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Ad astra per aspera: Reach for the Stars

Chapter Text

Ever since the dawn of our civilization we have been reaching for the heavens.

 Our first manned rockets were crude devices - far more advanced vessels will follow. But for two centuries we stared longingly at the vast ocean of stars beyond our solar system, fearing them forever out of reach.

 Then, in one swift stroke, the discovery of subspace and the subsequent invention of the warp drive freed us from our shackles. The whole galaxy is now within our reach - and we raced towards the stars.

 We named her “Nephthys”. She would carry nine thousand brave souls of myriad backgrounds and professions - all willing to shrug off all they had on Tzynnia to pioneer a new age for our race. The destination: Initium, the nearest star system most likely to have an orbiting planet suitable for life. Nephthys is also equipped with the latest technologies - the most advanced modular constructors and resource gathering machines, the hardiest and most bountiful of food crops, and the latest medical equipment and supplies our colonists would ever need for years to come.

 Without the warp drive, it would take us thousands of years to reach Initium. Our colonists need only wait four months to see their destination out a window. They have food and medicine enough to sustain them in Initium for years and the best technology we can offer for their colony to thrive.

 We are ready. It is time for us to reach for the stars.

 

  • Caldorix, Exo Affairs Minister

 


 

“Ten boxes of subdermal pain suppressant injectors, five thousand count each. Two full-body scanners in strapped crates. Five boxes of reusable surgery kits, fifty count each. One box of portable body scanners, two hundred count. Ten boxes of portable power taps, three hundred count each-”

 The clang of a bolt falling to the metal floor shook the young reptilian from his work. It echoed around the cavernous room - large as it was, it was but a small section of the huge ship’s cargo hold. The reptile shook his head and fiddled with his wrist communicator, emitting beeps as he swiftly typed a message on the screen. An empathic beep confirmed his report was successfully sent, and the reptile returned to his inventory checking. The room echoed with small bleeps coming from his handheld scanner.

 “Box of antiviral capsule bottles, three hundred count. Two boxes of antifungal topical ointment, one thousand count each. Box of antibiotic capsule bottles, three hundred count. Five boxes of artificial scales, one thousand count each. Two boxes of dressing rolls, eight hundred count each. Three-”

 Another loud clang caused the reptile to whirl and face the source of the sound - a crate sitting at the wall opposite him. It had not yet been scanned, but the reptile already knew it did not contain medical supplies nor equipment. He quickly drew a stun gun from his holster and pointed it at the crate.

 “Get out of that crate slowly and with your hands held behind your head!” The reptile’s voice had the slightest hint of wavering. “You are trespassing in a restricted area. Submit and you may not be harmed.”

 To his surprise and relief, the crate opened slowly and produced two reptiles who slowly stood and held their hands behind their head in submission. Both wore civilian clothes; one of them was noticeably much older than the other.

 “Kneel. You are to be processed by Sergeant Xidlor. For the record, state your name and identifier.”

 “N-no...don’t do this.” The younger reptile started to plead, even as his elder signaled him to stop. “We’re not here to destroy or steal anything...we just want to come with you.”

 “You had your chance when you were registered into the colonist lottery. You are not allowed to circumvent it and sneak your way in. There are millions who would kill to get aboard this ship, and you do not deserve it better than any of them.”

 The soldier pointed at the equipment behind him. “All these supplies and equipment were meant for nine thousand only. Our destination is light years away. We don’t even know what the planet looks like, much less what lives on it or how we’re supposed to survive in it! We do not need more mouths to feed, this journey is dangerous as it already is.

 “You have no right to be here.”

 Brisk, strong steps echoed into the room. The two kneeled reptiles continued to plead in increasing desperation, with the soldier coldly staring down at them. The younger reptile, seething in anger, suddenly burst from his kneeling stance and leapt at the guard, fangs poised to strike. The soldier quickly drew his stun gun, but it was too late - his assailant crashed into him and brought him to the ground, pinned. The younger reptile prepared to rip into the soldier’s throat.

 “Ferad, stop...don’t do this.” The older reptile’s plaintive voice brought the assailant into pause.

 “Father, I will see you aboard this ship, no matter how many I have to kill-” Ferad turned around and froze in despair. A menacing soldier, kitted in armor, held the older reptile in a choking lock with an arm and held a sharp blade against the reptile’s neck in another. His voice, cold and deep, shook Ferad's resolve.

 “Are you sure?”

 The pinned guard, sensing an opportunity, broke free from Ferad’s grip and quickly wrestled him into the ground. Cuffs and a muzzle were immediately placed upon the reptile, who struggled futilely against his restraints.

 “With the authority vested in me by the Stellar Command, I arrest you with the charge of trespassing into military property. You will be held in probationary detention until the Civil Magistrate sees you for sentencing.

 “As for you,” The Sergeant looked at the older reptile, “You will be released. Do not try to aid, abet, or participate in actions like these again.

 “Soldier.” The guard stood to attention as the Sergeant started to drag Ferad with him. “Escort him out of the premises quietly. The last thing we want is for the crowd to realize someone managed to sneak in.”

 A quick salute from the guard. “Sir.”

 


 

“Sirs.” A soldier saluted as he entered the bridge of the Nephthys. He walked over to the captain’s chair, where a reptile clad in ceremonial uniform sat, looking at the viewscreen.

 “Admiral, the latest situation report.” The soldier handed a small tablet to the reptile, who read through it.

 “No incidents,” the Admiral hissed. “It’s too quiet - I don’t like it. But perhaps our soldiers finally started to do their jobs.

 “Very well,” the reptile sank into his seat. “We’re ready. Let’s begin.”

Chapter Text

A brief flash of white, followed by an equally brief flash of discomfort as the pupils constrict. Looking down, the reptile unclasped the restraints that kept her body upright. The cover on the small sleeping pod had fully retracted, allowing the reptile to gingerly cross the threshold. She set her eyes on a relatively narrow hallway lined with pods and walked down, hearing the cover of the sleeping pod shut with a quiet hiss.

The hallway opened up to a larger corridor, and she joined a throng walking down the hall and into a moderately occupied mess room. Gun metal gray walls and plasteel floors gave way to off-white walls and synthetic tile; the dull hum of the ship’s engines giving way to quiet conversation. The reptile made way to the various machines that lined the mess room walls and selected a delta ration - less calorie-dense than the gamma or beta rations for heavy work, but protein-rich and still providing adequate nutrition for an active adult. Unwrapping it, the reptile bit onto the tough jelly and shivered as she tasted the meat flavoring.

A beeping from the reptile’s wristpiece caught her attention. The display showed a schedule neatly tabulated by timeslots. She had but minutes left to finish her ration - and by the increased frenzy in the hall, so did the rest.

 

Morning drills. Section One Hall. One and a half hour.

 

The shrill klaxon barely did justice to the controlled chaos that was the swarm of reptiles at the sectional morning roll call. Some walked briskly to their groups; others ran, dodging fellow section members left and right. For forty seconds, the hall was filled with frantic steps and the occasional grunt - followed by instantaneous silence when the klaxon stopped. The section commander and advance party leader, standing at a platform at the head of the hall, scanned the formed-up crowd and gave a small grunt.

“Section One,” the female reptile barked, “You will be the front line. The first to drop through the atmosphere. The first to land and take claim to our new home. As acceptable your drill execution has become, it is not enough.”

The female’s voice dropped its edge and softened. “It never will be enough. Even with all that our science ships have gathered, we do not have an idea of what meets us when we arrive in the system, much less what meets us when we land. You must keep your wits about you when we land, no matter how chaotic or how dangerous it becomes. Your priority, as you know, is to set up a secure camp first - and then to scout the surrounding areas as we send in additional waves. Communications with the colony ship might be difficult, danger will arise at every turn, and our drills and classes cannot fully prepare you for all of them. In the end, you can only rely on yourself .

“Which is why we must not let up in these drills! You are to scramble and assemble as a ring formation in forty seconds, on my mark!”

 

Advanced Cartography, Geography, and Rangefinding. Section One Lecture Room. Three hours.

 

“...And that is all the theory we have for today. For practical, we will pick up where we have left off from the last session. Headsets, please.”

At first, the headset put the reptile in darkness. Gradually, an image started to form - she, along with the other students in the class, are standing in the middle of a hilly landscape. On her hands is a miniature multitool programmed for geographic use.

“In our last session we have discussed the use of the rangefinder to determine distance as well as height differentials. This session will focus on practice as well as transmitting data to your wristpiece for analysis.”

The instructor pointed to a rather steep hill a good walk’s distance from them. “As I have mentioned, your wristpiece will automatically track your elevation and terrain data and transmit it to the Geographic Analysis computer to improve our maps. In some cases, this is impractical or impossible - this is where your rangefinder will come in handy.

“It can also be used to track animals or other targets - it will be very likely that you might be called on as guides for hunters, or that you yourself do some hunting in the later stages of settlement. Simply point at the target, press the trigger, and adjust using the display to obtain peak elevation as well as flat distance. Perform this now.”

The reptile aimed at the top of the hill and pulled the trigger. The display showed a massively zoomed-in image of the hill; she then adjusted her aim to put the peak at dead center. Distance: 2200m; height differential: 800m.

“It looks like everyone has obtained the correct distance and height differential. Good. Now, on to transmitting the data. Firstly, you will look to your wristpiece…”

 

Rest period. One hour. Section One Pod 210.

 

Only small pieces of the gamma ration, required for the upcoming survival training, remain on the reptile’s plate. As filling as the ration was, it had to be scarfed down quickly. There was only one hour of rest allotted, and she needed all the enhanced rejuvenation that the pod’s suspended sleep state facilitates. The reptile briskly walked back to Pod 210, which opened with a silent hiss at her approach. Stepping through the threshold, she strapped herself into the suspension harness and pressed the button to indicate she’s ready. The pod cover smoothly closes over her, and she’s quickly put into a silent darkness. A barely audible puff, and she’s quickly put to sleep.

 

Extraterrestrial Survival Training. Seven hours. Holographic room.

 

The reptile opened her eyes into a the middle of arid desert. A quick look-over determines she’s wearing desert survival garb and burdened with a small pack. An electrode-tipped, expandable stave is holstered in her belt, and a physical-pattern ultralight rifle is slung along her shoulders. The conditioned air quickly shifted into hot, dry desert air, and stray grains of sand peck at her scales. Once she put on the headset, she quickly forgot she’s strapped into a holographic simulation system.

As she looked around, fellow reptiles slowly flickered into view - first one, then three, until all twelve have fully materialized into their simulated environment. Some of the reptiles fiddled with their equipment - one even going so far to unstrapping and checking its rifle, sporting a unique lightweight marksman’s scope.

A voice, that of their instructor, boomed over them. “Welcome again to Extraterrestrial Survival Training. In the last session, we have familiarized ourselves with the equipment you will be wearing on a desert environment. In this session, we will be putting your training to the test. Check your wristpieces now.”

Twelve synchronized beeps signaled the trainees to check their wristpieces, now displaying a map with a route attached. All twelve trainees’ locations are present as pings on the map.

“This is a twenty-kilometer hike along relatively flat desert terrain, sandy in places. You may encounter wildlife. You may encounter hostile humanoids. You are to stay in formation as discussed in earlier sessions, neutralize any threats, manage your resources, and reach the endpoint within the end of the session.

“As a reminder - the physical-pattern rifle is semi-automatic and has a five-round magazine. It has a holographic sight that activates when you raise the rifle, but do not depend on it; use the physical sight when necessary. Your baton’s electrode tip will automatically activate when you trigger its extension. If your pain sensors reach your threshold or you endure fatal injury, you will be disconnected from the simulation and sedated.

“Take formation.”

The twelve reptiles took the standard scouting party position - four vanguards and four rear guards wielding rifles forming a square, with two designated marksmen and the spotter taking the center. The scout leader, holding a rangefinder, stood just front of the center.

“Begin.”

 


 

A brief flash of white, followed by the familiar discomfort as the reptile gained consciousness. The memories quickly flooded the awakening reptile - the group being ambushed by a pack of canine predators, the chilling howl as the canines advanced, the desperate struggle as she blocked a savage bite with her baton, the quick flash of extreme pain as her side was shredded by another canine. She instinctively touched her unhurt torso.

Her fellow trainees slowly rose from sedation, all of them looking around groggily. The twelve trainees, sitting up from their simulation beds, started making scattered conversations about the ambush - their failure to spot the pack, the sheer speed of the canines.

The door to the simulation room opened, and their instructor stepped in. The twelve reptiles shakily rose to their feet. With a flick of his wrist, the instructor materializes a hologram of the canine that attacked them.

“No amount of training with stationary targets will ever prepare you for this. These canines once roamed our lands, when we only dreamed of reaching the sky and the stars. Your ancestors beat them off with simple spears or clubs; you must do the same with the equipment you have.

“We do not know what lies in the planets in Initium: reptilians like us, canines like these, or some other life-form we are not aware of. We can only prepare you with beasts that once roamed our lands - and hope it is enough.”

The instructor turned around and stepped towards the door, speaking as he went:

“You have traveled around four kilometers this session. You have but three weeks to reach the end of the route at the very least. We will repeat this simulation tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Excerpt from History of the Delta Quadrant, Volume 4 by Alastoia, Chief Historian of the Consortium Institute of Interstellar History

 

The Incident at Initium

  The incident at P-3059, known by the fledgling Tzynnians as Initium and by the established Commonwealth of Man as New Brazil, shook the Delta Quadrant much more than an event of its scale normally would. The destruction of the single, unescorted Tzynnian single colony ship by the Commonwealth antagonized most of the Delta Quadrant civilizations against them, leading to heightening tensions that exploded in the Punitive Wars that ultimately failed to stop Commonwealth aggression. It also laid a very unique precedent for interstellar colonization efforts and led to the formation of armed, escorted colonization missions throughout the galaxy.

 The two parties of the incident convened in a Delta Quadrant court hearing at Kellas III, with representatives from almost all Delta Quadrant civilizations attending. Though testimony and evidence from both parties came at odds, with both parties crying foul and accusing the other of faked evidence at every turn, there are some basic undeniable facts. The system itself, P-3059, has already been claimed by the Commonwealth, having a border outpost and a minor colony in the island planet P-3059b. The Tzynnian colony ship “Nephthys” carried nine thousand reptiles, reportedly settlers looking to colonize P-3059a - an arid desert planet with a carbon dioxide-dominant atmosphere. It was unarmed, but it had a large amount of transport pods docked all along its side - purportedly the only safe way the Tzynnians have developed to deploy colonization teams to the surface.

 As the colony ship disengaged its hyperdrive and materialized on the system, the Commonwealth engaged its local security forces - the destroyer-class ships “Jameson” and “Hardee” - and accosted the ship. After ten minutes, the faceoff broke when the “Hardee” fired a salvo of mass driver rounds on the “Nephthys”. The other destroyer followed suit, and the colony ship was destroyed in less than a minute of sustained fire. All nine thousand reptiles were lost - no evidence of escape was obtained by either party. The Tzynnian government was connected to the colony ship through subspace and was in contact as the ship called mayday - a recording of the mayday message between the ship and Tzynnian mission control was submitted to the court as evidence.

 Official first contact between both civilizations was established four months later, when a small fleet of Tzynnian corvette-class ships accosted the larger and more advanced Commonwealth Third Fleet, the fleet that oversaw the New Brazilian security forces, at P-3059. In negotiations that followed, the Commonwealth admiral, Ana Yakovna, explained their account of the events that unfolded and offered their apologies for the loss of life, as well as sternly warning them of entering Commonwealth space.

 There are two accounts of the incident submitted to the court. The Tzynnian account, related by Exo Affairs Minister Caldorix, blasted the Commonwealth for using lethal force and neglecting to attempt alternative methods of communication with potential first contact:

   

 

  Four months, two weeks, and five days into the mission, we received Nephthys’ final message - panicked voices broken by static, and an alien message impossible to decipher…

  We assumed the worst, naturally. So, we sent out our first set of warships - corvettes, as you call it - on a rescue mission. When they arrived in Initium, they see the broken husk of the Nephthys floating in the darkness. And approaching them - a fleet of alien warships, their technology far beyond ours. Using salvaged technology from the Nephthys , these aliens have managed to decipher our communications. So, they recounted the story: A large, unidentified ship had entered their system. Despite repeated warnings, it would not change course, and the trigger was pulled…

 With their technology, why did they not attempt to decipher our communications then? Why were they so eager to destroy a colony ship, full of peaceful Tzynnians? The Nephthys had a protocol on what the captain should do if Initium were to be occupied: initiate contact if possible and return. We had no interstellar ambition, and definitely no firepower to support it if it existed. We only wanted to achieve interstellar colonization, and if Initium turned out to be unsustainable, we would find another target and try again. But this brutal, needless massacre has many of us wary of reaching for the stars again.

 

 The Commonwealth account, submitted by Ambassador Kama Rajak, was businesslike and calm, calling for the court to stick to the facts and to focus on the topic at hand - the encroachment of their sovereign space by a foreign “colonization” party:

   

 

 The massive loss of life in the Nephthys is regrettable. The officers of the Hardee have insisted to this court, again and again, that they have exhausted all methods of communication and were distrustful of the pods that the so-called colony ship held. It looks very similar to a stellar dropship we once used, and so the crew feared that this ship was, in fact, an assault ship of unknown origin. Thus, in agreement with the crew of the Jameson and Third Fleet Higher Command, the two ships fired, hoping only to disable the ship and board it. Unfortunately, our judgement was off-target - our rounds tore through non-armored hull and decking, and an ordinary salvo crippled the ship and its occupants beyond saving.

  The officers of the destroyers that fired those rounds to the ship did not have the explicit intention of destroying a colony ship and killing innocent, civilian lives. With the complete breakdown of communication, however, we were left no choice. We had to protect our own, and that is afforded us by the very charter all of you signed. The Commonwealth does not ask for you to absolve the deaths it has caused; it only asks that you uphold the sovereignty it fought for and holds dear.

 

 The court ruled in favor of the Commonwealth, upholding its sovereignty over P-3059 and barring Tzynnian expeditions in the vicinity. The incident, as minor as it was, created an unforgettable legacy. Borders between Tzynnia and the Commonwealth were closed, caging the fledgling civilization in its one system. The xenophilic and neutral civilizations of the Delta Quadrant protested against the suppression of a fledgling sovereignty and sought to guarantee Tzynnian independence and freedom of space on the other side of its borders. Four years later, when Commonwealth forces amassed along the Tzynnian borders, the neighboring Kal’Tas Federated Suns sent a contingent of ships to reinforce the tiny Tzynnian navy in honor of its guarantee. The details will never be clear, but the standoff broke into a short but brutal war which ended in the complete rout of the two allied navies and the annexation of Tzynnia. This marks the opening bars of the Punitive Wars against the Commonwealth, which ended in the Commonwealth’s eventual dominion over the Delta Quadrant.

Chapter Text

A marsupial sleeps soundly with its pouched young, nestled among the branches. It is a warm moonlit summer night in the island it calls home, and the sounds of thousands of insects fills the air. For a moment, the island is covered in pitch black, and the buzzing of insects stops. The moonlight returns, and the island hums with such activity that the sound of steel slipping into the water can barely be heard.


“Submerging to ocean floor, 300 feet below sea level.”

 Beneath the waves, a sleek, large ship swam downward, its two engine banks at its side glowing with a subtle light. Beyond a hint of turbulence, the ship was noiseles. The ship leveled out as it approached the bottom and slowed to a stop. Anchors darted out from all along the ship and sought firm purchase in the sand.

 The bridge of the ship is tiny for its size, holding only six otter-like creatures. The creature in the center stood, addressing the rest of the bridge crew. “Comms - send a message to the Amphise through subspace, confirming the arrival of the staging ship, then coordinate and relay information from upper command. Science - send out two air drones and begin imaging and surveying the vicinity. Engineering - perform final checks and prepare the child submersible in dock 12 for underwater survey immediately.”

 The captain gestured to the conn and security officers. “With me.” The three briskly left the bridge and along hallways until they are met with a large pillar of water around eight feet in diameter, piercing through the decks of the ship and held in shape by an invisible force. The otters smoothly dove into the pillar and swam down the decks. The warm water clung to their fur as they darted out of the pillar and walked to a door labeled “Dock 12”. The door smoothly opened, revealing a wall of water and a submersible held in its mooring behind it. The three otters quickly swam to the small submersible and entered through the waterlock, closing it behind them. The water inside the lock quickly drained, and the three entered the cabin. The cabin was a cramped affair - seating for three, with countless controls crammed into the consoles.

 A raspy voice blares from the intercom. “Captain, the child submersible is fit for underwater survey. It is fueled for a range of 102 nautical miles. It is structurally sound for up to 850 atm. All sensors calibrated. All lights functional. Motor functional. You are cleared to embark.”

 “Captain speaking. Release moorings. Embarking on underwater survey.” The moorings disengaged from the submersible with a hiss, and the vessel started to slowly sink. The captain pushed a button, and a hum started to emit from the back. From the outside, the submersible’s engine bank started to glow, and it started to glide into the dark water ahead.

 “Safe travels, Captain.”


It is the seventh mission for the Amphise , star of the Peltian colonizing fleet, captained by the resilient Tal Pintar. Out of the seven colonization missions it has undertaken, five of them have been on dangerous planets that roiled with storms and had seas that boiled with the activity of frightening creatures. Under less capable hands, these missions would have been totally written off as failures. Under Tal Pintar, they have achieved modest, safe colonies that extract valuable resources buried deep under the ocean floor.

 Under the standard Consortium maps, this seventh attempt is on the planet F-3102a, known by the Peltians as Arano. Fifty-eight light-years from Peltia, it is thus far the most distant colonization attempt made by the Republic’s navy. Research excursions showed it to be the most promising planet for colonization ever discovered - a very calm atmosphere suitable for Peltian lungs, calm, bountiful seas, and scattered islands perfect for small colonial townships. Furthermore, its unnaturally clear skies and calm weather have fascinated Peltian scientists; a major center of climate and geophysical research is planned to be built in Arano once a colony has been established to discover the planet’s secrets.

 “Communication from the Captain: Staging vessel established in designated landing zone.”

 The bridge of the Amphise is much larger and more luxurious, with a total of twenty officers in various consoles. The bridge’s viewscreen popped with activity - windows upon windows of maps and data crammed the screen. The second-in-command, Tal Rua, stood in front of her chair, adjacent to that of the Captain’s, and spoke at the comms officer. “Very well. Maintain comms with the staging ship. Prepare a data packet to Peltia with our current status and all imaging and survey data, to be sent in twelve hours.”

 Tal Rua then turned to the engineering officer. “We will proceed with surface imaging as scheduled. Deploy imaging drones as soon as they are ready.”

 “They have been readied. Launching them now.” The otter pressed a button in his console, and three canisters shot out from the front of the ship, in full view at the bridge’s screen. “The imaging will take six hours, at most.”

 A chirp emitting from the screen caught Tal Rua’s attention - an incoming transmission from their armed escort. “On screen.”

 The screen shifted from its various screens to show an otter seated in a small cockpit. “Tal Rua, a situation report. All is clear - we have performed flights around the other planets and their moons and have cleared them. There is not a ship in sight, although we detected what seem to be traces of a herd of Tiyanki as we orbited the farthest planet. We remain on patrol and will provide another situation report in two hours.”

 “Thank you. Dismissed.” Tal Rua cut off the transmission and sank onto her chair, looking intently at the screen which has shifted back to mission control. The mission has been extremely calm so far - almost like a training exercise - but the otter restlessly shifted in her chair.

 “This is going too well,” she muttered. Raising her voice, she spoke to her security officer. “Security - please deploy a roaming sensor drone in a route opposite to that of our armed escort. Calibrate sensors for foreign FTL and cloaking.”

 “Acknowledged. Programming and deploying sensor drone.” The security officer typed on her console for several minutes, then pressed a button. A small drone shot out of the ship’s side and began to cruise, its sublight engine producing a barely perceptible glow before it blinked out of view.

 Tal Rua switched the viewscreen to the system map, muttering. “Let’s hope we do not get any surprises this time.”

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.”