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Ad astra per aspera: Reach for the Stars

Chapter Text

“Captain’s log, 2282.04.15. Captain Tal Pintar of the Amphise, colonial mission to Arano, day 250.”

The otter reclined on the chair and took a look around his quarters. The lights have been shut off; the room is illuminated only by moonlight filtering in from the windows. The sound of waves and the smell of the sea is present, but barely perceptible. With a sigh, the captain began his account of the day’s events in a solemn voice.

“Today has been a tragic day for our colony. Ral Ines, a second-wave colonist, has died in an incident with a wild Taskari while attempting to tag it with a tracking device. His expertise in field ecology was a great asset to our exobiology team; it will be difficult to replace his skill and knowledge.

“Deaths aren’t rare in a colonial mission, but Ral Ines’ death was the first for Arano. Both his death and ceremony will serve as morbid reminders of the risks of colonization - risks all of us have undertaken as volunteers or career colonizers.

“In accordance to Peltian tradition, we are to fulfill his final wish: To forever swim on the calm, beautiful Arano sea. It is decided that we will place him on a floating pyre and cremate his remains. His ashes will be spread all over the sea, carried by currents - and he will be one with the sea for eternity.

“There is good news, however. The biodiversity survey of the planet has been progressing well. Our current body of genotypic data suggests that the sea level in Arano used to be much lower up until around 14,000 years ago, allowing species to travel between the islands we see today. Preliminary geologic analysis shows that the sea level has remained in this high level since. We still have not determined the cause of the increase in sea level, nor are able to paint a picture of Arano 14,000 years ago. Teams have been formed to investigate this anomaly.

“We have yet to find any signs of intelligent life in this planet, living or dead. Some of the mammalian and reptilian species show high animal functions such as primal society and hierarchy, however. Due to the high water level, there is little area for aerial surveying to check for ancient structures or traces. Our first pass on this planet’s 3,400 islands has not yielded any interesting results. Ground surveys and a submarine archaeological survey begin later this month.

“Our resident magnetophysicist has told us a few weeks ago that Arano has an unusually stable magnetic field. Her initial observations indicate that the field shields just enough radiation from F-3102 to provide the planet’s relatively warm and stable climate. The initial report she gave us also mentioned that the field barely fluctuates, which is highly unusual. She would like to commission a special project to investigate the planet’s core; she has suggested it might be the cause behind Arano’s unusually ideal weather and climate.

“The flora and fauna in Arano is rich and diverse. We have found many species of fish that make for very good eating; I personally recommend the Ithis for its abundantly rich meat and the Lasi for its sweetness. There are similar stories for its fruit and meat. However, dangerous wildlife does exist in this planet. Taskari are highly territorial quadruped mammals that can gore with their horn and spiked tail; Norlu are voracious predatory fish thrice the size of the average Peltian; and I’ve heard of colonists being buzzed by some large birds. We will have to identify these threats and control them as we establish the colony.

Our colony is growing slowly and steadily. We are 724 strong, and we are beginning to establish self-sustainability. I am confident that once we have finished our studies of arable food crops and other food stocks, we will be able to wean ourselves off supplies - something only made possible by the amazingly beautiful conditions on this planet.

“All in all, the colonization of Arano has progressed well thus far. It is very unfortunate to have lost a colonist today, but his work will benefit generations of Peltians to come. It is about time for me to head down and preside over his fulfillment ceremony; it is the least we can do to celebrate his work.

“End of log.”

A soft tone indicated that recording had stopped, but the Captain remained in his chair for a minute, looking out at a window. He got up from his seat with a deep sigh and exited his quarters. A hewn path, carved along the coastal hill the officers’ quarters were situated on, guided the otter as he walked down towards the deserted central square. The various buildings there were unusually silent, their signages dark - everyone had assembled at the docks for the ceremony. The otter turned to the street heading to the docks and solemnly padded his way to the shore.

The dock was brightly lit as always, but it didn’t buzz with shipments and launches as it usually would. Hundreds of otters lined the dock and the surrounding areas, all of them staring at the Captain and giving him a wide berth as he walked to where the funeral pyre was docked. An otter corpse laid in the middle of the pyre, which rocked slightly as waves lapped onto the shore. The Captain took a long, hard look at the corpse, and turned to face the crowd which had now massed around the pyre. He put on a headpiece and pressed a button, and his voice resounded along the docks as he spoke.

“My fellow colonists, we are here today to celebrate the life of our recently passed colleague, Ral Ines. He was a master exoecologist, this being his third mission aboard the Amphise. He has been a fixture not only in the exobiology team but also in our community, being a tireless and hardworking man who only thought of the colony and the importance of his efforts.

“When he landed onto Arano and first took step on this very dock, he had but one remark - ‘This is the most beautiful planet I have ever been in!’. Although his work on Arano was focused mostly on land animals, he took very well to the sea. I’m sure we have all seen him dive into the sea and just swim in his spare time. In fact, it was his immortal wish to be one with this sea, now and forever.

“We will thus ensure that his wish is fulfilled. I urge you to remember the risks that we all know too well, and take his death as a reminder to stay safe, work smart, and always take care of yourselves. As we watch his wish fulfilled, I also ask you to keep him in your minds tonight and celebrate his life.”

Without pomp or ado, the Captain crossed into the pyre and, with his multi-tool in hand, lit fires all along it. He stepped off the pyre and into the dock, untied the platform, and gave it a small push. The receding tide slowly took the pyre further away from the dock, and the small fires gradually merged to form a large fire that engulfed the pyre and the corpse it carried.

The Captain took his headpiece off and whispered, “Rest well, friend. May you now enjoy the sea you love for all eternity, and may we take care of it for generations to come.”