It’s hard to say how we got here. Anyone who knows us, knows we like to make a little money. Time has also told that we love making mistakes even more… I don’t know why I am still saying “we”… maybe it still hasn’t hit me that I’m alone. I am stranded, I don’t have supplies. I’m gonna die… but the story is interesting and I have literally nothing better to do.
Dulora was once a great world, a haven to many… but that time is barely remembered. The planet became over populated and struggled to produce enough food to support it’s population. The rich are the only ones who can afford to import food, but it’s gotten so bad that as soon as the gremlins see you in the sky, they assemble a task force to rob your ass. The surface is a mad house of dying and angry, starved people, most of them natives. The solution is increasingly unclear. Dulorians are high maintenance and not suited for space travel. Anytime someone tries to leave their home planet, they die of hypoxia or psychosis of some kind. Something about them needs their home world and scientists are too busy to figure it out.
As a result, Dulora has turned in on itself. With nowhere to go, the cream sunk into the earth rather than rising. A few men got smart enough to dig deep, literally. Decades later, there are vast tunnel systems in Dulora, protected by well fed men and women. The man with the most power on Dulora is Dr. Mentz, a man who has become very rich, but not in paper money. In people. You work for him, you always eat. He pioneered hydroponic food growth on Dulora, starting as a child when his father brought his family underground. Some say Mentz senior was the first to come up with the idea of a system of tunnels. It didn’t take much to get some men together under the premise that they would work together to protect the tunnel and resulting homesteads from outsiders. Mentz senior was a hater of money and resisted most technology in favor of the fruit of his own hand. He was always looking for a way out from under the thumb of Dulorian government and it seems his vision is still firmly planted in the minds of the friends he left behind. These days the Dulorian government is powerless.
I met Mentz Jr. through my father, who was friends with his father somehow. We didn’t see each other much and we still don’t, but in space friends are very few and VERY far between. When it came my time to inherit the freight business (when my father died suddenly and left me in command), the young doctor became a lucrative contact. You see, he grows these mushrooms that are ultra nutrient rich. A case of them guarantees I can feed the crew I need for an entire year. I feed my crew well when I can, but this is space. Having that guaranteed nourishment takes a stone off my back. Yearly, I pay a visit and bring as much water and seed as I can along with any equipment that needs replaced and enjoy a few days in the tunnels. It’s dirty but cozy work and I look forward to it.
This year, Mentz had a visitor. A daughter I didn’t know he had was visiting from Xeugantu. This is big news because Xeugantu is the Black sheep of the galaxy right now. The planet is so heavily guarded that the dangers of the activity there have yet to really be assessed. Mercinaries trying to get to Xeugantu to retrieve the lost frequently return in body bags, if at all. The only tech anyone on Xeugantu could possibly have their paws on is the outdated nuclear technology stored there for ages, now illegal in most systems. It is insanely impractical for ships to use nuclear technology. The radiation’s the thing.
Xeugantu was a storage spot for warheads, but when task forces came to disarm and dispose of the waste, war broke out. Xeugantians are a fierce people, with great numbers. The planet itself is 6 times the size of Earth, with a greater land to water ratio. The citizens went mad and demanded warheads be left and used to provide power to it’s citizens, in lieu of the lost income. When the Directorate of Alpha Tallus denied the request and elected to dissolve the contract with no compensation to Xeugantu, there was immediate bad blood. Xeugantians began assasinating outsiders and ejecting their bodies into space. Directorate liasons were first to go. This tactic was effective, as the Directorate ultimately made an offer of astronomical proportions, which Xeugantu denied. Since then, the Directorate has run out of assets to send to fetch the living. Powers from other systems have come in in hopes of purchasing what’s left of the technology, only to find themselves ambushed.
Mentz claimed his daughter was a spy who had escaped with vital intel. She had lost her husband and needed to escape to the home they built on his home planet Hivis. Hivis is a remote planet in the system and it is a planet in turmoil. Hivis is managed by an Order of The Few that has recently fallen to a race of Clones created to provide mining labor. At birth, you could elect to submit your child’s genetic material to a registry and if that material was selected to produce clones, the child would would be paid for Clone labor when reaching adulthood, minus the cost of feeding and boarding. Needless to say, everyone without scruples took advantage of this program, which led to a class of super rich people being in control of everything. What they did not realize was that if you engineer a clone to survive better on your planet, they can really kick your ass if they decide to embrace their sentience and take over. Unfortunately, rebellion amid the Clones was creatively quelled until it could be quelled no more, you see the clones were the first to see the end of the line. They knew what they were doing to the planet and did not understand the lack of action on the part of the Order. Clones leaked this information to the Organics, who promptly emigrated with the quickness.
With the buffer of the middle class gone, the relationship between Clones and The Order polarized and war became inevitable. Clones began asking questions and the Organic workers who stayed behind began discussing their scruples. Some Organics even stayed to help defeat the Oligarchs. Such people were led by the man who pioneered cloning on Hivis and in the Alpha Tallus system on the whole, Dr. Rolo Vork. Vork did not count on his work leading to exploitation, not on this scale anyway. He sympathizes deeply with the Clones and has been running underground schools to encourage education ever since the Order took his work and ran with it. With organically developed humans disappearing, Clones are the only hope for Hivis to be a functioning planet again. The Order have no idea what manual labor is and their happy little cul-de-sac of safety will soon be burst through, extinguishing them.
Dr. Vork knows Hivis needs educated entities to rebuild the planet and find sustainable ways to live there. It helps that Clones have been engineered to be work horses (tweaked really, as so little is yet known about genetics). It is vital that they figure it out, as Hivian clones cannot live in space. Most of them still live in the mines where they have always lived. Some have began funneling into the homes left behind by those who have emigrated. Vork continues to create more Clones under the advice of Clone leadership. Clones are “born” sterile and the planet will need a supply of caretakers after the Order are defeated. Currently The Order are outnumbered 10 to one, but their defenses are so sophisticated, they are basically locked in a fallout shelter the size of Mall of America that has always been well plied. It it unknown how they are doing in their cozy little box. If the weaponry protecting them is automated, it will take awhile to tell. It’s likely they have some kind of self sustaining food source, leaving little reason to breach their own perimeter. Meanwhile, the planet has lost over 50% of it’s population, so you have a planet the size of Earth with only fifty thousand people and a bunch of abandoned property. If you have any experience as a criminal, you can imagine the possibilities. This is where we found ourselves… being asked to take a wayward daughter to a crazy planet. The only positive is that it is fairly desolate if you know what you are doing. Since The Order entered their Cube, criminals have been looting the left behind homes. Clones are powerful, but most of them stick to the mines and don’t give a damn about what the Organics left behind. Martial law is a given, but the cities are still being picked apart, so if one could find a remote area, there is a chance of staying out of harm’s way and possibly securing a great location, if you don’t get shot down trying to land. There is no way of knowing the magnitude of the prospecting going on by now.
I had a pretty good idea what we were in for. Xeugantu being the mountain of radioactive gold that it is, The Order being the humanitarians that they are (Clone-itarians? Who knows?)… I would not be surprised if something radioactive is on Hivis ready to be set off by the Order. Haryet probably has some sort of proof of an exchange. Proof that Xeugantu is selling nuclear material (and not using it for power) would enable the Alpha Tallus Directorate to recruit forces from other planets in the system to repossess the technology. The only problem is how do we prove it’s still weaponized and not just being used for power? And how the fuck do they move it?
None of that was my problem. And old friend asked me to keep his kid safe. I was always going to say yes. Space is a death wish anyway. It’s a blessing to go down doing something cool because most of us die due to stupid mistakes and bad planning.