Colonia, Here and Now is a new series in which we visit each settlement in our Colonia Nebula, learning what life is like for those who live there and discovering what they offer to travellers. In the second installment, we visit Morten’s Paradise, located in Eol Prou LW-L C8-138.
I take a sip of a tea offered by Compatriot Sophia Jacobs, an overseer at Morten’s Paradise. It is a newly-discovered bush from the second largest continent of the planet we orbit. The glint of the sun bounces off the horizon below, signalling the’evening’ period of the station as I draw in the liquid from the pouch. It has a fruity flavor, with a faint mint-like aftertaste.
“We cleared it about a week ago, after chemical analysis and microbiome simulations,” she says enthusiastically. “I was so glad to get something up here in time for you. It has its own caffeine!”
Jacobs goes on to tell me about the planet below, so recently discovered it has not been assigned a name yet; of its multiple landscapes, its vegetation, and its animals. We look down at the planet as she points out faint lights dotting the continent.
“We have nearly 18,000 colonists down there. The last true pioneers…” She says while taking another sip. “We monitor 200 colonies, each in a distinct biome. Up here, we act as the coordination post, checking on them and directing the information to Balkor and Corporate.”
Balkor, who will be interviewed in a later segment, is the local head of research within the Nebula. It is Corporate that I ask about to Jacobs.
“We [the Colonia Agricultural Cooperative] are all investors, taking the risk in this new planet with the aid of many sources of investment, from corporate to private. The 20,000 assignies all have a share in the outcome, and have all put up our stake.” She floats to a panel, flicking her hand to show me the reports, each of them color coded in shades of green, blue, and the occasional dots of yellow. “We named this place Paradise as an inside joke. Our project names are ‘angels’.”
For a small station, the name seems accurate. Down below, colonists face the unknown, searching and cataloguing the bounties and pitfalls of a new world. Up here, there are all the amenities of life, from repair and refuel stations, thriving commodity markets, and a functional passenger and crew lounge for travelers to connect to new places within the Nebula, or for colonists on furlough after weeks on the planet. Naturally, the infrastructure they have provides for an easy merging with a cartographic office.
The station also serves other needs to the people below. Due to the nature of the CAC’s contracts, goods that are banned from all backing systems and governments cannot be found through proper channels. It is then that colonists and station members alike turn to the black market, a known presence in Morten’s Paradise.
“The Fire Twins, as they like to be called, are not… compatriots, per se…” Jacobs explains. Her smile from the preceding topic has muted a bit. “While we are adherents to our contracts, the Twins are not.”
I ask more about the Twins. Her smile seems to fade a bit more. I ask her how they could be tolerated here.
“The CAC is an exploratory unit. We are not security, by any means. As such, we do not enforce policy, but have the option to call in security if the situation demands it, for a fee.”
The two young men she speaks about are well known to both station workers and colonists alike. They provide any goods wanted, whether it be medicinal narcotics or an arbitrarily-classed hunting rifle. For co-ops like the CAC, such services are viewed as a necessary evil to procure goods in the labyrinthian bureaucracy of multi-system administration.
As we glide through the station, I notice many smiles. The atmosphere up here is excited. The positive indicators for colonization and development, not to mention trade, have been above expectation. The planet is nameless; and, so far, agreeable to human life.
I notice one man not smiling amongst the crowd. He has a tattoo along his neck, weaving itself down into his Remlok suit. We move past him, his eyes still on me.
Later, as I begin to leave, I wonder if I am missing something. Indeed, the elation and feeling of wonder are present here, yet I cannot stop thinking of what Jacobs has said, and the man I saw roaming the station. After several attempts to probe the matter further, Jacobs has deflected and given half-answers. As I leave for my next port, she hands me some of the tea she provided.
As I walk up the ramp to my chartered vessel, a man approaches. He doesn’t have a smile as much as has a smirk.
“That’s awful bitter… Won’t taste the same without a little of this…” He hands me a packet containing a red powder. He leaves without another word. As I walk up, I glance at Jacobs at the other side of the tarmac, scowling.
Sure enough, the tea has the vaguely fruity taste from before, bit with an overall bitterness I hadn’t noticed before. A few grams of the powder, however, bring it back to the pleasant. I smile to myself, looking back one last time as the frame shift drive begins charging.
Photo credit: Cmdr Wishblend