Guest contributor: Cmdr Donald Duck
Our correspondent met Cmdr Ar’Vessah on the spectacular promenade deck of Gr8minds, on the orbital station above New Terra in Terra Mater. She arrived for our interview in her Fer-de-Lance, the CMV Adrasteia; resplendent in Militia green and bearing the Distant Worlds Expedition emblem.
She is one of the pilots whose deeds are deeply linked to the concept of Colonia and whose story seems typical of those who want to turn their backs on the Bubble, searching for new challenges beyond borders of civilization.
It’s been suggested that this past year represented an evolution in your career. Can you talk a little about that?
That is probably true. A year ago, I was really someone else.
The fate of several slaves I met marked an intense period of self-reflection at around that time. I had been surprised by their inner strength, which they seemed to maintain despite their hard and cruel lives. Most of them had not lost their humanity. I started to question my own attitude, and the sneering approach to slavery that I and so many people throughout ‘civilized’ space seemed to have.
Then, much of my insight crystallised during the Distant Worlds Expedition (DWE) of 3302. Encouraged by the other participants and their positive attitude, I used the time out there learning more about those new ways. That gave me a different, more positive picture of humanity, with the idea of an interplanetary community founded on respect and compassion.
After that, buying slaves just served one ultimate cause – to set them free.
So you determined to give slaves a new life in Colonia. Critics have said that it does not make a difference whether a slave is tied to his master in the Bubble or stuck at a colony 22kly away. Have you been criticised for your decision?
Since I have already quite a lot of enemies amongst supporters and profiteers of slavery, some more do not matter to me. My family suffered from them and my vendetta left a bloody trail. So bring ‘em on! In my understanding there are no ’happy’ slaves, no matter how their masters treat them.
Cmdrs Etiene Denain and Souvarine deserve highest respect for starting that large-scale slave liberation. Given the possibility to choose, the vast majority of slaves decide to give a new life out in Colonia a chance.
There, they have the same rights as everyone. They can decide their own fate and make a living on their own. If they stay or if they go back to the Bubble as soon as they save enough credits, it is their choice – they are free people.
Time will tell, but up to now, I have not heard of any former slave who wanted to return from Colonia. Most are simply enjoying their freedom, though their new home is not paradise yet.
As a pilot of the Colonia Militia Forces (CMF) will you be participating in the Christmas Carriers Convoy (CCC) and if so, in what capacity?
I will be part of the Militia Escort, guarding passenger ships and freighters. We are hoping for a safe journey but in reality you never know.
The Sagittarii Conflux region, especially, needs to be focused on. It was calm there during Operation Guardian Angel (OGA) some time ago, but with Salomé mentioning it recently we might run into trouble there. I hope that not, but we will only know when we get there.
That sounds like a decent challenge. How are the preparations going and where are you facing problems?
To my knowledge, general preparations are proceeding as planned. Units are winging up and training, pilots are saying goodbye to those they leave behind. However, to be honest, I am still quite busy these days having my weapons and other modules modified. Despite only a few days left, I am confident that everyone and everything will be ready by December 2nd.
You are–-with 16 militia merits–the most-decorated pilot of the CMF. I’m told you bear the title ‘Top Gun’. What did you do to earn these merits?
Well, first, I had a lot of fun earning them! (Grins)
I took part in several operations over the last months, including a 10-day patrol for OGA, which made me a Colonial Marine (a special rank within the Militia earned by accumulating six Militia Merits).
Most of those missions were linked to Colonia, like combat training, supply and support or protection of traders.
I am quite proud to have earned them and it is always nice to remember the events connected to them. However, I am not that kind of person who wants to rest on past day’s glory, so – yeah – where can I get some more?!
With CCC coming up and the exodus along with it, a strong fleet able to provide both police and military services will be important to have during the journey and at Colonia itself. So how does the CMF and its pilots prepare to be ready for this challenge?
We have been holding several training sessions over the last weeks and successfully completed some smaller operations as well. We are very satisfied with the results so I have no doubts about our readiness. Besides, some independent elite commanders have joined the CMF, and several allied groups are sending some of their finest to support our cause.
Like me, many have been modifying their ships to be ready for anything we could possibly encounter out there in the void. So yes, we are more than ready and can hardly wait for departure!
For many migrants, the present conditions in the Bubble are big reasons to take on the challenges of such a long trip. If not by tight control, how are you going to ensure that these are not replicated in Colonia? Especially in an environment where everyday survival can seem more important than social values?
Executing tight control would just create conditions of a totalitarian state. This is the last thing that Colonia wants to become.
We are all aware that we are responsible for our deeds and therefore are responsible for society itself. Hence, we cannot do more than hope that colonists strive for those high standards and wish to maintain them. Every one of us should try to be an example to follow.
However – as we all know – it is not an easy task. Especially if one is forced by circumstances. Life is not easy in Colonia and it will certainly take some time until we can provide equal chances for all. Meanwhile, we try to help those facing troubles and save them from drifting into criminality.
Development of the new society is the purpose of the Colonia Council. I personally can only appeal to all colonists to consider wisely in what kind of society they want to live. It is up to all of us to try to establish our own Utopia out there.
You’ve hinted that your career has not always kept you on the path of glory and honour. May our readers know what you consider your ‘darkest’ moment out there in the void?
My darkest moment was actually an extended series of them.
I had been deeply influenced by experiencing civil war on my home planet as a kid. I could not understand what was going on and so I forged a very negative picture of virtually everything. I started to detest humanity in general, because it had been this species who had inflicted so much pain on me.
I was seized by a wish to never again get into such a weak and dependent position. I strove for strength and independence – I wanted to bindings to anyone, no home except my vessel and loyalty only to the highest paycheck. It was the wrong way to live, as I see it now.
I deeply regret what I did during that period of my life. I am afraid that my deeds cannot be forgiven but I hope that my actions concerning slaves and my involvement in Colonia will be accepted as some kind of proof of change and remorse; and that those I hurt are able to forgive me.
It sounds like your participation in DWE was an important milestone concerning your view of the Universe.
Why would you recommend young pilots, who are used to flying around the Bubble, to go out there and spend some time in the vastness?
In general, I can only recommend young pilots to go out there and try out everything! Be it in a Cobra or in an Asp, every second you spend out there is worth it!
There are different aspects to exploring of course, whether you go out on your own or if you join an expedition. In either case, it’s an extraordinary experience. Just think about the unbelievable beauty that our galaxy holds. Imagine fascinating nebulae, black holes and neutron stars – you name it. Just take the unimaginable number of systems, planets and moons, as well as rarities like Earth-like worlds, which wait to be discovered.
Such a journey offers a chance to escape inhabited space. During a long trip, there is a lot of time and peace to reflect. It can be relaxing and even cathartic, but it remains a challenge and perhaps not everybody is able to master it – both technically and mentally.
For me, expeditions like DWE have been a great inter-human experience. It is a nice feeling to encounter peaceful, funny, and caring people out there in the black. I simply wish that everyone could experience that.
Well, it’s been fantastic talking to you Commander – thanks for taking the time out of your preparations for us!
Thank you as well and safe journey to all of you coming on the expedition. See you in Colonia!