"Rag Tag Fleet"
4th yahren of the Great Exodus
November 14, 2999 AD
"This is IFB - Inter-Fleet Broadcasting. Welcome to 'The Zara Report' "
"Hello, Humanity! This is Zara, bringing you the news and personalities of the Fleet. For several time-cycles the Fleet has been awash with rumors concerning that favorite topic - Earth. Usually, these rumors have no basis in fact.
"Well, after inquiring of the Quorum of Twelve and the Colonial Service, I can tell you now that for once these rumors do have an element of fact. We are currently in orbit of a planet called 'Botany Bay', a sub-colony of Earth. A ship from Botany Bay was encountered four time-cycles ago and formalities were exchanged. The Quorum has been in contact with the government of Botany Bay for two time-cycles, conducting negotiations. So today, our regular format will be interrupted so the Quorum can make an official statement.
"I now present President Tiria of the Quorum of Twelve."
The popular President came on the screen, looking tired but triumphant. "People of the Colonies. This is a great day. We are currently in orbit of the planet Botany Bay - affectionately called 'the Bebee' by it's million human inhabitants. They have given us permission to stay in their system temporarily. And from them, we have acquired good and bad news.
"First, the good news. According to their records, this is one of approximately two thousand sub-colonies of Earth. This is an area of space known to the Tribe of Ophiuchus as the Periphery. Towards the Galactic Rim is the Inner Sphere, and Earth is the zero coordinate of their star charts. We now have exact coordinates for Earth. By the help of the Lords of Kobol, it turns out we were already on that course and would have found it in half a yahren anyway.
"Now the bad news. Botany Bay has not had friendly contact with other worlds in over two centuries. And when they last had such contact, all of the worlds that they knew were involved in a enormous civil war. All the contacts they have had since then have been pirate raids and hostile occupations. For all they know, there may be no interstellar civilization left. Earth may have been destroyed. There is no information on the subject.
"The Quorum has debated this problem. If we go on to Earth, we may be taking the Fleet into pirate infested barbarian space only to find a dead world. Any other direction takes us into the unknown, save backtracking, and we all know where that leads us. There are too many unknowns.
"What we do know is that we are in a region of space where there are no Cylons. The world below us is almost pristine and untouched, easily able to absorb another quarter-million people. And the known space powers are pirates with a minimal space warfare capability. If we stay here, we can civilize this area of space, and perhaps contact other civilized spacefarers and learn about the rest of our brethren.
"The Republic of Botany Bay has offered us citizenship if we wish, or just a grant of land and autonomy. Their industries have been ravaged by piracy, and we could help them rebuild what they have lost. They can give us the land and manpower and resources we need to rebuild what we have lost. We could also settle elsewhere - the Botany Bay charts say that this space is rich in habitable worlds - but we would be starting from the beginning in a raw wilderness. And the space around us would still be claimed by pirates.
"This decision is too great for a casual vote of the Quorum, as halting our Exodus would mean an end to martial law authority and the state of emergency. So the Quorum of Twelve hereby schedules a plebescite for two days from now. Vote on whether we join the Colony of Botany Bay, continue our journey to Earth, or found a new colony elsewhere. Discuss, research, and vote. And pray."
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
November 16, 2999 AD
"Welcome to the Bebee Holovision Network News. This is your host, Tanya Alexander, standing in for Maya Verdeschi who can't be here tonight due to events that I deny all complicity in. Speaking of mysterious events, in the top of the news tonight, the mysterious ships that have been sighted in orbit by amateur telescopes for the past three days. While the Office of the Big Chief has been adamant that this is not a pirate invasion, they have been reluctant to speak of what those ships actually are, fueling conspiracy theories that include a covert government space program, alien space bats, and swamp gas. Tonight, the Big Chief himself, Reginald Voort, will address the population live to answer this question. Before the Chief comes on, here is our government activities expert, Apun Ditweiler, to help us shed some light onto the government's recent actions. Welcome to the studio, Apun."
"Glad to be here, Tanya."
"Have you any opinion as to the government's behavior?"
"I think it makes sense if you look at other actions taken in that period."
"What sort of actions?"
"The Militia Spaceport has had an unusual amount of activity - more activity in two days than it normally sees in a full year. Also, two thousand militia troops have been dispatched to the ghost arcology of Khan. Construction companies have been contracted and moved to Khan as well."
"So what could all that amount to, Apun?"
"It might mean an occupation force from space. Since there have been no raids or weapons fire, they would appear to be friendly. But I would say offhand, Tanya, that the Bebee is about to rejoin interstellar society."
Tanya paused, drank a sip of beer, and asked, "That's a rather ... dramatic claim, Apun. And exactly why do you think that?"
"An abandoned arcology is being reclaimed. More space activity than we've seen since the last pirate raid is taking place. And there are over two hundred unknown ships in orbit. Either we're being conquered and Khan is going to be their garrison or someone's about to colonize us."
"That ... seems to make sense," Tanya said. "So who would be moving in?"
Apun shrugged. "Who can say? The Lyrans returned, a new Rim Worlds Republic - even aliens for all we know."
"May I remind you that you said something similar before the pirate raid of 2992? And exactly how many innocent people with placards reading 'Welcome to the Camerons' were killed by pirate Battlemechs?"
Apun looked away, fidgeting in embarrassment. "That was different. That was only -"
"Hate to interrupt, but the Big Chief's about to come on."
The holoimage viewed by the million inhabitants of the Bebee changed to a view of a comfortable private room. In the Botanean tradition of casual informality, itself an outgrowth of the Periphery dislike of authority, the Big Chief was dressed in a casual denim outfit like many people wore in the evenings.
"Good evening. No doubt you've been listening to rumors conceruing the ships in orbit - rumors encompassing everything from the Return of the Star League to brain-sucking aliens. As usual, the truth is somewhere in-between. And in this case, a bit to the left. You're going to have trouble following this - I know I did.
"The whole thing began thousands of years ago on a planet named Kobol. Kobol was inhabited by thirteen tribes with their own distinct cultures. Due to an ecological catastrophe, the Kobolians were forced to evacuate their world. One tribe disagreed and while twelve tribes went together, the thirteenth tribe waited to the last minute and went in a different direction. The world the thirteenth tribe colonized seven thousand years ago was allegedly Earth, making all Earth-descended humans members of what the Kobolians call the 'Tribe of Ophiuchus'.
"Wait - it gets better.
"The other twelve tribes each colonized a planet, lost their civilization, then regained it. Three thousand years ago, they rediscovered spaceflight. Two thousand years ago, they formed a political union - the United Colonies, governed by the Quorum of Twelve. One thousand years ago, they made an enemy - an alien race called Cylons who decided that they could not permit humanity to exist. For a thousand years the Twelve Colonies and the Cylons fought.
"Four years ago, the Cylons won. Twelve planets - fifty billion humans - were destroyed in the last battle of their Thousand Year War.
"In orbit of our world are two hundred twenty-one ships, a rag-tag fleet herriedly scrounged together and crammed with refugees while their worlds burned. Over two hundred thousand humans - our long-lost brothers, fleeing genocide. The last of the Kobolians.
"In the name of the Parilament and People, I have granted the Quorum of Twelve extraterritorial settlement rights to the Khan region, including the abandoned arcology of Khan. In return, the Kobolians will help us with new technologies surpassing even the height of the Star League, new industries to rebuild our economy. This will be aided by the technology the Kobolians brought with them, including the equivalent of over two hundred JumpShips. Interstellar trade will resume - starting here.
"In addition, to aid the defense of Botany Bay, the Kobolians bring the last remnant of their military," The image showed an orbital shot, including a great gray ship with two pontoons. "The Battlestar Galactica, a WarShip superior to the best vessels of the Star League Defense Forces and carrying over a hundred advanced fighters." Voort's face came on, grinning. "I can comfortably say that with the arrival of the Kobolians, our world is as safe from pirates as can be imagined.
"The coming days will be filled with labor. And with hope. New industries, new infrastructure, a new age. The Kobolians will be autonomous on their own land, in effect a second nation on our planet. But our economies and militaries will be united. And in the fullness of time, a new people will emerge. A stronger race with the best of all the varied branches of Man. And finally ... finally ... we will all get what we want, to be able to watch our children grow up without fear.
Tanya and Apun came back on, looking completely gobsmacked. Apun finally smirked and said, "See? I told you so."
"This isn't exactly what you said -"
"Who cares? It's close enough."
Former Arcology of Khan, renamed Aurora
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
November 16-21, 2999 AD
The people of the Fleet had voted overwhelmingly - ninety-five percent - in favor of colonizing Botany Bay. The Botanean proposal of two independent nations with interconnected economies and militaries was rapidly adopted by the Quorum, giving the remnants of the Twelve Colonies a framework to rebuild themselves while keeping some trace of their past.
Shuttles were crammed with people, ships made landings, and the Children of Kobol tasted natural air for the first time in four yahrens. And they moved into the shelters set up for them by the Bontaneans, rolled up their sleeves, and got to work.
"Got to work' - such a deceptively simple phrase. Like saying 'I dropped the atom bomb and it went bang.'
After four years of inactivity, the pent-up energy of the Colonials had exploded over the arcology in a frenzy of repair, installation, conversion, and adaptation. Homeless and despairing for so long, they took the long-abandoned arcology and made it their own. They even stripped it of it's old name and gave it a new one; Aurora, an Old High Gemonese word for 'dawn'.
Now the old arcology blazed with light at night, illuminating the newest public works building on the planet - the great pyramidal power plant, built in just three days out of an old Kobolian waste-reclamation ship, using tylium-enhanced fusion to bring power not just to Aurora but the entire planet.
In five days, the survivors of Kobol reignited hope in a world that had been slowly dying, as well as in themselves.
The Kobolian reclamation robots were busy dismantling the old fusion plants and rebuilding the infrastructures of not only Aurora but the arcologies of Singh and Noonian as well. Several of the older and more decrepit of the Kobolian ships were scavenged and the materials used to build the first heavy industrial factories to be seen in two centuries, with plans for a variety of useful IndustrialMech and AgriculturalMech designs and in the years to come even DropShips.
In the fields, new crops brought from the agro-ship were planted, nurtured in Botanean soil by agricultural experts of both societies. Projections predicted a fivefold increase in food production; within a year not only would surpluses be at the highest level ever, but an equal amount could be put into cargo ships and exported to other planets (as soon as they found a suitable market). And there was a huge amount of arable land as yet untapped.
Meanwhile, the engineers and technicians of both cultures were having holy revelations in rapid cascades.
The archives of Botany Bay had the procedures for creating the substance called 'myomer', the material that made giant Mechs possible, but the world lacked the facilities to create it. Now the first myomer production facilities would be online in a week, built by Kobolian robotic industry, and the Kobolian engineers were agog at the possibilities of the muscle-fiber-like material. All their robotics used motors and hydraulics and magnetics; even the Cylons built themselves in that fashion. Now, the vast simplification of designs and control systems that myomer made possible opened entire new horizons in the construction of vehicles and tools and even large buildings.
The Kobolians' force field technology was no less a wonder to the Botaneans. Kobolian force fields took high-energy effects and spread them out on a quantum level throughout a volume. These were used most dramatically to protect their military vehicles, but they were also used in their reactors and weapons to control overheating. This was how a Viper could hold massive-output power plants and naval-battery-output weapons without cooking the pilot alive. Replacing huge heat sinks and insulators with a few kilos of energy conduits radically altered the designs for every large vehicle, device, and system.
Similar epiphanies were taking place in medical arts with Kobolian enhancements and regenerators and the records of old Inner Sphere bionics technology; in the computer sciences with the Kobolian programming skills matched with Star League neural-net-architecture systems; and in a variety of other fields.
And Kobolian robotics technology was combining with the untapped resources of Botany Bay to change these new technologies into factories and industries, even as teachers educated a workforce to work with these technologies.
It was a good time to be alive.
City of Hope
Planet Erewhon, Coreward Periphery
November 21, 2999 AD
Erewhon was a rich world as unallied Periphery planets went. It had a small factory complex left over from the Star League that allowed the production of a variety of useful items. Some of these included autocannon ammunition, Short-Range Missile loadouts, and a reasonably-priced knockoff brand of Durallax vehicle armor, as well as a variety of electronics systems.
This made Erewhon a popular place in the pirate-infested Periphery, as well as a common stop for parties in the war-torn Lyran Commonwealth and Draconic Combine who didn't want their military purchases easily traced. This kept Erewhon reasonably safe from pirates, as the pirates kept each other in check to keep their supply routes open.
Johann Frankenstein was not really named Frankenstein. It was the traditional name of whoever led the 'mercenary company' called Frankenstein's Monsters. Of course, this organization had as much resemblance to a mercenary company as a rabid Terran timber wolf had to a pure-bred Maltese. But saying 'pirate' out loud on Erewhon was Bad Manners.
His meal had been exquisite, the wine had been delectable, and he enjoyed the sunset on the dining balcony of the most expensive hotel on the planet. And in his bedchambers a young lady was waiting, trembling in ... some emotion. He didn't care which.
A steward brought a telephone on a tray. "Sir, it's your office."
With a gracious nod he picked it up. "Frankenstein."
"This is Helle," his quartermaster answered. "We have a new contract for autocannon propellant. And the warehouses are empty."
"Oh. It's that time already? How long to preparations are complete?"
"A day or so."
"Excellent. I'll meet you at the Gargoyle in the morning."
As he hung up, a smile crossed Johann's face. He had a good life here. But a vital part of that life was the bread-and-butter of Frankenstein's Monsters - the Triangle Run. And it was during that run that he felt the most alive.
Seven days out to jump-point, two hyperspace jumps, and six days in to a little world called Botany Bay. They had just enough armament to make a landing exciting. Spend a few weeks collecting some thousands of slaves, with all the joys of fighting guerillas and slave-collecting. Each had their own sublime pleasures.
Then six days out, three hyperspace jumps, and eight days in to Apollo. The former capital of the Republic was a hub for what little legitimate traffic still went through this area of the Periphery, as well as being an excellent location to convert loot into money for the unit, and ale and whores for the men. The slave markets were always busy, and often the slaves could be traded directly for raw materials.
After a couple of weeks of business, eight days out, two hyperspace jumps, and seven days in and home again. Four months all told, and the warehouses would be full again of raw materials to sell to the manufactories of Erewhon for the next few years, freelancing his forces on the side for pety cash and to keep from getting rusty. Even with the upkeep of two JumpShips, half a dozen DropShips, five ASFs, and five lances of Battlemechs, as well as a hundred infantry, it was still a good profit.
He was hoping there hadn't been too much poaching in the seven years since his last visit to Botany Bay. He liked it when they struggled helplessly.
That thought reminded Johann of the young lady waiting in his room. He left a modest tip at the table and headed inside, whistling.
It was a good life.