Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Omia
Planet: Omia Prime
Colony name: Applecrate
Population: 158572... and counting
The evening sky was crystal clear and John set his holo-cam to record more star footage. After just one casual adjustment, his device was able to pick up even the small starships orbiting Omia. Some left glittering trails of drive plasma, others simply drifted, waiting either for a landing clearance or their buddies to dock with them. Even with the distance being so great, he could differentiate the various types of vessels; winged shuttles and dropships, small cargo or passenger craft. He could even see a dozen or so starfighters and strike craft, which slowly flew around, probably following their patrol routes. The small space station locked in geosynchronous orbit over Applecrate was an outpost of modular design, which belonged to one of the local merc companies – Cerberus. They were the first Terran mercs who set up shop here with the intent of protecting this colony and had so far greatly expanded their operation. John did not dock with their outpost for one simple reason – he wasn't a C-logger. Many others had already visited Omia Prime and interviewed most Cerberus commanders, lived in the barracks on the surface, some even trained together with their star troopers. Yet, it was the ground beneath his feet, the everyday activities of the ordinary people he was mostly interested in. He breathed in the crystal clean, crisp evening air and smiled - just as on any other world where Terrans lived, nothing was disturbed or polluted. Technology allowed even the most ravaged by interstellar war planets to be restored and many terraforming corporations made their employees plenty of money by cleaning or outright restoring various environments. One of the reasons why Terrans employed thermonuclear weapons against their genocidal, enslaving enemies was that radiation could be easily cleaned up after the conflict ended. Yet even before such “eco-friendly” tech existed, humans have long since learned how to take only what they needed and employ technology to produce amenities, while spending less energy and resources in the process.
John, Eve and Malcolm now sat next to a fire made of dry twigs; the fishies they caught earlier now roasted splayed on a couple of long, flat river stones. The rocks acted as improvised baking stoves and their platters were ordinary vacfoam bags. Inside they put some wild vegetables and a bit of salt, which was plenty enough to turn the fish into a gourmet meal. The meat was succulent, juicy and incredibly tasty without being overly full of tiny bones. Indeed the river critters fought their would-be catchers fiercely; it took the three of them over two hours of intense chase around this part of the river but in the end they prevailed. It was an experience which John, even as a mildly skilled in survival Terran was a bit stunned by. After gutting and cleaning the critters, they quickly found an empty campsite on the riverbank which even had an already built fireplace. They only had to gather some dry wood and then make a fire; John quickly remembered his days in the star scouts because Malcolm made a kindling and used not some elaborate electrical device but a stone & metal rod combo. Why waste precious power packs or other stuff, when you could easily make fire with the simplest of items? What's more important, by using dry twigs and chopping dead trees to pieces, they made sure natural forest fires only started in the deep wood. In almost complete silence they feasted one fish for each of them and John could swear that even the critter's size was surprisingly close to what they could eat. Before the fish started sizzling over the stone, Malcolm produced a big clay bottle filled with white wine and metal cups, which they washed in the river before their host filled them to the brim with the aromatic liquid. The stones they baked their fish on were tumbled inside the crystal clear waters, which the nearby factory committed to cleaning from mud and animal corpses. Perhaps there existed FTL capable civilizations where industry still polluted the environment? John was unsure of this even being true since after all his years of travel, he'd seen none of it inside Minarchy space. What bones were left of their fishies they broke and then baked over the open fire – once an animal was dead, Terrans consumed everything and threw away nothing.
“The fish we take good care of. Local farmers feed them with left-over produce and grain. The kids come to the river to pet and swim with them, then, when the time comes, I am told which one are ready to be fished.” - Calmly spoke Malcolm after sipping more wine from his cup.
“You just described the circle of nature Mr. Malcolm but... Things are quite different here, if I may so myself.” - John ate his last piece of baked fish bone and licked his lips.
Not only did the fish taste unbelievably, but he felt like the alien environment was more in balance with the Terran colonists here, than on most planets he'd been. He heard tales of Carrola and its walking trees, but that place was off limits for now. Ever willing to invade, the forces of the Taz'aran Imperium lurked too close to comfort – Carrola's local settlement, Murphy's Landing, got wiped out completely two years ago. Now, after that terrible episode ended, there were only ruins left where the tiny hamlet once stood. Most famed Terran netsonalities posted information on their G-net profiles condemning the attack, which nearby colonies were unable to counter on time. People claimed that the Taz'arans, ever willing to expand their territory and influence by aggressive means, wanted the planet as a forward base. The invaders were promptly and soundly defeated soon after they “conquered” Carrola, of course. Colonial navy ships from neighboring colonies formed a strike force and took good, permanent care of the invader. However, the Taz'aran Imperium was a huge star state and its forces, many times more numerous than what Terrans could gather. Thankfully, at least to John's knowledge, this conflict did not escalate or spread further away from this star system. Which meant it was not officially authorized by a higher power, that yet another Taz'aran commander got too ambitious for his or her own good. Their leadership did not care much about these parts – Fringe space was the forgotten, overgrown with useless weeds border of their Imperium. Even if one of their border counts acted on his or her own, in an overly-ambitions attempt to gain more power and influence in the Royal Court, nobody would care if said count lost. Moreover, John knew for a fact that the Taz'arans were embroiled in two wars, which meant that realistically, they wouldn't want to start a new one. Perhaps, once the tensions were over and the danger gone, Carrola's colonists and their friends would return? Indeed, that planet's unique ecosystem was more than beautiful, it was yet another mystery. Another one of the many, he was sure that some day, someone could unravel. That was why he visited Applecrate first; after all, one too many of his friends on G-net and a couple million subscribers constantly begged him to come here. Visit Omia Prime, John, they said. See the Harvest Fair, enjoy the tasty food, they said. Be on the lookout for mysteries, they said. An H-logger was wise to listen to his subscribers, for they more often than not, knew things he or she didn't. That and the odd, insightful comments he got while streaming on G-net; oftentimes John was startled by how much some of his subscribers knew. They were always civil though, that and he had plenty of moderators to help him – sifting through millions of comments wasn't a joke.
“Well, what do you think the fishies deal is? I mean, we Terrans always try to not wreck everything around us and take only what we need to survive. Only a fool would disturb the order of things and especially if said order did not constantly try to kill ya.” - Chuckled Mr. Malcolm while Eve sipped more from her wine and nodded with a huge grin on her snout. So this is where this sly bunny got most of her wisdom, eh? Appropriate, most appropriate; whenever John imagined wise old sages in their free time, somehow fishing was the most prevalent activity they were engaging in.
“I have absolutely no idea...” - mumbled confused John.
“Entertain us, young man!” - Malcolm refilled their glasses with more of that aromatic wine and smiled - “We have plenty of time and the night is still young.”
“What I have for you are only my personal theories, mere assumptions and speculations.” - John looked at Eve and began to wonder if most people in the know around here were close to Amy or this mysterious fisherman. He sipped more wine and cleared his throat, then spoke:
“Since I don't have all the facts, my best guess is that the local critters are telepathic to some extent. That certainly explains why neither the fish or those six-legged, cat-looking animals in the forests, have eyes or ears. Not sure but to me, this is the most scientific and logical explanation.” - John's gaze wandered off as he spoke and again examined one distant cluster of shiny, gently blinking stars. This was the Olian Pail constellation, the place where a race called the Olians came from. Just as once, long ago, the Kil'ra were entertained beyond measure after they learned of Earth felines and observed the easily noticeable similarities between them, Olians felt the same. He chuckled and that somewhat broke the seriousness with which he delivered his hypothesis. The Olians looked very much like otters, although of human size and without whiskers. Strange and mysterious the galaxy was, full of amazing creatures, places so beautiful you could explore them with tears in your eyes. There was plenty of danger too and one part of him craved learning more of this planet's secrets. Therefore his theory wasn't in any way outlandish or illogical and he saw his host exchanging smiles with Eve.
“I will say this, John – you are correct to a certain extent. Though to share the secret is not my decision to make...” - Malcolm's eyes studied the forest for a few seconds before he continued - “What I think you and some of your spiritually inclined subscribers will appreciate is the following – there exists a force around here which aids those who've proven that they respect the planet.” - cryptically stated the old fisherman.
“So... you are not a telepath?” - asked stunned John, while his gaze darted between Malcolm and Eve.
“Me? No, I am just one simple old fisherman, who spent most of his life trying to understand this Universe of ours.” - the man looked at Applecrate's lights and slowly stood up - “But we can always have a long chat about religion and the nature of existence, later. If Amy finds out that I've been bothering you with my boring old stories, she'd be real mad. Now, Eve, please guide our guest back to his starship – nothing beats a good nights sleep.”
John knew that tomorrow will be the last day of preparation before Applecrate's Harvest Fair. He was promised a ride by Amy; John would finally interview her, he and his subscribers would hear her story. Mr. Malcolm was more than cryptic and John's fishing trip instead of yielding answers, deepened the mystery surrounding this planet. Was Amy First willing to share more information with John and what would the type of vehicle be that he orders from those teenage mechanical prodigies? This and more in the next installment of JATB!
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