Colonia, Here and Now: Part 03 – Vitto Orbital

This week’s Colonia Here and Now was submitted by our guest correspondent, Cmdr Marx, original discoverer of Tranquility.

Having left my ship inside the dock at Vitto Orbital, I quickly notice that the place is far more busy than one usually expects from a research outpost. I’ve arranged for an interview with the station’s Overseer, Danica Fox of the Colonia Research Division.

“Yes, it is true that we originally came here to survey the planet, but these days, we are more of a civilian trading outpost than just a research institute. Now, we have all kinds of facilities to serve spacefarers, not just orbital laboratories for scientists.”

She turns her head to the window in her office and nods in its direction. I see the sunlight glitter on the planet’s waters below; from our viewpoint, only a few larger islands dot the vast seas that we see.

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Tranquility is mostly covered with ocean

“Our original mission was to find planets which would be suitable candidates for agriculture. As you know, we are above the third closest Earth-like world to Jaques Station, although we originally thought it was the second. Paradise was found weeks after Tranquility.” She glances out at the planet again.

“Originally, we didn’t expect much from this world. As you’ve probably noticed, the gravity is quite high, and the air is hot and humid. Near the equator, it’s actually so hot that one can’t stay outside without protective gear for long.”

“Why did you stick with this place?”

“The seas. You see, while the flora and fauna on land are nothing remarkable, the waters of this world are astonishing. From our studies so far, we are nearly certain that this planet has one of the most diverse and abundant marine ecosystems known to humanity. And there’s even more.”

Without pausing, she pulls out a drawer from her desk and puts a bowl on the table. It’s filled with crushed ice, and has thin strips of what I assume are fish on it.

“Try some.”

The slightly red flesh seems soft to the touch. My eyes widen at the flavour: this is easily the best fish I have ever tasted. The Overseer smiles widely.

“As you can see, our Small-Salmon taste very good. After the first expedition finished analyzing their samples and tasted the leftovers, we immediately knew that we found an excellent local food supply for the colonists.” She pauses a moment, still smiling.

“So while we are technically a research division, most of the activity aboard the station is actually the processing and shipping of foodstuff to the Colonies. And right now, business is booming.”

A thought occurs to me. “You know, I haven’t seen any private vendors. Does all the trade go through your division?”

For a moment, a shadow seems cross her smile.

“Of course. We do need to make sure that what we export from Tranquility is neither poisonous nor in any way harmful, you see.”

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Vitto Orbital is well-equipped with laboratories and research facilities

We talk some more about life on the planet below, and the difficulties and joys of living so far removed from the rest of humanity. The Overseer is quite animated, and convinces me that for all the hardships, the pioneers here lead nearly idyllic lives and that their future looks bright.

Something blinks on her desk, and she announces that pressing matters need her attention. I thank her for the interview.

Outside, I ponder which part of the station to visit next. As I stand there, a tall man with sunglasses and a curious mark on his forehead approaches.

“Good day. My name is Lieutenant Craft. You must be the journalist from the Gazette, correct?”

I nod, unsettled. “How may I help you?”

I’m uneasy about being intercepted so soon upon leaving the Overseer’s office, and acutely aware that there are no guards around.

“I only want a bit of your time. I’m sure the good Overseer told you much about our Colony here. I’m also sure she left out important details which might not be so comfortable for her. For example, did she tell you that she first wanted to prohibit all of us settlers from fishing? Of course she didn’t. You see, hers is not the whole story. Would you hear us out too?”

His tone, while bitter, doesn’t seem to be threatening.

“Us?” I ask.

“The Tang Clan, of course. Surely you have heard of us by now.”

“Only in passing, but yes.”

“Then let us walk. Perhaps you’ll see a different perspective.”

I follow him nervously. Craft crosses his arms behind his back.

“The Overseer and her ‘Research Division’ fancy themselves as running this world, but in reality, they only care about the outpost and the goods from below, not about the settlers living there. The Tangs’ extended family were among the first pioneers, you see. The spacers may have found this planet first, but we were the ones who settled it.

“We bring them the fish and the algae, because we can’t sell them ourselves. These outsiders have prevented us from trading our goods by tying all trade to their so-called ’Seal of Approval’. And they limit not just what we can sell, but how many. So is it any wonder that we turn to other avenues?”

I keep a neutral expression. It’s evident that he wants to make a speech, not have a discussion.

“We have nothing but disdain for the rules they have come up with, which they claim are for “our own protection”. What would actually protect us would be more money. Life down there isn’t easy, and the traders that do come our way charge exorbitantly for everything we might need from the Old Worlds. What would protect us are not rules made up by others, but construction materials that can better withstand the high gravity, for example.

“You see, we are getting tired of being disregarded. When you write your article, note that. We will not toil silently and watch others reap the fruits of our work. If the off-worlders take from us, then we will take from them in turn.”

He grins. “I don’t believe I need say more. Look around, and ask around. See for yourself what the people really think.” He bows forward slightly.

“Good day.”

With that, he’s gone. It isn’t long since I left the Overseer’s office, yet my mood has quickly shifted from positive to negative. I try to remain stoic. Just as the Overseer might have left out important truths, I’m certain that this ‘representative’ left out others too.

After spending several hours touring all the facilities of the station and conversing with locals from various walks of life, I believe I have a better picture of the whole situation. Mr. Craft might have overstated the Tang’s influence, but it appears they are still a faction of note. Most people I have spoken with voiced their support for the Research Division, noting that the thorough checks on exported species are only a temporary measure, which will hopefully be gone within a year. Those who support the Tangs usually claim that the Overseer is trying to build a trade monopoly of her own, some noting how she had a fall-out with the Agricultural Division before she came to the station.

Mr. Craft’s implied claims of caring about the settlers are apparently not reciprocated. Many claim harassment and abuse at the hands of the Tangs, identifying them as a criminal outfit which has so far avoided being caught, despite widely being thought to operate the black market aboard the station.

“It’s only a matter of time before their true colours will be plain to see,” as one resident put it.

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The galactic backdrop in Colonia makes for some breathtaking sights

As I leave Vitto Orbital aboard my ship, I reflect on all I’ve heard. It’s quite evident that even though the Colony is young, it already has a complex history. I wonder what will happen to Tranquility; will the apparent feud between the Research Division and the Tang Clan be an important chapter in its history, or just a footnote?

As I select my next destination on the Galaxy Map, I turn my thoughts towards the distant Bubble. The next wave of settlers will surely find a rich and interesting Colony here.

Photographs courtesy of Matt G.


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