by Ed Jowett
“It is the future and Earth is nothing more than a distant memory. We have made this journey for a new start, to build a new community. We have the chance to build this community in any form we want; for that we should be grateful.”
These first words spoken by Captain Rogers after the Kurmaja’s crew and the colonists who travelled in stasis were assembled have always interested me. As someone from the outside looking in, I cannot help but feel that he knew more than most of those he was speaking to. I have to assume the Captain’s Log, now lost, gave him more information than most people were able to access. Perhaps it even explained the original plans of the launch Captain, his ancestor.
I, Gueya, the CEO of Gaia Adaptation and Adjustment, have believed my whole life that in order to understand the present, you have to first understand the past. On this night, the last before I join the true government of the Consortium, I feel a need to gather the records , revealed by my lifetime of research on how Humanity reached this stage. All I’ve ever managed to find are small snippets of evidence, and I’ve made my own assumptions from these. Perhaps you’ll find them as merely amusing flights of fancy or perhaps, like me, you’ll detect the ring of truth in the story – that choice I leave to you.
Nowadays, not much is known of Earth beyond the name – almost all of the records, particularly those around the launch of the Kurmaja, have been lost. What we do know is that for several decades after Humanity first ventured beyond the atmosphere of their biological cradle, they did very little – conducted a few cursory scans of nearby planetary bodies, but little more. I believe, given what I know of Humanity, that they were intent on finishing business at home, whether simple politics or old grudges between nations. I see evidence of this tendency every day I sit in the Senate, and shudder to think about the ways sovereign nations might have approached each other. While the records of these years pulled from the Kurmaja’s databanks are sketchy and damaged, it seems Humanity pulled themselves together at long last, at least temporarily, and colonized some planets in their home system.
Then, a decision to expand beyond was made. Exactly when the decision was made and what happened between it and the Kurmaja being launched is completely unknown. Whether the Kurmaja was the first of many or even the last of any is a mystery which may never be solved.
Of course, given the number of Humans transported in stasis aboard the Kurmaja, it seems surprising that more records, or even stories, of Earth don’t exist. This is widely ignored by most historians, assumed to be the result of starting afresh on a new planet and needing to build a new society… but that seems, to me, to be a short-sighted stab at the easiest conclusion, without thinking through the evidence. The obvious answer is that, for some reason, the people could not remember any details about Earth. I suspect it is the effect of stasis on those travelling, because I cannot explain the mysterious loss of memory any other way. It is in our recorded history that primitive Eulutian experiments with cryogenic stasis, before contact with Humans occasionally ended with similar results. I also believe that at least some of the most senior people in the Consortium are aware of the truth of this matter – why else have all manned missions to other stars since the birth of the Consortium been planned as generational vessels, rather than using stasis? But I digress.
Surviving stories of the Kurmaja are few in number. I believe that the crew were sworn to secrecy about the journey after the landing. What we do know mostly comes from the journal of the young pilot, Danny Westwick, which survives in a digital form even though the original is lost. From this, we learn that the crew of the Kurmaja did not sit idle for the journey, they continued to invent. They created both what they needed, like artificial gravity plating – essentially the same technology we all use today; after all, it never made much difference to my people, so we never invented it. They also created things that some of us wish we could un-invent – for example, STRIKE weapons had been invented before the Kurmaja landed on Taranis.
One of the most interesting stories I have come across in my researches – and this one has no proof in fact, as far as I know – is that the Kurmaja did not arrive at its intended destination. The story is that the Kurmaja had originally left for a closer star than Sulis. When it arrived in that system, it found the planet, detected before they set off, had been destroyed. Details become even more sketchy at this stage but everyone who tells the story agrees the same thing: there was no reason evident in the star system for the destruction.
Whether that is accurate or not, after many years journeying the Kurmaja’s crew found themselves in orbit of a life-giving planet beyond their wildest dreams: flora and fauna based on right-handed DNA and similar amino acids, ripe fruits on the trees, lush green forests. Of course, despite the similarities, a billion years of evolution under an alien star had rendered the native plant life highly poisonous to Humans. Although no-one knows what happened to the first landing party to take one of the four, thousand-year old “Grasshopper” shuttles down to the planet, I suspect a combination of tasting the native fruits and the local fauna, many of which were larger than the modern examples remaining today. Humans, when exploring, never have been very smart.
They do learn from their mistakes, though. Very few of this planet’s plant life remains, replaced by seed stock carried in the
Kurmaja. Even Kurmaja Park, which the Humans call a “Nature Preserve” has no native plants. I find this lack of reality in naming quite systemic amongst the Consortium. If there’s one thing I wish I could work on in my new position, it would be to help the whole population begin to accept the truth – understanding the truth is the first step towards changing society. Again, however, I am shifting my focus away from the point, allow me to return to it.
As the years grow closer to the signing of the Consortium charter, the facts become more solid. The ship landed, all agree, but this is where the stories again begin to conflict with obvious fact. Although, again, most historians believe that the majority of the Kurmaja’s data was damaged in the crash, I disagree. I have extensively checked the information available on the crash and the damage taken and I have reached an inescapable conclusion. Studying the blueprints of the vessel, the angle of trajectory and the records of the terrain damage inflicted, there is no way the computer sustained more than minor damage. All of the information should be intact. I believe that most of the information was stolen, almost certainly by salvage teams. The obvious culprit cannot be named, for political reasons, even in a private document such as this. It’s clear, though, that one man more than anyone profited both monetarily and politically from the work he did salvaging the Kurmaja.
I believe this man used the information he had to blackmail others, gathering resources and favours to the point that, when an economic system was established, he was in a superior position to everyone else. The character of this individual must have been truly remarkable – a Human with intellect and an opportunistic nature, able to take everything he saw before him. If this is the calibre of individual carried on the Kurmaja, how many more were around, hidden in the crowd? How many of them have shaped the Consortium over the almost 450 years of its life? How many live today, waiting to take advantage of an opportunity?
The next step the Humans made, even before creating their charter, was to fashion a statue. It was made from a stone from their home planet, which had fused with the hull upon landing, and placed near the intended seat of power. It’s said to represent their journey and the memories; this is something I do not understand. We Eulutians don’t worry about where our colony came from – there are probably records but we don’t care; we were sent out to expand our race, to govern ourselves and to live any way we wanted. Humans seem to care more about where they came from than we do: while our culture is what we make it, Humans want to echo the past.
Years passed, and machinations continued. At every turn, Humans in the Consortium have believed what they were told by their leaders. Again, I truly don’t understand this tendency – when all the evidence points in one direction, how can you blindly believe what someone else tells you, ignoring that evidence? I suspect that Humans (and an increasingly large number of the other Sentient Beings in the Consortium) choose to believe what they prefer to be true, rather than what evidence shows to be likely or possible.
And now, we have the Resistance, a movement which has been building slowly since the day the Big Seven took power. Those in power call them terrorists, and many of the people believe. Remarkably, though, many others do not. I wonder whether this is a change for the better in the Consortium, whether people are ready to finally look at the facts. It gives me hope, because I believe the Resistance are making a difference for the better. I personally believe, as the Resistance does, that the Big Seven (and possibly some other major companies) are attempting to reduce the levels of… equality… they have been forced into. I fear the measures they may take to do this, and I see it as my duty to stop them.
I believe in equality. I believe Humans, Eulutians, Ximians and Vilithii all should have equal rights within the Consortium. I’m to be the first non-Human in the Big Seven. Like it or not, by turning away those buy-outs by larger and more powerful companies, I have become a symbol of what non-Humans can do in the Consortium. It’s more than vital that I maintain the appearances that people expect, no matter my personal feelings. By the same token, I don’t want to remove Humans from power. I want an equal partnership, as it’s the only way the Consortium can ever really work in the long-term – the Humans never wanted an empire, as they proved in the early years, and nor do I. In short, despite its faults, I believe in the ideals of the Consortium and that of the Free Market: that anyone clever and resourceful enough can be successful, and those who are cleverest should lead.
It’s interesting to note, that a characteristic of the Humans is a lack of willingness to let go of power, even when they are bested. The ruling body, the same for 400 years, is now to be the Big Eight just so that Elliot Draigon doesn’t have to lose his position. I find this odd. If you think about it, though, it’s a step in the right direction. If it has to become the “Big Twenty” to represent the people of the Consortium adequately, I’m in favour of that.
Tomorrow, I will stand before the people and be introduced by Selena Hayden, arguably the most important individual in the entire Consortium. She’ll say things about how innovative my company is, how we truly deserve to join the highest echelon of the government. Of course, the hardest thing about this new position is that I don’t know which of them are telling the truth.
But I will take it upon myself to find out. I owe it to every sentient being in the Consortium – Human, Eulutian, Ximian and Vilithii.