOL sims and enjoyed our unique style and culture - so much so that he created his own imaginary force, Men in Purple (or MiP) to fight the MiBs on our message boards in the wacky adventures we had there.

When Ben told Gillis that a sim in TOL - Viper Flight - was getting ready to leave the club and was looking for a new home, Gillis jumped at the opportunity and invited it into NFL. However, when Gillis learned from me the truth of the matter about Viper Flight, he became upset with Ben, and Ben retaliated by declaring war on TOL and attacking the NFL.

I had enough. I brought Ben up on charges of War Crimes and Crimes Against Simming before the League Court of Sim Justice, and I outlined Ben's entire history from 1996 to that moment, and argued that he was a menace who shouldn't be allowed to sim anywhere. Ben plead guilty the next day (August 13, 1999), and he was punished by being expelled from all League clubs, including NFL. Ben became the first person to be labeled a War Criminal by the League, and the case against him was the first time the League used its full judicial power. And all had gone smoothly enough. Ben was exposed, he had no friends, and no place to hide.

In desperation, Ben began to pose as LeaderFed. He restarted the FFSC and tried to gain League membership, but he was quickly exposed. Ben than returned to his old tricks by contacting people, fanning innocence, pleading that he had reformed, and seeing who would show him mercy.

Surprisingly enough, Gillis took pity upon Ben. Not knowing that Ben's academy materials were stolen from TOL, Gillis still thought highly of his skills as an administrator and allowed him to rejoin NFL.

I stepped down from the Simming League Presidency on September 19, 1999. In my farewell speach I described the nature of the League and warned against 4 temptations the League must avoid. I only wished more people had listened to me.

Shetz, the Senator from Ashes of the Rebellion, a Star Wars sim club, was elected the new President. I was confident that after three tries, the Simming League had finally found its footing and had a proud future ahead of it. The League was bringing clubs together, promoting communication between leaders and clubs in a way never seen before, maintaining peace in the simming world by negotiating settlements to disputes and punishing trouble makers, and was uniting the simming world through events like SciWorld and the Tournament. The League was respected and its authority was recognized.

Or so it would seem.

A week later, we found out that Gillis had allowed Ben back in his club, in direct violation of the Court order. If I still had been the President, I would have had a good talking with Gillis, and used the power of the League to make sure the Court's authority was upheld. But Shetz was new to the job and he was cautious (Don't get me wrong, I like Shetz, he's a great guy and we still keep in touch, but he just was too new to the job and didn't know how to respond). He dithered and started to make statements that maybe Ben should be allowed back in the League. At the same time, someone began to advance an argument that because the preamble of the League constitution said that clubs were sovereign, the Court had no authority to tell clubs who could be a member. Never mind the fact that the body of the Constitution stated otherwise.

Shetz called for an emergency chat meeting of the Senate, and as was usual with Senate chat meetings (which is why we abandoned them in 1998), it spun out of control. Someone needed to do something to restore order, so on September 26, as was my privilege as a Senator, I asked the Court to clear up the matter, but that only made things worse when Chief Justice Dodonna bought into the preamble argument and declared that it was unconstitutional and deplorable for the League to tell the NFL that Ben couldn't be a member. When I pointed out the next day what the Constitution actually said, the Court reversed itself.

With the Court against him, and now with the knowledge that Ben had stolen his work from TOL... I discovered it and told Gillis... he kicked Ben out of NFL. Calm quickly returned. However, I still think had the President and Court looked at the facts, read the Constitution and done their jobs, none of it would have happened. Instead, they allowed Ben to get away with his old tricks and manipulate them. But at least in the end the punishment stood. Ben had been exposed and humiliated. He would never again pose a threat or be a major problem.

 

Chapter 34: Not Quite Retired

"Simming totally consumes, and I have been totally consumed by it." - Me, annuncing my impending retirement to the club, November 14, 1999.

On September 1, I E-mailed all of the captains and for the first time made it known to them that I was thinking about retiring. I explained that I had achieved all of my goals and it was time for me to move on, and that I was starting to grow tired of simming and having to spend every day bringing life and energy to words on the screen. I was worried that it would harm the club if I stayed on past my prime, and I commented that I felt out of touch. I was beginning to realize that simming was changing. It was moving onto the internet, and I really didn't know anything about webpages, irc, and the rest. I figured it was time for me to get out of the way and let someone who knew more about these things and who was fresh and had more energy to take over the job.

Robin had emerged as the person I wanted to be my successor, and although I never said anything officially on the subject, everyone knew my preference. While we hadn't necessarily became friends, Robin and I learned to work together, and most importantly, trust each other. Robin took initiative. She was able to organize and start up new sims on her own, she had been able to defuse a potential conflict with another club that arose out of a misunderstanding with her sim, and she was beginning to learn discipline and poise. She was picking her fights and words more carefully. And, most importantly, she was overflowing with ideas and energy, and she wanted to be the President. I felt she was ready.

I spent my last 4 months in office preparing the club for the transition. Clodo was going to retire with me and disband his Stonewall sim when he left. However, most of the crew of the Stonewall wanted to stay. It was decided to start up a new sim with the Stonewall crew in the Stonewall's Monday night timeslot and put Penny in command of it. Penny's sim, the classic era Federation starship, USS Wrightstown, would be disbanded. It had a good run, but there no longer was much interest in the club for a classic era sim. Amy would also retire and Matt would return to command the Endeavor.

The Charleston under the command of Captain Malu would be disbanded when she retired too, and its crew would be combined with Mike's ship, the USS Amazon. In order to be President, Robin decided to cut back on her load, merging her Romulan sim, the ISS Vorta, into her Bulletin Board Sim, Dark Forge Station, and putting Karg in command of DFS, leaving Robin only with an E-mail sim, the USS Valkyrie.

I promised to keep the Vindicator simming for a few months, and I would see where the club was at after Robin took over before retiring completely.

In other words, the club was made a little smaller and more manageable for Robin, and the few sims that were past their prime - the Wrightstown, Charleston, and Vorta, were cut.

I also worked with Robin and the Assembly to write and pass a new constitution for TOL. It encorporated things that we had learned over the year with the first constitution, and made two major changes. First, it reduced the Presidential term of office from one year to 6 months because I felt that one year was way too long to ask a person to comitte to running the club, and would cause serious problems if the club had to stick with a bad choice for one year. Secondly, it changed the Assembly from having an elected representative from every ship to just general representatives from the entire club who could get a seat as long as one was avilable. As I argued in Chapter 24, this ended up being a huge mistake in the long run because it caused the Assembly to become filled with reactionary old leaders and dead wood.

In the November TOL Times, I announced to the entire club that I was not going to seek reelection. At first I had worried that there would be a free for all Presidential election, but by November it was clear that wouldn't be the case. Aaron had retired in August, Mike was no longer interested in the job, and Penny, a popular captain, decided she didn't have a chance of beating Robin, so she stayed out. Kyle, captain of the Dark Falcon, was thinking about running, but Robin offered to make him the running mate, and he accepted. That left Robin and Matt (once again) as the only two candidates.

Matt's campaign never took off. Robin was full of ideas and energy, and although I think Matt was a more popular person in the club, he came across as burnt out, and his debate performance and saying that he had no clue if he or Robin would make a better President didn't help. Robin won in a landslide - 75% to 25%.

On Monday, January 31, 2000, the Stonewall held its final sim. The ship became trapped in a gas giant and as it was being sucked deeper into the gravitational pull of the planet, Clodo sacrificed himself to save the crew. After the sim ended, the club gathered in the private room Stonewall to inaugurate a new president, Robin Knight. I felt I had gone out at the top of my game. The club was strong and at peace, and I made my farewell address, in which I reflected on my career (in a far more concise fashion than I do here), touched upon all of the themes and dreams of my time in office. I finished by saying "When it is all said and done, I hope people simply say. "When Chas Hammer became president of the club on AOL, he found a small, crippled club about to die. A club that had ripped its self apart... a club filled with war, disorganization and anarchy. He was able to infuse it with new life and guided it through its darkest days. He worked to dedicate a presidential career born in war to one dedicated to peace and the advancement of simming. When he left the TOL presidency three years later, he had taken the dreams of Chip and Ben and Scott and made him shine. When he left the presidency, Trek Online was a peaceful and gentle super power, whose organization, sims and government had inspired countless other sim clubs and simmers across the online world. Through Trek Online, and through the Simming League, Chas was able to give simming new direction and new ideas that changed it for the better. He was able to touch many different clubs and many different lives and was able to bring a little joy and fun to them."

However, I wasn't quite finished.

After the debacle involving Ben, Shetz started to disappear. Luckily the League calmed down, so it didn't matter as much. Shetz quickly realized he didn't quite like the job, and he didn't have the time for it. He would go for days, even weeks, without posting at the League boards, so on November 17, 1999, he resigned the Presidency. He had made me his Vice President because he wanted me around just in case such an event occurred, so I once again found myself in charge of the League.

For a little while, it looked as if the League was going to be as strong in 2000 was it was in 1999. I spent November and December bringing new clubs in to the League, passing laws and constitutional amendments that addressed the problems which arose during Ben's trial and punishment, and worked with Maki to establish the Simming League News Network, which we hoped would provide news and info to the simming world. We discussed establishing a joint simming academy for all interested League clubs, and a simming bill of rights. I promoted the Hammer Treaty, in which signatory clubs would open up their best sims to the members of the other involved clubs, and each club would cross list the others sims on their schedule. I hoped that this would help to break down some of the barriers in the simming world and make a permanent SciWorld of sorts.

The energy and enthusiasm in the League was high, but it didn't last. We soon became embroiled in one problem after another, and I failed to get us out of them.

The first problem involved Gillis. Even before the situation with Ben, Gillis had been in a club called GFS, which was under the command of Admiral Wizo. However, Gills became fed up with what he thought was unfair treatment from Wizo and quit to start his own club, NFL. He was joined by his assistant, Eppy. However, Eppy wasn't interested in making a new club, she wanted to destroy Wizo and take over GFS. She attacked the GFS, and when Gillis found out, he kicked Eppy out of the NFL.

In December, Gillis left the Senate because he merged NFL into another club under the command of Praetor Ro, to create the Galactic Protectorate (GP)... quickly renamed the Interplanetary Federation of Simming (IFS) - just to confuse everyone I think. Gillis, however, stayed in the League by continuing to help run or RolePlayerUSA bureau.

Around the same time, Eppy convinced Wizo that she had changed, and Wizo let her return to the GFS. Eppy quickly turned on Wizo and launched a trial to try to kick Wizo out of command. Gillis threatened Eppy and got her to back down.

In January, the IFS joined the League, and Eppy struck again by starting up a new club called GFS 2000 and attacking the GFS. Gillis, despite urges to do otherwise, stood by the League and our rules as he watched Wizo being attacked, and as Eppy began covert operations against IFS.

For several weeks, the League was consumed by the intrigue and war. Every day Senators debated the issue and started to take sides. Eppy was a charming speaker, and given Gillis previous problems with the League involving Ben, many were willing to believe and support Eppy, buying her story that Gillis was attacking her, not the other way around. I tried to negotiate a solution, but it was impossible, Gillis, Eppy and Wizo were too entrenched. I tried to maintain calm in the League but to no avail. So, taking a page from my old play book, on January 20, I addressed the Senate, outlined the entire history of the matter and argued that Eppy was the criminal and that Gillis was the victim. As a result, I concluded, because all other efforts at peace had failed, Gillis should be allowed to defend himself and his club. After all, we always maintained that in blatant cases clubs should be allowed to defend themselves, and this was such a case.

Unfortunately, a few days later, someone named Josh Underwood stepped forward claiming to be one of Gillis spy's. He provided the League with evidence that Gillis really was at fault and that he was guilty of war crimes. I was furious. I had gone out on a limb for Gillis and now it seemed that I was wrong. I brought up a bill before the Senate to expel Gillis, and to make things fair, others brought suit in the Court to charge Eppy with war crimes.

As per League rules, the debate and vote on the expulsion of Gillis continued for one month on the Senate boards, and the atmosphere quickly became poisonous. People were consumed by the debate, was he guilty, or was the evidence faked as Gillis claimed? The interactions between clubs in the League changed forever, and for the worse. People outside the League watched us bicker and fight. We lost the moral high ground, and would never recover it.

After several weeks, and in order to avoid expulsion from the League, Gillis resigned from the Senate as part of a compromise. This made the Senators happy because they were able to get rid of the nasty issue, and even if Gillis didn't like it, he accepted it because it allowed him to stay in the League working behind the scenes with RolePlayerUSA - a website that I hoped would become the public face of the League offering news and info about simming... but it never worked out.

The trial against Eppy never went anywhere, and after Gillis left the Senate no one seemed to care much or have time to push it and collect evidence. In the end Wizo and Eppy just destroyed each other and we never heard anything from them again.

I lost a lot of credibility because of how I responded during those two months, and I don't think my reputation ever fully recovered. To make matters even worse, it was later conclusively revealed that Underwood was lying. He faked the evidence and Gillis was proven to be innocent. I really messed up, I bumbled the situation and it cost the League and me dearly. I should have taken a more careful look at the evidence Underwood presented, but I let my emotions get the better of me. In addition, even though Gillis was completely exonerated and later returned to the Senate, the taint of scandal and war crimes never left him. To this day people still think he is guilty and still view him with suspicion.

Despite the problems, the League was able to establish a joint simming academy, pass a simming bill of rights, and organize SciWorld 2000, but by March the energy was gone. The League was fractured and people didn't want to listen to me. As a result, the academy drifted and fell apart (I couldn't get many people to take part in it, because the academy was Gillis' idea), and the League fell back into its old mold as just a forum for leaders and not much more.

The second problem during those months involved the Federation Sim Fleet (FSF). Depending on how one looks at it, the matter can be viewed as sinister or just good business. Shuni, the President of the FSF, hit upon a new organizational model for clubs. Instead of fearing mergers, he embraced them, and began to gobble up whole clubs by simply making them fleets in the FSF. Soon, I began to notice that League clubs were disappearing - they were being merged into the FSF. And complaints from clubs outside the League began to trickle in that Shuni was a tough business man and would go after clubs (in sometimes not plesent ways) that had refused his offers. There were even rumors that Shuni's right hand man, Cal, ran a covert operations program to get clubs to join the FSF and punish those that refused - contrary to League rules against such things.

I don't know how much stock to put into all of those rumors, but I didn't like the FSF gobbling up member clubs and seemingly using the League as its personal recruiting grounds, and Shuni and Cal did always rub me the wrong way for some reason... Shuni was just a bit too aggressive in E-mailing me infomation about how great the FSF was and IMing me every time a new rumor surfaced to ask if I had heard about it and explain how it was wrong. Had I not been distracted by the Eppy mess, I would have looked into the matter further, and I know had my credibility and political clout still been intact, I would have pushed for and gotten rules restricting League clubs from merging into other clubs. But it wasn't to be, after bumbling the entire situation with Eppy and Gillis my clout was gone. On March 19, the Senate held Presidential elections, and, of all things, I was defeated by Shuni.

After all of that, I was finished and ready for retirement. I retired from the League, I ended the Vindicator, retired completely from TOL, and disappeared.

Two months later, Robin E-mailed me and said things weren't going well in TOL. She wasn't cut out to be the President, she no longer enjoyed simming as much as she once had, she didn't have the time to run the club, and the club was starting to get away from her and fall apart. To save TOL, I came out of my short retirement.

 

Chapter 35: Robin's Story

Robin: "You smite me constintly, you threw me in the brig for nothing once, you shot me as I hung onto a shuttle for dear life, you sicked the MIB on me many times, I've been thrown into more piles of spam than I can count, I've have scars from your high velocity jelly bean launcher... you've killed me countless times... shall I go on?"

Chas: "I didn't shoot at you on purpose, and I haven't killed you that many times."

-Robin tallying our ongoing feud in an IM, and me setting the record straight, January 23, 1999.

After repeated smitings, I finally convinced Robin to write a chapter for MSM. We, as always has been the case, disagree on the value of the republic, and by default what caused the final destruction of TOL. I never liked her idea of a limited republic. As she recounts, I said a limited republic would cause a situation where the captains would gang up on the President. As I have seen time and time again in other sim clubs, a republic of the captains always causes trouble, and I'm glad we didn't try it in TOL.

As far as the death of Trek Online goes, Robin feels that it was due to the republic. I feel it was because people abandoned the republic.

At any rate, Robin is a far better writer then I, and her insights interject much needed balance into this narrative. Since we were always at odds, I'm sure reality exists somewhere in the middle. So, without further ado, here is Robin...

 

A Short Note

Although Charlie is quite probably the only person who will ever read this, he has asked and I have consented to write a brief memoir of my Trek Online experience. Unfortunately, to my chagrin, my hard drive fizzled the year before last, and all of my TOL records were subsequently lost. As such, much of the information in this addendum is by necessity derived from my own recollection or, in a small part, outside records. My memory is far from infallible, so please take note that the majority of data in this account, especially dates, are subject to inconsistency and the subjective inner workings of my mind. That said, I hope this memoir may still be of some use or enjoyment to the reader.

It is not my intention in this addendum to provide a complete history of my experience in TOL (Charlie has done a much better job of that already than I could hope to). Rather, I seek to provide further insight into the motivations and reasoning behind my actions and my theories of the simming club in general. Thus, the reader should not be predisposed to think that absence of commentary on my part necessarily constitutes vindication or denial of other historical interpretations, as I have only selected a handful of topics on which I desire to offer some insight.

 

My Simming History

Having quickly risen through the ranks of my prior simming club only to find it rather grossly mismanaged, I took it upon myself (and my torturously slow 9600 baud modem) to wander the Diaspora forums in search of a properly organized and active club. By chance, I came across the board of a certain "Trek Online," which was wonderfully organized and bustling with activity; deciding instantly that this TOL was the club for me, I put in an application that day. I officially joined Trek Online on July 19th, 1997, which by an odd coincidence, happens to be birthday to both Charles's and myself (and ergo, TOL's President's Day). Having prior experience, I was "not required to attend the academy" -- actually it was in suspension after Scott's resignation, though I was never told until recently. :^) I signed up for the Vindicator because it was convenient, and began simming immediately.

On October 7, the Vindicator crew received the following e-mail: "Unfortunately [sic], I will have to relinquish command of the Vindicator. I have a movie offer I just can't refuse. The New Captain will be reavealed [sic] during the next sim session. I have enjoyed simming with all of you. Farewell!" from a certain AdmChsTOL. Actually, it was my idea of a practical joke at the time, and I confessed as soon as Charlie started making threats against the perpetrator. Needless to say, I don't think he was impressed by my little stab at humour, as evidenced by the warning placed on my account by Scott for impersonation. In any case, I offered my resignation, but Charlie indicated it was unnecessary, probably because he felt that he could keep a closer watch on me within the club than from without. However, I wasn't to be promoted to Lieutenant until January of next year.

I stayed on Vindicator for several years, and it was there that I had my first chance at being sim master, mercifully sending Charlie's ship careening into an ocean of orange ooze on an alien planet. I'd bombed Charlie's quarters, smitten hundreds of the galaxy's best and brightest, and even erased humanity from existence for a few seconds. Charlie got his revenge though; when I left Vindicator (and AOL) he gave my character a gruesome and unnecessary end at the tip of a shape-shifted blade ... a fitting end I suppose.

Towards the winter of 1997, I made an offhand suggestion to Charlie, who was still answering me with one-word sentences, that TOL would do well to have a Romulan sim. To my surprise, he was enthused by the idea, and suggested that I put together a crew. As I was always rather inept at recruiting, it was comprised mostly of existing TOL members, with my Vindicator friend, "Goof," taking the role of Executive Officer, to be later replaced by Penny Booher. ISS Vorta first simmed in January of 1998, and continued simming for a year and nine months having never missed a sim. And no, the ship was not named after the Trek race (it was in planning and named before the introduction of the Vorta to DS9) &endash;- rather, my apparent misinterpretation of the name of a buried Viking longship, or, as I later noted, the first word of the Romulan deity moniker "Vorta Vor" from ST:V, you choose.

My command of Vorta taught me a great deal about the ups and downs of the simming hobby. The most important lesson I can pass on to other commanders is to always, always sim, no matter what the turnout. (Actually, read my tips in the TOL Command Bible.) Vorta often had some of the lowest crew numbers in TOL, but retained more of its recruits longer than any other sim in the club, in large part because they knew there would always be a sim going if they came. In addition, I learned through both trial and failure that it really was a simple interesting story -- not an explosive battle -- that is the backbone of an excellent sim. Towards the end of the summer of '98, I issued a "Murder Mystery Sim" competition, with a small prize attached for the attendee who guessed the identity of the mystery assassin (who was, by the way, my character). The three sims over which it took place had some of the highest attendance numbers TOL had before or since, not to mention being the best sims, IMHO, I've ever had a part in.

Vorta went through the transition from simming in an AOL chat, to simming in IRC (internet relay chat) as part of TOLi (the internet division, which I championed at one time), to simming over AIM. These changes, a lack of interest in Romulans, and dwindling recruits, all ultimately led me to believe that my efforts could no longer support Vorta, and rather than dispense with the sim entirely, I merged it into the plot of Darkforge Station.

Darkforge Station (DFS) was, as I recall, more than anything an experiment in bringing an in-depth character-driven style of bulletin board simming to TOL. Charlie saw it as an opportunity to expand the club's offerings, and approved it without argument, even though I once again drew the crew directly from TOL instead of recruiting them externally. DFS was in retrospect a relatively large success in that it continued simming for some time and helped lead the way for sims like New Horizons and Viper Flight. The basic idea underlying the sim style was to implement a loosely directed round-robin story, where simmers would post in paragraph style and could add depth to their characters in ways not feasible in a chat sim, also to allow for more developed plots. The setting of the sim centered upon newly constructed Federation starbase, DFS, trapped in the Gamma Quadrant after the capture of DS9 by Dominion forces. For the first few months I was the SM, I began by posting sim events to the board, but I increasingly found that in my capacity as SM, I was engaged in more "behind the scenes" management of sim events while working with my crew than directly through posts. I suppose the only real problem I encountered as CO of DFS was infighting among the crew; I mostly refused to interfere, and they eventually worked things out to everyone's limited but reasonable satisfaction.

I had never wanted the responsibility inherent in running two sims simultaneously, and I intended to command DFS for no more than a few months, until the crew understood the finer points of the simming style and a new CO could be found. Ultimately, I chose the most capable simmer, Karg Whitefeather, to take command of DFS (which was on AOL's Diaspora boards back then), as it was about this time that I left AOL to take command of the (then and now) defunct TOL Prodigy division. From what I understand, Charlie later conflicted with Karg and other COs over the direction of TOL's future. However, for my part I liked Karg and thought he made an exemplary CO in most aspects.

Alone but determined, I was faced with the huge task of resurrecting TOL Prodigy, a long dead and mostly forgotten branch of Trek Online. Coupled with this, it was about the same time that I realized simming on my own ship, Vorta, could no longer be continued due to crew shortages. In response, I began preparation for a new flagship sim for TOL Prodigy. I had regretted leaving DFS, and thought perhaps another sim of the same style, this time over email, would be a good form for a replacement. Recruiting for the sim was once again a challenge &endash; the old tight-knit communities that had existed on Prodigy Classic were nearly nonexistent on the new Prodigy Internet service. Ultimately, once again, I was forced to recruit from within the club, picking up crew mostly from my old command, DFS.

USS Valkyrie, the new sim, was a 23rd century Federation "sleeper ship," sent to explore the galaxy nearest to our own, the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, or SagDEG. (SagDEG was believed to be the closest galaxy to the Milky Way in 1995, when it was discovered; in November 2003, Canis Major Dwarf was discovered and found to be closer than SagDEG). In practice the sim was conducted like DFS -- after all, it had many of the same people -- and successfully simmed for a little over half a year. It was, in my many years in TOL, the best simming experience and closest crew relationship I've had. Although I had made preliminary plans to rotate the plot of the sim from time to time, the change was never enacted, and I finally drifted inevitably away from the sim as I devoted more and more time to my offline life. Although I had not intended it, when I left the club Valkyrie was dissolved.

I attended practically every sim TOL offered at one time or another during my stay in the club, but I was also was a crew member onboard USS Stonewall, Viper Flight (VF), and USS Amazon (in order from longest service to shortest) under the CO's Clodo, Shane, and Mike respectively. I was an engineer and part-time SM on Stonewall, a target on Amazon, and Kierlin royalty on VF. Vorta had a two-part joint sim with Stonewall, and I considered a joint sim with Amazon, but it never came to fruition.

 

For The Art of Me

Throughout my tenure in TOL, I was first unofficially and later ordained the club's artist in residence. Early in my stay on Vindicator, I recall modifying (and later altogether replacing) Charlie's ship schematics with niftier (more streamlined) versions. At first he bemoaned my interference, but made use of my modifications anyway, and later asked me to update them several times. Another of my major art projects for TOL (besides the websites, sim art, and errata) was the TOL Seal. I recall asking Charlie repeatedly if I might be allowed to update it, only to be denied on every turn. Finally, against his wishes, I decided to work on a new seal &endash; after all, I thought, if he disapproved, he could simply refuse to use it. As it turned out, he liked the seal (which he would later call the "Earth Seal"), and decided to make it the official seal of the club. After that, the TOL Art Division was formed and I would inform him I was working on new versions of the seal, whereupon he would specify what he wanted in them. He didn't really approve of my choice for the updated TOL "symbol," the sword and delta, on account mostly of its somewhat phallic appearance. But after my obstinate refusal to remove it, he finally gave it some esoteric meaning and allowed it to remain. Beyond this, I did much of the graphic work for the club website (and coded much of it), and many other little projects for the club.

My other major contribution to TOL in the way of art was the TOL Park comic strip, a parody fusion of South Park and Trek Online, chronicling the silly adventures of the alter egos of TOL's brass: Narley Spammer, Squato, Goblin Blight, Spike Cookie, and Turkey (and guest starring Potato Chip, Teepee, Goof, et al). The comics were well received, but they were extremely time consuming to produce (I did them all by hand in MS Paint) and my plans to expand them were never realized &endash; in all, I made just 7 episodes and 11 "weekly" comics. Later, I had also intended to create a TOL Park 2, and had even made a promotion movie and part of an episode (featuring smitebots no less) in flash, but sadly once again I found my schedule too constricting to allow me to finish my work. Nevertheless, TOL Park remains a testament to TOL's culture and erm … all of the insanity and knavery that entails.

 

My So-Called Political Life

For better or worse, I was involved in TOL's politics since shortly after I joined. I started by giving Charlie suggestions, and then lobbying him on a few issues. In any case, I was active in TOL's politics for some time &endash; that is, I commented on Charlie's decisions, eventually receiving my first true political post, President of the defunct TOL Prodigy. At the time, the trinity of TOL services (TOL Prodigy, TOL Internet, and TOL AOL) was run by myself, Mike, and Charlie respectively. Though the services were initially self-governing bodies answerable to Charlie, after a bit of discussion and surprisingly little resistance they were reorganized to be theoretically equal (in practice, we complied with Charlie, and rightly so). All of this lasted for a few months before TOLi lost it's last regularly meeting sim (Vorta as it so happens) and TOL was reunited into a single entity. Following that, I was elected president of TOL for a few months and served some time thereafter as TOL's ambassador to the Simming League and its President as well as a TOL Assembly representative, finally ending my political career as a justice for a few months.

Ever since I joined TOL, I had been at odds with Charlie over political matters (both real and club-related). My views on things were often insightful, and just as often Charlie rejected them (or at least tried to wait until I pretended to forget about our conversations to change his mind). Perhaps in part I met such opposition because back then I lacked the tact to choose my fights and present my views effectively &endash; that and Charlie is likely to be the most stubborn human being ever to walk the virtual world. In any case, it is important for the reader to understand that although it may seem that way, my relationship with Charlie was never one of antagonism; we argued a great deal, but he knew that I was loyal to the club and would never try to usurp his authority, and I knew he wasn't going to quash me for dissenting with his views. It was not until many years went by that I broke Charlie's habit of answering me in one-word sentences and we started to form some consensus in our views, or at least we agreed to disagree on the more trivial aspect of most matters.

Perhaps the most ardent source of disagreement between Charlie and myself was the very principle of the club government. While Charlie was adamant that TOL, as a simming "state" of sorts, should be administrated as a working miniature republic, I was of the opinion that TOL's hundred or so members was too small a population to warrant or support a republic, and that there were not enough politicians, lawyers, or the like among us to make it work effectively. To criticize one of Charlie's favourite examples, you don't see hundred member Boy Scout troops with a constitution, president, senate, and judiciary. Moreover, and more importantly, I thought the "state" analogy was invalid because simmers had their pick of clubs &endash; because we had no monopoly on simming and was free entry and exit of simmers and competition for recruits (unlike citizenship in real life), there was no reason to construct a convoluted and inefficient system of governorship to assure checks and balances. Essentially, I thought of simming to be more a business serving the whims of simmers than an exercise in political expediency. As far as government went, I supported (and would still support) a simple charter securing basics of member rights and club organization and a president elected by COs, who could also be ousted or overruled by them. To paraphrase his opposition, Charlie saw this as "some kind of feudal system where the lords (COs) could gang up and overthrow the king (me)," and rejected it outright.

Despite my disapproval, and mostly because of my powerlessness to change things, I gave into Charlie's instance on developing a republic, and lended my hand in cementing its foundations where I could. Charlie was convinced that with the republic, he had sewed the seeds of TOL's longevity. I, however, was equally convinced that the small size of the bloated republic would lead to politicians and judiciary of convenience rather than statesmanship, and the inept leadership that resulted would bring forth the club's downfall &endash; the point, after all, of electing your leaders is to actually select leaders, not the only person in town (or in a sim) who wants the job. I saw the earliest signs of this trend when Charlie on multiple occasions used TOL's judiciary to pressure his political enemies into accepting his terms, which I termed as using his "pressure cooker." This disturbed me because the judiciary, which was by no means comprised of lawyers, was not acting independently, but rather as a pawn of Charlie's will. This was fine as long as Charlie was president, as he was extremely tolerant of dissent, if not disloyalty. In fact, being whom he was, the whole system worked under Charlie quite well &endash; it was the republic's longevity under other leaders that I questioned. I feared, and it turns out rightly, that later TOL politicians might use the courts to squash political dissent as well &endash; it is ironic that Charlie should turn out to be the most crucial victim of this failure. It is important for the reader to note, however, that it is easy for me to see the fruition of my ideas in retrospect. At the time neither Charlie nor I knew what would happen or who might be right nor to what extent, and certainly Charlie was correct in that the republic ran benignly under his leadership &endash; we each did our best in an attempt to assure TOL's future in our own ways.

Despite our disagreements, by early 2000 Charlie was ready to retire to captaining his sim and I was his unofficial choice for his replacement as TOL's president. Although Charlie never endorsed me, in order to "promote democracy" no doubt, it was well known whom he favoured, and I'm sure it influenced the vote (the reader will note however that I have bias in my contention that TOL was never a functioning republic). Regardless, I beat Matt and Bo Duke soundly with a large majority and the transition of power was altogether smooth. My first step as president, besides "housekeeping" duties and awarding Charlie a medal of some kind, was to start a recruiting drive, but I was informed I had to get approval from the assembly first, so I proposed a bill to help make such drives routine, but had to wait a month for its passage. I also had long complained to Charlie that the club roster was being inflated by members who had stopped attending sims and activities but were still counted; to this end I urged COs to clean up their member lists. In fact, my inclination toward accurate record keeping may in some measure help explain part of the "drop off" in membership during my presidency.

As president, I did make some mistakes, most notably by not working hard enough to promote recruiting (though I did recognize the problem and acted on it), and by taking over command of Endeavor during of one of Matt's frequent unexplained and unplanned disappearances. I wanted to put someone from the crew in charge of the sim (permanently), but Matt did not have a reliable XO and I ended up falling into the trap of commanding it myself in the interim, which unnecessarily took up much of my time and caused me a great deal of stress. (Later I recommended to Charlie that although Matt was a great CO, he was consistently unreliable and when he returned he should not be allowed to command again; my advice was not followed.) I also had some successes, namely in keeping the club together and maintaining the respect and friendship of the members and other clubs in the simming community, which is no small task, as I'm sure any other sim club president, and especially any TOL president, would relate.

Whatever Charlie or others may speculate, I absolutely did not resign as president because I felt I was overwhelmed by the job. On the contrary, I liked being and wanted to be president. I thought the problems that the club and I faced were not out of the ordinary and entirely surmountable, and moreover if I had stayed on I am confident we could and would have still overcome them. The simple, inelegant truth is that I really liked simming, but it was still just a hobby, and I resigned in order to devote extra time to the many more important things that were occurring in my offline life.

Once again, I have to assert here my belief that TOL was never a properly functioning republic (nor could it be, for reasons I've discussed in detail earlier). When I took office I had been sufficiently "groomed" for the job and had intended to stay there, and I wanted Kyle to be my vice president because I thought he would learn to run the club over time. Although I liked and respected Kyle, when I resigned I was of the opinion that TOL needed a seasoned leader, and Kyle had not had the time to develop the relationships, skills, and knowledge necessary to deal with the problems the club faced. For that reason, I asked the assembly to make Charlie the senior vice president, and turned the club over to him when I resigned. It may not have been democratic or diplomatic, but it kept TOL alive and well, as was my goal. It was perhaps an altogether callous thing to do to Kyle, and maybe if TOL was ever going to be a true democracy I ruthlessly smashed its best hope for "rule by law," but it was my decision and I stand by it.

For quite a while, on and off, I was a member of the TOL Assembly. It was thus that I cemented my view that an important element of statesmanship was lacking in many members of the Assembly. During my time in the club, for reasons already discussed, there was a general lemming-like accord among the majority of the body to follow Charlie's will, a phenomena I undiplomatically termed "monkey see, monkey do." That is not to say that there weren't a few voices of dissent, mine most prominent among them, offering alternatives and suggestions to Charlie's established line. Of course, under Charlie, the Assembly was a workable system, because, as I've mentioned, he was willing privately to heed dissent to his views, while still maintaining the tough exterior needed to maintain authority over the club. In fact, the assembly was both quite efficient and effective during Charlie's ascribed "Golden Era" of TOL in 1999 and thereabouts, and I supported the Assembly in my time. But once again, it was the Assembly's value as a paradigm &endash; it's longevity &endash; to which my doubts tended.

One of my longest fought and few ultimately (un)successful battles in the Assembly was against TOL's established rank and position system. Prior to my agitation over the matter, TOL's ranks were organized as a hierarchical system that mirrored Federation naval ranks or their alien equivalents, although authority was only invested in the command-level ranks (ranks below Commander were principally for show and were endowed with no particular powers). Positions were officially to be chosen at the outset of a sim by the Commanding Officer (CO) from a list of desired positions filled out when joining the club &endash; the command positions were reserved for the sim's CO and XO, although the Sim Master (SM) could be anyone. It is only fair to note that this system, while official club policy, was not enforced under Chas &endash; he ultimately allowed COs the freedom to decide on this point.

Nevertheless, I opposed the rank and position system on the grounds that in character-driven sims (like DFS and Valkyrie) club ranks were unnecessarily and malevolently interfering with the ranks of characters with respect to the plot &endash; to that end I ultimately separated the two on Valkyrie. In addition, I thought (and Charlie eventually agreed) that, in official club policy at least, all simmers should have the opportunity to take a hand at playing captain, and that the rigid system of making the commanding officer the captain was not providing any extra incentives for recruits to join TOL over our competitors. It was my desire to eliminate ranks altogether, but Charlie thought they provided needed rewards to good simmers, and medals/awards alone were insufficient for that purpose (Though oddly enough he resisted all of my attempts to attain the rank of "Lord High Admiral.") In any case, ranks stayed, but they were no longer tied to positions, so a new confusing set of acronyms (like Officer Commanding, OC) appeared, and COs/OCs by in large commanded in the same way they always had. So while not really a victory from a practical standpoint, it was a policy victory, if too little and too late.

My thoughts on the matter of ranks and positions have little changed over the years. If I were to command a sim club today, I would not institute club ranks (though certainly character ranks would be permissible as applicable); instead I would simply rely upon a few vague titles for important club positions like division directors and sim administrators. Subject to the sim administrator's discretion, I would urge that positions in the sim, including the captain, be assigned prior to the beginning of the sim with an emphasis with position rotation for interested simmers. Besides medals and other awards, there would be a system to place good simmers in line for command positions, although I would probably have a standing offer to command a new sim for any established simmer who could put together the crew. (That is not to say the reader should particularly lend care to my hypothetical statements).

At the finale of my TOL career, Charlie asked me to be a justice in the TOL court and I consented, although I indicated to him that as a justice my power would be limited, and it would be in his best interest to make me chief justice &endash; he didn't (although I can't recall whether it was because the position was occupied or he wouldn't allow it). In any case, as a justice I never tried a case nor participated in any rulings; my lone political act was to oversee the TOL elections (without much help from the other justices, I might add), which I did without any problem.

Contrary to my justice experience, I was happy to serve TOL in the capacity of an inter-sim club liaison. I cannot recall when I was first introduced to the Simming League (SL), but I do remember Charlie describing it as "the United Nations of the Simming World," a forum for sim clubs to unite and peacefully address their differences for the greater good of the simming hobby, or some such drivel. No doubt the reader may here again note his insistence upon the analogy of sim clubs to nation-states; for my part, I quietly disagreed for afore mentioned reasons, but that is not to say I was not equally enthused about this new organization. Ultimately, I thought of the SL as (and hoped it to be) more of a Trust, or a means of sharing common resources between clubs, and thereby adding to the offerings of TOL and other friendly clubs, allowing us to better compete against non-SL clubs for an ever-dwindling supply of recruits.

My involvement in the League started with a few posts on the SL boards at Charlie's urging. Soon thereafter, Charlie asked me to break a cipher that had been used to encode a post on the SL boards by an unknown person. With Clodo's help, we found the deciphering to be trivial, the message alleging Calhoun, an up and coming FSF admiral, was a spy, a warning I am told Shuni, FSF's president, disregarded. Over time, I made myself known to the SL community (without making enemies, a small miracle in itself), and I became TOL's Senator to the League when I was elected TOL's president. Later, after my resignation, I was elected the League president for a 6-month term, and failed in a bid to become Vice President next term, serving out the remainder of my time in the League (and simming) as a Senator.

Although I had a somewhat different vision for the League than Charlie, our plans were not in any way contradictory: while he pressed for an inter-club judiciary, peace, and dialogue between clubs and simmers, I worked towards my goal of sharing common resources between SL clubs. Given the nature of the League as a diverse collection of leaders, I was (unlike in TOL) not opposed to Charlie's parliamentary model of organization for the SL, although I did, as always, think too much time was devoted toward addressing procedures, and not enough in enacting legislation. During my time in office, I proposed a number of ideas to begin sharing institutions such as recruiting, simming, games, etc. between clubs, and enacted a framework for League Administered Voluntary Activities (LAVAs) to allow these to function democratically (it turns out there was too much bureaucratic red tape, and I had to make an attempt to fix the LAVA system later). LAVAs never really took off during my time in the SL, mostly because I failed to raise the kind of support I needed from other leaders and their membership, but the idea stuck, and I hear they are still around and (more or less) kicking even today.

Although I never had too may major disputes with the leaders of other clubs, I was constantly being directed by Charlie to maintain a balance of power in the League, and to use TOL's influence to direct support away from those he saw as a threat to the SL, a directive I followed, but didn't particularly like. Ultimately, I respect the commitment of the many leaders I came into contact with through the SL, those with whom I agreed, and those with whom I did not, including O'Neil, Seth, Shuni, and others &endash; however it may seem, I really did like you.

I find it interesting that the Simming League has been able to outlast TOL &endash; that was not something I anticipated. As I told Charlie repeatedly, "all good things must end," and I long predicted the demise of TOL before it happened (perhaps too long before, heh). I think the were many causes for the decline and fall of TOL, the main reasons for which were: a steadily falling interest in Trek under Berman (and a demographic shift in the Trek community), TOL's relatively small size (and ultimate lack of integrated SL sims and activities), and competition with multimedia computer entertainment (Trek games, MMORPGs, etc.). I also think that the TOL leadership was unable to effectively deal with these changes, but unlike Charlie, I do not think that any kind of leadership could have weathered the changing simming climate without fundamentally altering the principles upon which TOL was built. In other words, they were not the equivalent of Charlie in leadership, but I think Vid and Penny did the best they could under the circumstances &endash; the deck was just stacked against TOL. Nevertheless, in some sense, I am glad that TOL has met its fate and now remains a memory of good times past, rather than a shadow of its former glory.

 

All Hail the MiB

Perhaps the most fun I had in TOL was participating in the wacky culture that developed among members outside of simming (which, actually, was a kind of simming in itself). Ultimately, I decided to record a taxonomy of TOL culture that eventually led me to write a guide to TOL Culture, which the interested reader can no doubt still find online today (try Charlie's history site). I began my time at TOL as a pariah in the Trekonlinia pseudoworld, eventually moving up to become the supreme leader of its most feared institution, the Men in Blue.

Prior to my tacit involvement in Trekonlinian politics, we (as in TOL members, including myself) often harassed Charlie in his unprotected Orion House office (on the TOL forums), flinging pies at him, using various spam devices, stealing his super-smiter, and generally causing havoc. In order to combat this, uh, vandalism, Charlie authorized the formation of a presidential body guard, as a supplement to the Trekonlinian militia, the Men in Blue (MiB), to be headed by TOL's Chief Justice, Aaron. As judge, jury, and executioner, the MiB sent unruly citizens and political dissenters to reeducation centers, to be taught how to act in accordance with Charlie's will. Several resistance groups immediately developed in opposition to MiB oppression, the most successful of which was led by yours truly.

Although my cellular rebel organization never officially had a name, we were often identified by the use of smite-bots, autonomous smiting robots constructed by illegal automated factories in the plethora of caves and caverns stretching far below Trekonlinia. Despite repeated MiB raids that destroyed many smite-bot factories, the rebellion grew in strength and reorganized at a small isolated and well-defended shack outside of the borders of Trekonlinia. The MiB quickly became Trekonlinia's first police force and extended its oppressive tactics under Amy, the MiB chief appointed following Aaron's retirement. Meanwhile, civil unrest enabled the rebellion to grow to a size sufficient to challenge the MiB forces themselves. A desperate conflict ensued, and seeing his forces overrun, Charlie made a deal: the smite-bots would withdraw, and I, of all people, would become commander of MiB forces.

As MiB commander, I ended the oppressive tactics that led to rebellious activity, and restricted the use of reeducation to non-political delinquency. I also modernized the MiB forces and ironically merged smite-bots into the very organization that they had been built to destroy. As external threats began to mount against the city, I received authorization to expand the MiB into a quasi-military force, expanding MiB armaments and adding hover-tanks and flyers to the MiB arsenal, as well as developing an integrated security system for the city, including dome shield generators. The two major threats faced to Trekonlinian sovereignty during the time, the Men in Purple (MiP), anti-TOL clones of MiB officers, and the Utopians, were soundly defeated in skirmishes with MiB forces outside city limits.

Sadly, since I retired from the MiB, I have been informed that subsequent MiB chiefs have weakened the organization, and resumed political persecution. While I have donated some of my assets to the resistance effort, I have watched as Trekonlinia was abandoned and left to ruin. For my part, I have chosen to remain in retirement in my nearby shack, still well isolated from the events of the Trekonlinian pseudoworld.

 

A Final Bow

I hope you actually took the time to read this memoir of my Trek Online experience, and found it to your liking. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone I've worked with over my years in TOL &endash; you helped to enhance the richness of simming for me, and I appreciate it. And don't forget to take everything I've written here (and elsewhere) with a grain of salt. :^) Come to think of it, you might want to do that for Charlie's memoirs too, hehe.

 

Chapter 36: The Vindicator

"Often the test of courage is not to die, but to live." - Alfieri, USS Vindicator motto.

Let me once again talk of simming and simmers, this time about my ship on AOL, the Vindi. It was a great ship and I had a wonderful crew...

 

1996

The development of the Vindicator and the unusual circumstances surrounding our first sim were discussed in chapter 6. The very first sims of the Vindicator showed my continuing experimentation with simming - really a continuation of the free for all days I enjoyed on Prodigy but were unfamiliar to people on AOL.

Our second sim, which continued for a few weeks, involved a story arc where the Vindi was attacked by renegade Klingons. During the course of the attack - when the ship's shields went down - I was beamed onto one of the renegade ships and taken hostage. Captured, the Klingon ships soon there after warpped away. The temporary XO - Victor Grey - was left in charge.

Battle sims are always good with a new crew. They are easy for everyone to follow. However, I also wanted to develop my crew - get them to think for themselves. So, by being beamed off of the ship, I was taken out of the sim and the crew was unable to rely on me. I had seen too many sims on AOL where the crew just sat there - either unable or unwilling to speak up and just following the captain. Over the course of the next few sims, it was up to the crew to find me and rescue me - which they eventually did. From that day forward, the Vindi crew was always independent and knew that creativity was allowed.

Most of our other sims during 1996 also focused on action - again, the crew and sim was new, so I did not want to force anything too complex onto everyone. We needed time to develop our characters, ship, and simming skills. Plus, I was still getting used to being a captain. Half of the time I was just making things up as I went along... but I found it worked pretty well. I found that if you try to plan out the entire sim, it will never work because someone will always push it into a different direction you never considered, and it is always more fun when you let the sim flow and simply try to steer it instead of direct every last aspect. So, even as a seasoned veteran, I was still making things up half of the time. It became widely known as "Pulling a Chas." Often imitated, never duplicated, let me assure you. Somehow, I always manage to pull it off and despite having no idea where the sim is going, things always managed to hold together.

However, despite the action sims and occasional battles, I always tried to stress non violent solutions. For example, in November we had a sim where we had to rescue Scott. The crew's natural inclination was to get phasers, organize an away team, and rescue him. Most captains would have gone along with it - but I reminded the crew that we were Starfleet, and we should try to exhaust all other options before we use force. After some technobabble, we were able to find a way to beam Scott to safety. It is very sad that today Star Trek is focused on battles and violence. It was so much better - in terms of drama, for simming, and for teaching lessons about life - when Trek was a Roddenberry creation.

The Vindicator always simmed on Thursday nights. However, in November, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday. So, when in 1996 we were confronted with our first Thanksgiving, instead of missing a week of simming - partly because the crew wanted to sim, and partly out of fear that if we missed a week when we met again half of the crew would not be there (remember my past experiences of missing a week on Prodigy and the sim falling apart) - I decided to hold a sim on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. However, the Endeavor also simmed on Wednesday. It was not long after that the natural thought occurred to both myself and Josh, the captain of the Endeavor, to hold a joint sim.

Thus, the annual joint Vindicator - Endeavor sim was born. However, this would be no usual joint sim with both ships meeting in the same room. No, TOL was all about being different, so it was decided to have each crew meet in different chat rooms. The Vindicator was attacked and we sought refuge in an asteroid field when our systems started to fail. The Endeavor responded to our distress call and came to our rescue. In the Vindi sim room, we simmed our bit. In the Endeavor room, they simmed their bit. Josh and I IMed each other to make sure we stayed on the same page. I only wish I had saved that IM to show you how we managed to pull it off and how much fun we had in the process.

At the end of the night, the Endeavor found us, drove off the attacker, and organized an away team to beam over to the Vindicator to assist in repairs. As the away team beamed off of the Endeavor, those simmers transferred to the room where the Vindicator was simming, and the sim shortly there after ended.

It is amazing what you can pull off if only you are willing to think out of the box and give it a try. Too many sims and clubs just stick to the old tried and true ways of simming.

 

1997

December of 1996 saw a series of short traditional sims - your standard negotiations, dealing with spys onboard, etc. However, on January 2, 1997, I decided to usher in the New Year on the Vindicator by pushing the boundaries once again to see how everyone responded. Without telling anyone what I was up to, and without the ship receiving any orders from Starfleet, I ordered the Vindicator to cross into Cardassian space and begin to attack bases, planets, and the like, killing many innocent civilians. The crew was uncomfortable, but carried out the orders. About half way into the sim, the crew picked up transmissions that thousands of Cardassians were being killed by Federation renegades. Finally, the crew decided to act. Lead by Jace, my first officer, the crew started to meet in private to figure out ways to sedate me, remove me from command, etc. At this point, I was satisfied. The crew was once again thinking on its own and I ended the sim and explained that it was just a test based in a holodeck to determine if the crew would uphold their higher Starfleet ideals by mutinying against me. I was quite happy with the outcome.

After such a serious sim, I allowed the crew to relax the next week. Once again, it was a holodeck sim - one of those ones where it goes on the fritz and the crew had to combat various silliness, escape floods, and navigate their way through the battle of First Manassas (isn't it odd how similar things seemed to happen on the Orion?)

Oden, who would later become the captain of the Wrightstown, stepped forward and served as the Sim Master during the month of February. His sim caused the Vindicator to go back in time to 1997, except that Bob Dole was the President. There we foiled a group of terrorists who were trying to mess up the timeline. During those dark days in February of 1997, these sims represented another example of the growing humor and uniqueness that would later mark TOL, but during the time was just an attempt for us to forget about all of our troubles. The little things - President Bob Dole - lightened the mood and became the stuff of TOL inside jokes.

March and April were also marked by sims that spanned most of the month. During March the Vindicator was on assignment in the Badlands, and in April we battled a virus that featured a cross over by Jedifire with his USS Monitor from Prodigy. Jedifire returned in May and June for a series of sims to show the crew that it was wrong to think about overpowering an enemy to find a solution to the problem. In the sim, the Monitor had been captured by the Jeh'madar and began to attack the Vindicator. Being more powerful, the Monitor was able to withstand the Vindi's attacks, at which point the crew decided to undertake some technobabble and were able to find a weakness with the Monitor and disable it.

Over the course of the next several sims, an away team beamed over to the Monitor to try to figure out what had happened, and the Jeh'madar managed to take control of the Vindi. But naturally, after lots of heroics on everyone's part, we were able to retake both ships.

In July, we had a nice little sim that featured my favorite areas of Star Trek - the Maquis and the Romulans. In the sims, the Vindi worked with a group of Maquis who had discovered that the Romulans were fast at work building a phase cloak ship. We went undercover, tracked the Romulans down, and destroyed their ship still under construction.

Then came the Vindicator's 42nd sim on July 17, 1997, one of the best sims I have ever taken part in. Let me simply post the log...

The events that have unfolded with the strike team have been confused and weird, to say the least. I was sitting on the bridge, minding my own business, when a temporal rift and wormhole opened up at the aft station, and a rock came out, flying across the bridge and smashing into the viewscreen. Than a few minutes later, a Klingon Knife came hurtling across the bridge, almost killing the ensign manning the Ops station. Shortly after that, our strike team emerged.

Now here is what happened to them. After going in on a runabout with orders to work with the Maquis to stop some kind of Cardassian weapon, and after meeting a Cardassian ambush, the strike team ended up in orbit of a mysterious planet, which had decloked in front of them. On the planet, they found doubles and triples of themselves, and these other versions of themselves claimed that subspace partials sent out by the planet's cloaking device had caused them to be brought back in time over and over again. The team was escorted into a massive cavern, and in the center there was some kind of huge reactor. However Vorahk threw a pebble at the reactor, thus determining that it was only a hologram.

Doors came slamming shut and the team was trapped in the cavern. They made their way to a computer station and began to access the main databank. There, they found that the planet was not a planet, but actually a huge ship. After accessing transporter controls, the strike team beamed to the surface and, looking up, saw a huge wormhole being created, fed by thousands of energy pulses flying out from the planet.

With in minutes, the planet was enveloped by the wormhole... and on the other side of the wormhole, Oden2 appeared and explained to the team that they were now 4 billion years in the past and that they would begin their transformation to a higher being. They were then all beamed up to the runabout (that somehow came along for the ride) and found that the ships computer had been changed - it now had a free mind and no longer responded to orders. The team refused to be transformed into these 'higher beings' and lead by a true Klingon like Vorahk, attempted to kill themselves, only to be quickly brought back to life by an alien creature named Davido. Oden2, tired of trying to explain the new universe and higher life to the team, ordered the team to beam down to the surface for one hour, to meditate and prepare for the transformation. However the team quickly got to work on trying to get back home. Vor threw a pebble at one of the energy tubes, and the pebble disappeared into a wormhole. (((which lead right to the bridge of the Vindicator... and why to the Vindi, well it was convenient))). Vor then threw his blade and arm into the wormhole, which appeared on the Vindicator, and by doing this found that the wormhole was stable. The team went through and arrived safely on the Vindicator.

This was a really fun sim. It went on for 2 hours (everyone was having so much fun they did not want to stop) and it shows how with a good crew and a little imagination, you can end up with some wonderful stories. Yes, there are a few plot holes, but so what. It was this souring flight of fancy and collective story telling that I loved about simming.

August saw the return of the Monitor and another story arc. The Vindicator was flying along quite happily when a probe from the USS Monitor appeared suddenly out of a temporal rift and hailed us with a prerecorded message telling us that the Monitor had gone back in time (ahh time travel) and for us to send medical and engineering supplies back in time to the Monitor. A little while later, another probe appeared requesting that we come to offer much needed assistance to the Monitor. A runabout was dispatched throughout the temporal rift and found the Monitor adrift in orbit of the Earth and another Federation ship, the USS Viking, crashed on the planet's surface, and a rocket being launched towards the Moon.

At this point, the sim divided into three plots as I sent out 3 away teams to deal with different matters (and by this time, I was fully comfortable engaging in such an elaborate sim). An away team headed by Captain Oden beamed to the surface. There they found that Captain Samuleson of the Viking had set himself up as a God and was using technology from the Viking to build up the area. The away team naturally was imprisoned by the Captain and spent the rest of the time trying to escape.

A second away team was dispatched to the Moon, where they found alien creatures up to no good. A third away team, lead by my First Officer - Jacey - beamed onto the Monitor and found the ship to be disabled and the crew unconscious.

At this point in time, I became concerned that the away team was taking their time and the runabout had not yet returned, so I took the Vindicator through the temporal rift. The away teams were rescued or returned to the Vindicator of their own free will depending on their situation, and we decided to use the sun to slingshot back in time a few more years to stop the Viking as it first arrived. We moved to intercept the Viking, but thousands of tiny alien ships appeared and destroyed the Viking before the tiny ships themselves combined together to create an exact recreation of the Viking. We destroyed the copy ship, decided to call it a day as the sim was rapidly becoming very strange, and headed home, finding the Viking and Monitor perfectly intact as if nothing had ever happened.

It was a good series of sims, very complicated, but it started to fall apart at the end so I decided to bring it to a conclusion. We never did find out what those pesky aliens were up to - which would have been the focus of future sims.

September featured some short low key sims, including the discovery of a hundred old Dreadnought class ship, the USS Consortium. With the start of a new DS9 season in the fall, the Vindicator got into the act by engaging in a series of battle sims with the Dominion during October... but of course not happy with standard battle sims, I had to throw in a twist... we ended up battling the Dominion in an alternative universe that featured one Admiral Riker. (At this point you are probably wondering if we ever spent any time in our own universe and time period.) The best sim out of the little saga was when the Vindi was damaged and crashed into an ocean of orange goo on a distant world.

I rewarded the crew and relieved them from all of the death and destruction with a two part comedy sim in November during with a series of wormholes opened up on the ship causing people from various historical time periods... Greece, Rome, the Civil War, etc, to suddenly appear on the Vindicator at random places and often during compromising times. We eventually got everyone back home and closed the wormholes.

Our second annual Vindicator-Endeavor Thanksgiving sim once again put the ship in an alternate universe (I guess we did not spend much time in our own). For several months, the Endeavor had been engaged in a long story arc that placed them in an alternative universe ruled by the Bajorans. A convenient warp core accident on the Vindicator caused us to arrive in this universe, were we found the Endeavor under attack. We came to her rescue and drove the attackers away (in other words, the opposite of what had happened at the first Thanksgiving sim). However, at this point in time Oden found that the warp core bubble anomaly thingie that brought us into this universe was wearing off, and if we did not get home quickly, we would be trapped, so naturally, we returned home.

December was a low month. People were away shopping or at holiday functions and what not, so I did not want to try to muster a complex sim. As a result, we had fun with little adventures - such as an encounter with a Q and becoming entangled in a Tholian Web (unrelated occurrences as far as I know, but Q may have had something to with the Tholians, I have no way of knowing). A few of us got together during Christmas Eve - which was a Thursday - for a big simulated snowball fight. That was quite fun.

 

1998

However, in January of 1998 we were back into the swing of things with a sim that touched upon events that took place on the Orion. As it turned out, the one Orion sim where a shuttle had crashed on a primitive planet and the Orion crew thought they had retrieved all of the parts and stopped the cultural contamination as a result of the crash was mistaken. The Vindicator was dispatched to try to stop any further spread of cultural contamination and retrieve any lingering Federation technology on the surface. Things did not go too well when the away team was captured and a large tractor beam locked onto the Vindi and attempted to pull us down from orbit.

Over the course of 5 sims the captured away team was rescued, an additional away team took care of the tractor beam and found that Romulans were involved on the planet and using it as a base. Locke, our tactical officer, had lots of fun with this sim, for he was able to fight the Romulans on numerous occasions and in a number of interesting ways - from hand to hand to ship to ship.

In February Starfleet promised shore leave, but instead there was a flash of light and the crew ended up on a wooden raft floating down a river surrounded by very big fish with sharp pointy teeth. As it turned out, aliens were testing us (or more appropriately, as the Sim Master I was testing my crew). I had them float down the river for a little while, at which point in time there was another flash of light and the little raft ended up in the middle of the Battle of Actium, a famous naval battle where Augusts crushed Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. After a while, I mysteriously transported the crew to Kansas. At this point in time Locke, Robin, Oden, Bo Duke and company were quite confused, so I had them stumble across a farm house and after having to run away from a 1930s crop duster, among other things, they stumbled across an Iconian gateway and used it to get back to the Vindicator. I'm not sure exactly what I was testing them for, but they managed to keep their wits and survive, so all was good.

In March we finally got our shore leave, at which point in time the crew (as all good sailors are supposed to do) went a little nuts. I believe the highlight was when Robin, attempting to hunt me down while I was hiding in St. Peters, destroyed the basilica, prompting His Holiness, the Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul XXVIII, the entire Collage of Cardinals, the assembled Swiss Guards, and whatever Bishops decided to show up, to beam onboard the Vindi and hunt down Robin. In the end, cooler heads managed to prevail when the Pope and his clergy were reminded of their dedication to peace, and I reminded my crew who controlled their fate if they acted up...

This was promptly followed by another silly sim... and I particularly like my log from this one...

Admirals Log

Stardate 19803.26

Adm Chas Hammer Recording

I am never babysitting for Q again. One time is enough for me. If Q needs to hold another intergalactic trial, he can find a different babysitter for his kid. The kid turned the ship upside down... he threw my command chair into the view screen, pushed me through the floor... which hurt very much by the way... and made a general mess of Locke, who I assigned to watch over the kid because the week prior, Locke messed up my quarters. Humm... so maybe having us babysit a Q kid isn't all that bad if it allows me to get back at Locke. Hay Q, bring the kid back, we will watch him for a few more hours, maybe I'll have Goof watch him this time!

Ahh, Goof, Locke, Robin, and company. They became the silly ones and the trouble makers on the Vindicator, but I did not mind because they were also excellent simmers. For the record, Goof was actually named Gonff - at least that was his characters name - but you can see how we naturally began to call him Goof. How many times did Goof whistle Dixie and cause me to disappear? How many times did Robin and Goof and Locke trash my quarters, LOL.

April of 1998 saw lots of technobabble as the Vindicator was caught in subspace seaweed that actually turned out to be a Borg transwarp conduit gone bad.

During the first two weeks in May we had to compete with the ending of Seinfeld - which aired on Thursday nights. Despite my advise, "It has come to my attention that there is some show on tomorrow night about nothing at all... my suggestion to you is, the sim is something, so use your VCRs and tape nothing so that way you can come to the sim." It didn't work. Attendance was low, so we engaged in some minor sims that involved attacking spider thingies.

However, the second half of May we were confronted with a wonderful ethical sim. We were sent to arrest a Federation Admiral accused of massacring Cardassians. While everyone was sympathetic with the Admiral, we still carried out our orders.

June featured another great sim that became the stuff of legend. The Vindicator was sent in to explore a nebula. However in the nebula we were attacked or caught up in violent storms or something, knocking our systems off line. As it turned out, it was just biologic creatures attaching themselves to the hull of the ship and causing all kinds of problems in the process. Locke and myself decided to venture outside to see what we could do to pry the creatures off of the hull or what sorts of medicine or technobabble would sedate them and cause them to leave. While we were conducing experiments, one of the creatures ate its way through the hull, causing a huge rush of air to shoot out, knocking me off of the hull and into the nebula.

Of course, the crew promptly rescued me, but I was unconscious and needed medical attention, during which time the crew carried on without me, found some technobabble way to get rid of the creatures, get the systems back online, and get out of the nebula before the ship was eaten. It was the first time that a ship had even been partly eaten that caused this sim to become the stuff of legend more then anything else. Of course, I'm sure there have been other sims in the past were ships were eaten, but this was the first in TOLdom.

The highlight of July, I think, was Locke being promoted and receiving a mug from Starfleet as a gift. The mug said, "Its the thought that counts." In other words, it was a slow month. The sims were good, and we got to go on another shore leave, but nothing major or interesting took place. August also saw a continuation of this pattern, lots of easy battle sims for the lazy summer nights as many people were out enjoying the nice weather.

However, during September - over the course of three weeks - a wonderful complex time travel sim took place to celebrate the Vindi's second anniversary. The USS Vindicator of 1998 was attacked by a Cardassian ship with a phase cloak. We put up a good fight, but our shields and weapons were useless against the phased ship. Eventually, the Vindicator was boarded and I was taken prisoner. Shortly there after, the phased Cardassian ship, along with the Vindicator, were transported back in time through a series of anomalies that the boys at Starfleet Science are still trying to figure out.

Both ships arrived in 1996 (well really 23 something of anther, but 1996 nevertheless because this sim was now taking place a little while before the first Vindicator sim in 1996). There was a flash and suddenly the crew onboard the Vindicator found themselves marooned on the planet below. After wondering around, the crew stumbled across a group of Maquis who insisted that it was two years in the past (1996) and lead the crew to the crash site of the USS Vindicator. They found the Vindicator to be heavily damaged, no longer space worthy, and all of the shuttle craft and escape pods gone.

Many of the old timers returned for this sim and ended up on the planet with the 1998 Vindi crew - Moses, Josh, even Ben - and it was quite disconcerting for them to come across the decaying bodies on the crashed ship.

In orbit of the planet, I managed a heroic escape from the Cardassian ship - the details of which are not important (that is to say I decreed during the course of the sim that I escaped and reappeared in the sim) - and I beamed to the abandoned Vindicator, which still was in orbit (confused yet?).

Back on the planet, engineering teams lead by Locke, our Chief Engineer, were able to restore limited communication systems on the crashed ship and sent out a distress call - which was picked up by the USS Vindicator of 1996 that just happened to be passing near the planet at the time on a shake down cruise. The 1996 Vindicator responded and after various away team activity, the 1998 Vindicator crew trapped on the surface was beamed back to the 1998 Vindicator in orbit, and an away team from the 1996 Vindicator beamed onto the 1998 Vindicator to assist repairs and see if we had any future technology to offer. It was quite fun for everyone's past self to talk to their future (or present) self.

At this time, the Cardassian ship with the phase cloak appeared. The 1996 crew tried to beam back to their ship, but due to all of the phase and temporal distortions, one copy managed to return to their ship, while another copy materialized slightly out of phase on a duplicated Vindicator. All three Vindicators engaged in the battle, with the 1998 Vindicator slowly phasing back to our time and reappearing in 1998. The copied Vindicator was heavily damaged and started to crash towards the planet as it slowly phased back in time and crashed on the planet in the past, killing everyone onboard. The 1996 Vindicator stayed in its time and finished off the Cardassian ship.

It was a very interesting sim to say the least.

October 1 saw the retirement sim of Commander Lara, the Vindi's long time doctor. Every ship needs a good doctor to be complete, and the Vindi was lucky to have had her. She was a wonderful simmer and helped to patch up my crew numerous times after I got them into lots of trouble and sticky situations. But more importantly she was a good friend, both in and out of the sim.

Most of October and November was marked by a very long continuing sim. The Vindicator was attacked by some random aliens and the crew was captured and sent to work in some mines. After a little while, I had enough of the dark and dust, so I ripped off part of my shirt and used some rocks to generate a spark and light it on fire. The sudden light blinded the near by alien guards who were wearing night vision goggles. With this, I and my crew jumped them, took their guns, and made our escape.

Making it to the surface, we searched several buildings and took shelter as alien shuttle craft approached to hunt us down. Tho'Pok, a Klingon crew member who became the captain of the IKS Dark Claw, the clubs second Klingon sim (the Dark Falcon being the first), and a TOL character in his own right for his epic sims full of blood and gore, took out several of the shuttle craft, and managed to steal another one, which we used to escape from the planet.

We made it to the Vindi, only to find that the ship was being converted by the aliens. We spent one full night battling to regain control, and another night trying to repair the ship and undo the changes they made. But in the end, we of course were victorious and got everything back online and flew away to safety.

And of course, the end of November brought the Third Annual Vindicator - Endeavor joint sim.

The sim opened with the Vindicator adrift in space. The crew awoke and had no recollection of what had occurred. We were able to restore our systems and retrace our route, where we came across some minor wreckage from the Vindicator, a Federation ship - the USS Messina - blown to pieces, and several lifeless Jeh'madar ships floating near by. Wanting to find out what happened and in hopes of trying to restore our memories, away teams were dispatched to various sections of the Messina and the Jeh'madar ships. At this point in time, several new Jeh'madar ships appeared and attacked.

The USS Endeavor responded and came to our rescue, driving the Jeh'madar ships away. We noted several Jeh'madar ships on the edge of our sensor range transmitting sub space broadcasts towards the Vindicator, and thinking they had something to do with our memory problems, both the Vindicator and Endeavor went after them. Naturally, we destroyed them, and a second later, the Vindi crew passed out in a flash of restored memories. The Endeavor crew beamed over to the Vindi (and our chat room), to help revive us and repair the damage to our ship.

With the war in full swing on DS9, more and more of our sims were involving it as a background. As you have seen, we had plenty of battle sims, but I made sure to throw in lots of twists so they did not become your watered down generic battle sim. However, in December I wanted to try a different variation, so with the Vindicator in the ship being repaired, the crew was given a covert operations mission. We infiltrated deep into Cardassian space and made it to a planet in the heart of their industrial belt where we met up with a Romulan team on the planet that was collecting data on Cardassian weapons manufacturing.

Our mission was to sabotage one of the main power stations on the planet, and clad in personal stealth suits, we made it to the power plant with the Romulans as our guide. I of course did not like working with the Romulans, but I had my orders. We were to make everything look like an accident and were not to destroy the power planet, but to trigger a radiation leak that would damage a lot of its systems and look far more like an accident. However things started to go amiss when the Romulans decided to start blowing up factories and surrounding buildings. It was clear that our cover would be blown, that the Cardassians would realize teams had penetrated this far and would increase security on their planets, making similar missions far more difficult.

So, I quickly sprung into action. I had my team beam back to the ship in orbit, but I stayed with Ben (he was a very good simmer when he wanted to be) on the planet. We made our way into the power plant. The trick was to pull off the helmets of our cloak suit so the crew in orbit could get a transporter lock on us a second before our explosions went off. But being a sim we naturally pulled it off. Bombs went off, we shot our phasers at things, an anti matter tank was breached, and the plant and surrounding factories went boom. Apparently, we were successful in making it look like a huge accident, and it covered for the buildings the Romulans destroyed. (Sims do not have to have the most consistent plots in the world.)

 

1999

In my opinion, the sims of 1999 were some of the best that the Vindicator ever produced. The year started off with the death of a major character. The Vindi picked up power signals on a Federation starbase that had been decommissioned 50 years ago. We dispatched an away team and discovered that 2 Founders were being kept in stasis in their liquid form on the station - a potential intelligence bonanza. We decided to beam the frozen Founders over to the Vindicator where we could hold them, study them, and see if we could revive them and retrieve any info.

As one would expect, the Dominion would not allow this, and several Jeh'madar ships approached and attacked. We managed to destroy them, but in the process the Vindi was damaged and we lost power in sickbay where the Founders were being held. I dispatched Robin with a security team, but they were ambushed and killed by the Founders - Robin included. As the Sim Master, I took particular pleasure in killing off Robin - she had bugged me and destroyed my quarters far too many times. And of course, she wanted to die, for she was too busy running her own ship now to give time to the Vindicator.

One of the Founders took the form of Robin and made her way to the bridge. But the virus that would doom the Founders had already taken hold and for a second, the Founder lost cohesion and we quickly responded and killed her. A second security team was dispatched to sickbay and found the second Founder dead from the virus, and retrieved the bodies of our first security team.

Of course, we were all sad that Robin met her demise, but Robin still mutters that I took a little too much pleasure in it.

In February, I decided that Chas needed to become an epic war hero. So, I set up a situation similar to the battle of the Bulge. The Federation lines were advancing and all looked well. However, there was a massive Dominion and Cardassian counter attack, the Third Fleet was destroyed, and the Vindicator was hastily put in command of a newly formed Ninth Fleet to plug the hole in the line and stop the Dominion from reaching our ship yards and supply center at Muon 4.

We engaged in some epic fleet battle sims, smashed the Dominion flank, drew the Jeh'madar out and destroyed them, broke up the counter attack, and saved the day. Chas and the Vindicator became household names back on Earth.

In March Moses, my old academy pal and friend, returned to be the Sim Master. As you may recall, Moses had been my original First Officer, but during 1997 he was busy on Thursday nights and had to give up the spot. During 1997, Jacey, another good friend of mine, became the First Officer, but by 1999 Jacey had drifted away from the sim, although I still kept her on as the First Officer when she showed up. She was a great simmer and perfect as a First Officer. In a sim, the position of First Officer is not very well defined. You need someone who is creative, who will take initiative, who can quickly follow the sim, realize who among the crew is not doing much, and give that person something to do that is constructive for the sim but does not mess up the flow.

In the sim, we were on a runabout heading back to the Vindi when we became entangled in some subspace seaweed. We lost control of the runabout and crashed on a near by planet. At first, everything seemed ok, but suddenly monster thingies begin to attack us, and to compound matters it began to rain, and the rain turned us into mutants! In typical Moses fashion, he finally showed up with a rescue team, but he held back until the last moment for dramatic effect before saving the day and getting us back to the ship where the good doctor turned us back into humans.

During the remainder of March and all of April, Moses undertook a series of sims that engaged the Vindi once again in battle against the Dominion. There was the usual back and forth of battle and the Vindicator losing shields and being bored. Through heroic exploits, we retook the ship, but the Jeh'madar left a message, "We have gotten everything we needed." After making repairs, we found that the Dominion had stolen our warp converter, which, if they were able to unlock its secrets, they would be able to mask their warp signatures as Federation ships.

We got lucky when, several hours later, we responded to a distress call from another Federation ship. They were under attack by a Romulan Warbird that we soon determined had been captured by the same Jeh'madar who raided our ship. We defeated the Warbird, but the Jeh'madar escaped on a shuttle to a small, cold, icy world several light years away.

Moses organized an away team composed of Bel, our Chief Engineer, and Ten, the Chief of Security, and beamed down to the surface. They found the shuttle, a camp fire, and two dead Jeh'madar next to the fire, apperantly recently murdered. As the team moved in to inspect the shuttle, it took off, made a pass at the away team, and swung around to make another pass. Luckily, the away team was able to bring it down with phaser fire. They inspected the wreckage and found ten dead Vorta and were able to recover the stolen components from the Vindicator.

During the month of May we were kept busy with different challenges. Starfleet ordered us to test out new engine components despite my protests that they weren't safe. After a few hours of tests, the things blew up, damaging the ship, and that's when things got interesting. Apparently the reason the thing blew up was because it was infested with spider like creatures. They burst forth and began to dig their way through the hull of the ship, and they encased several crew members in a web of goo that allowed the creatures to feed off the energy of the encased crew members. Only after much technobabble were we able to get rid of the infestation and save the encased crew members.

Over the first two weeks in June, the Vindi returned to the theme of the Dominion war, but once again we put a twist on it so it just wasn't another bland battle sim. We were dispatched by Starfleet to secure the support of the Nausicans in the Federation's final assault against Cardassia. We secured the support of one clan, but as news of that spread, several other clans showed up to put a stop to it. Confronting 50 ships, I knew there was no way to win a battle against them, but I had my orders to get them to join the attack against the Dominion, so I ordered the Vindicator to fly right through their fleet, knowing they would chase after us. As we zoomed by, the Nausicans turned and followed us to the battle, where, upon realizing that it would be much more fun to attack the Dominion instead of us, did just that and attacked the Dominion. The ensuing slaughter of the Dominion was glorious. I summed it up in my log by quoting from the Kosovo Cycle, written in 1389, "All was holy, all was honorable, and the goodness of God was fulfilled."

The final Dominion and Cardassian lines were broken, and the Federation made it to Cardassia. The war was finally over.

But we didn't get a chance to rest. The Vindicator was sent to Cardassia and I was put in charge of 'peacekeeping' (aka occupation) operations on part of the planet.

The operations began at the sim on June 17 when an away team was beamed down to the surface to meet with local Cardassian officials to prepare for peacekeeping and relief efforts. The away team, however, was captured by resistant forces called 'The Watch.' After some technobabble, however, we were able to lower the shields around the away team and beam them to safety. This sim was judged by the Tournament of Simulations, and we all thought we blew it. The sim got off to a slow start and it was pretty one dimensional. It wasn't one of our best sims, and even Moses apologized to the crew for blowing it by SMing a slow story, but apparently the judges liked it, which is what mattered that evening.

The occupation story continued through July, and grew ever complex as the resistance grew, ambushing our security teams, attacking towns, and causing all sorts of headaches. The climax came when Locke's shuttle craft was shot down and the Watch used the ensuing confusion to attack our headquarters and the town it was in. After vicious fighting (al la the Tet offensive), we broke the attack and found evidence on several of the deceased that allowed us to track down the remaining Watch in the hills and break up the resistance.

The month of August war marked by some lazy sims as everyone took a break from a good run of high intensity, multi week plots, but in September we found ourselves back right in the thick of things with a plot that lead up to the ship's third anniversary.

The Vindi was sent into the Gamma Quadrant to display the flag and attempt to bring order to at least a little corner of it. We quickly made our way to the Ferangi Casino on the planet Avarice Found to... err... gather intelligence. Many Ferangi who were upset with Grand Nagus Rom's reforms had made their way to the Gamma Quadrant and the planet to keep the old traditions alive. Robin and Ten went into the casino while Moses and myself walked around the bazaar outside. Moses ran into a Ferangi selling a stolen gem, and displaying heroic disregard for his surroundings, decided to arrest the Ferangi right then and there. Several members of the Orion Syndicate who didn't appreciate Moses' intervention emerged from the shadows. I landed what can only be called a powerful first punch and, quickly assessing the situation, ran for it. Moses, despite having fallen into several tents and ending up covered in a sticky cotton candy like 'food' managed to follow close behind.

We ran into the casino, where the door greater, former heavy weight champion of the galaxy, Abdul Mohammed Jamar, saw the situation we were in and put up a delaying action that allowed us to beam back to the ship before the Orion gained entrance.

Back on the ship steaming with righteous indignation, Moses and I decided to take action. We arrested several members of the Orion Syndicate and Ferangi smugglers. Hey, that was how Moses and I operated. We blazingly beamed down to the planet, showed that there was a new sheriff in town, and got to work. We could have done without Moses falling into all of those tents, however.

After interrogating the Ferangi and Orion, we found that after the war the two sides had cooperated to set up a vast black market operation, and the Ferangi even dreamed of establishing an empire in the quadrant. However, relations quickly soured. Rumors had it that the leading Ferangi were skimming off the top and stashing tons of money, jewels, weapons, and other goodies at a secret location, and when the Orion found out, they were upset. The Ferangi leader and his ship was ambushed and destroyed, and knowledge of the treasures location died with them. Ever since the Ferangi and Orion had been looking for the treasure.

We got our lucky break on September 17 at the third anniversary sim of the Vindi when we responded to the distress call of a Ferangi ship. The crew had been searching for the treasure and determined its general location, and assured us that with the help of our sensors, we would be able to find the exact location. Not trusting the Ferangi, we helped to repair their ship, but I instructed our Chief Engineer to put a device into their engines that would allow us to disable them at our will.

The Ferangi, of course, couldn't be trusted. They wapred away to a near by nebula, and inside we found the Ferangi ship and an Orion Syndicate ship standing off near a massive vessel that contained the treasure. Apparently both sides had discovered the location of the treasure, and the Orion ship had disabled the Ferangi ship we just helped to reach it first. Luckily for the Ferangi, we came along to repair them just in time. Like in Star Trek 2, the conditions of the nebula caused shields to be useless and weapons ineffective.

The three ships slowly moved into position and danced around each other. We could knock each other off with a single shot, but there were three of us? Who would shoot who? Who to shoot first? Would we kill each other?

I ordered our engineer to employ the device, causing the Ferangi ship to lose power. At the same second, our tactical opened fire and destroyed the Orion ship. We arrested the Ferangi and recovered a fortune in stolen goods that was promptly turned over to Starfleet. Our initial ground work generated enough interest and provided enough evidence to get Starfleet to take notice and send in reinforcements who broke up the black market operations.

The rest of the year war marked by short, easy sims. The most interesting involved the crew of the Vindicator flying along on a runabout. As usual, it crashed, and as everyone exited the wreck to take stock of the alien world, we ended up in Central Park in 20th century New York City. We ended up being arrested by the police, but were able to escape, at which point things became a little silly and no one is quite sure what happened, but such things can occur in New York. The next week we magically ended up back on the Vindicator.

There also was the annual joint sim with the Endeavor, which in 1999 brought a third ship into the act, Mike's USS Amazon for the first three way sim in TOL history. The plot was very simple because the execution and coordination between three sims occurring at the same time in three different rooms was tremendously difficult, but somehow we pulled it off.

It began with the Vindicator entering a system, encountering some engine problems, and being sucked into the gravitational well of a near by planet. The Endeavor, as per usual, showed up to rescue us by providing a power transfer that allowed us to get our systems back on line. At the same time, the Amazon was passing through the system chasing a pirate ship. However, the Amazon was damaged in battle against the ship, and had to break off pursuit. The Vindicator and Endeavor responded by getting the pirate ship, but in that second battle the Endeavor was damaged. However, our crew responded by helping repair both the Endeavor and Amazon. A successful day for all.

 

2000

The year 2000 began with the Romulans taking a page from Starfleet tactics. The planet Romulus was completely defenseless as a comet screamed towards it. With no one else who could help, the Vindi was called in by the Romulan government to stop it. Upon close examination, we found the comet was actually a space station that had drifted through space and accumulated a large amount of ice on its hull after who knows how long.

We melted the ice, deflected it from its course, and sent an away team over to investigate. Robin unthawed a creature on the station and decided to beam it back to the Vindi. But as it turned out, the space station had been a prison and the creature a dangerous criminal who began to run amuck on the ship. But it wasn't anything we couldn't handle, and by the end of the day the bad guy was dead and the ship was safe.

By the time I retired as President of TOL on January 31, 2000, all of my old crew had already retired from simming or moved to other ships... Jacey, Moses, Ten, Locke, Karg, Robin, Ska, and Riley. Most had trickled away over the fall. They were a wonderful crew and some of the finest simmers around. Most of them had been there for two or all three years, every week, simming away. We developed tight relationships and could read each other. Our timing was wonderful, allowing us to pull off complex sims. Two away teams, crew back on the ship fending off crises, computers, alien bad guys, all at the same time, we could handle it. They were the ones who made it fun for me, and I think the shear volume of diverse and complex story lines over so many years speaks for itself about their skill and dedication.

There were new cadets and simmers added to the crew during the fall and winter, but it just wasn't the same. It wasn't my crew. I know with time they could have been great, but I didn't have the energy for it, but I promised Robin I would keep the Vindi running for at least a few months. We both worried if I disappeared right away it could have caused a wave of retirements in the club. Still, with the few months left, I decided upon a fresh start to see if that would help to rekindle my interest. I ended the Vindicator story line set at the end of DS9 and returned to my roots. In STECO I had wanted to command a movie era ship, so with my new crew I reinvented the USS Vindicator as a Constitution Class starship set during the classic movie era of Captain Kirk. But it didn't do it for me. I was burnt out after all the years. I no longer enjoyed showing up each week. So at the end of March, on the heals of my defeat in the Simming League Presidential elections, I called it quits. The crew of the Vindicator was transferred to other ships and I disbanded the sim.

After 3 and a half years with the Vindicator, my glorious run had come to an end and I got some well deserved rest.