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The Outerworlds formed the Federation because they had to. At least, that's the "official" story. A Distant Stars tale.
Excerpt from Nexus Point: The Eve of a New Age by Jana Liu
Thirty years ago, if you told someone that Outworlders would one day build a space station between the great empires of Planetia and Mantora, they would probably laugh. That the resource-poor, technologically backward, fractured nations somehow gain enough will to do this and form a Federation? That this station, Nexus Point, will become one of the most important pieces of real estate in the whole sector and remain free of Mantoran and Planetian manipulation? An absolute miracle.
Yet, all of this happened.
Jeremiah Hacksaw was the man behind it all: The Federation and Nexus Point. A grizzled veteran of Outerworld politics, he was there from the beginning. He saw Prixma rise from one of the poorest backwaters in the Outerworlds to the center of the Federation today.
He was also an eccentric. He believed Mantora had spies in the Outerworlds with bug-like robots that could extract data from brains, and that "metal heads" (Planetians) were secretly building bases inside asteroids. When I reminded him that these asteroids were not fit for human habitation, Jeremiah said: "They're not human, innit?"
This was why my interview was not recorded on any device. They were painstakingly hand-written by my assistant who created a coded shorthand that only he could decipher. Even then, these had to be scanned by security and only released to us when we departed Prixma. When I asked him why I was granted the interview when he had turned down a dozen others, he said: "My wife made me do it."
Jeremiah was made the first Commander of Nexus Point just a month ago. Although the who's who of Mantora and Planetia raised their collective eyebrows at this, no one in the Outerworlds blinked.
Despite his eccentric ways, Jeremiah was a skilled strategist who helped the Outerworlds thwart every attempt to sink the formation of the Federation. Somehow, he had the prophetic insight to evade every tactic, buyout, or traitor that Mantora or Planetia threw at the Outerworlds. Who better to run the most strategic and important space port in the entire sector?
Transcript - Commander Jeremiah Hacksaw
Nexus Point, Outerworlds
How does it feel to be the first Commander of this historic space station?
I'm tired. I want to hibernate for a thousand years but they stuck me with this job so I guess I need to stay awake a bit longer.
You don't sound happy to be made the commander of Nexus Point.
It's been a long 30 years, damn it. I don't need a new job, I need a beach villa. Now ask me something worth answering.
All right, then. How did it all begin? How did you manage to convince the Outerworlds to form a Federation and build Nexus Point?
That's a faerking loaded question and you're talking as if the Council don’t exist. I was a farmer's kid when these people were dicing with Planetians and Mantorans. What the faerk do I know about uniting anything besides seedlings with the earth?
But Councillor Brevan said that it was "all your idea".
Brevan is a dipshit with a big mouth and he's exaggerating. Besides, it wasn't my idea. It was that guy's.
That ... guy?
Yeah, well. Nobody talks about that guy. Nobody really likes to think that the idea of him even exists.
Why is the idea of him uncomfortable?
Maybe we should stop right here. (He gets up to leave.)
Wait! All right, we won't talk about him. Promise! What would you like to talk about instead?
(He sits down.) It's not that I am scared of him, you know? But I don't like claiming credit for things that I'm not responsible for. That's stealing.
Right, of course. Why don't we go back to the time before the Federation and Nexus station? What was it like back then?
(He snorts.) Faerking awful. Between Mantora squeezing every microcredit out of us with everything they've got, we've got Planetia on the other side snarling each time we did anything "nice" for Mantora.
That accusation itself was faerking insulting! Did you think we liked the soft-bellied, fancy Mantorans? Faerk no! It's called doing business!
And when they had their stupid scuffles they used our backyard—faerk, sometimes frontyards—as battlegrounds. Without askin’! Cannot scuffle up their precious planets so they come here, where it don't matter—to them! So no, it was shit awful, that's what it was like, young lady. You kids growing up with all these comforts don't remember what it was like. But we do and that's why we knew we needed a damn Federation.
But talk of building a Federation to unite the Outerworlds has been going on for more than a century. None of them were ever productive. What made this time different?
Well. (He looks uncomfortable again.) Maybe it was the last straw of last straws. It was a really bad time, that cycle. The crops were dying from some disease, and then whatever crops that survived were blasted away by a Mantoran Planetian skirmish. Prixma was sick and tired of it all.
But what can we do? Our “capital city” was just a dirt road with two dozen tin shacks lining the road. Our flitters were 20 years old. Our space transports even older. We were the butthole of the sector. The kid that everyone picked on in the dirt yard. We looked like we just got off the great old ships that brought us to this galaxy. And you know what? That's not far off from the truth. As soon as Mantora Corp landed on Mantora Prime, my ancestors scooted out of there with their rust bucket mining ship and founded their little empire—Prixma. We just never really unpacked our bags from that trip, you know? Faerk, we even spoke like old Earthers cos all we had were old Earth entertainment and education reels. That's our "school".
But anyway, Brevan was a loud-mouthed dick even back then. Somehow got himself elected Chief of the town. That terrible time when they wiped out all our crops? His kid didn't make it. Starved. He had this genetic disease, see... something about needing more food than other people or something.
I'm sorry to hear that.
Yeah. Kids dying? It happened a lot back then in the Outerworlds. But it wasn't just Brevan's kid that year. Lots of other kids. Including my Daisy. She was just two. I was just a young dad, just 19. But she was my everything back then.
Oh, I'm ...
Whatever. But I think that was what did it. Still remember that night. We were all at the bar. We were pissed off. No, not pissed off. Red with rage. Why? Cos we turned to Mantora, our "trade partner", for help. You know, for all the favours we did for them in the past?
They thanked us by jacking up the price for seeds 50%. Shitty, clone seeds that produced no seeds, so we had to keep buying from them forever.
I remember being in that bar, watching Brevan yelling that we needed to work together with the other colonies to do something, that somehow Mantora sickened our crops so they could sell those gene-faerked seeds, and all the women and men were yelling and calling him stupid. And then I saw my wife Leah in the corner holding Daisy's little doll and something in me just broke. Told them to shut the faerk up and listen to Brevan or more Daisies will go the next cycle.
Maybe that's what got into his head that this was all my idea.
What happened next?
They yelled at me this time. Said that Mantora was gonna shut off all our supplies and then what were we going to do? Turn to the Planetians who will turn us into metal heads or harvest our organs for parts? At least with those gene seeds we get to eat. Corp slave or not.
I yelled back, but they weren't listening then, all scared for their kids. "You don't have kids to worry about now. But we do." Oh boy, I wanted to kill some of them. Probably would've if he hadn't walked in.
(He nodded.) That man.
What did he say?
This guy in a fancy suit, walked to the front of the room like he owned it, and said that we had 20 days before everyone on Prixma dies.
That's quite an entrance.
Scared us enough to make us go quiet. Come to think of it, it's amazing we even heard him with all the yelling that was going on.
How did he know that everyone was going to die?
He said some math shit I don't get, but basically, our food supply was gonna last us two days, and we've got 18 days before we die of starvation and thirst.
Some of them said that they were gonna leave the colony. And the man said that we didn't have enough fuel to get to the nearest continent, so forget about flying to another planet.
I thought every colony had a system to ensure that never happened?
Well, the last Planetian-Mantoran skirmish wiped out our fuel repository. But the Council didn't tell anyone that, but that man knew.
Now that we realised we were well and truly faerked, we just stared at each other and then at him.
What did he do?
He said we had one way out. Of course, we thought, a-ha, here's the catch. He's some Mantoran shill offering us discounted fuel as long as we offered him our kids or something.
But he didn't.
Nope. Said there was a stash of volamite under Mount Rush and it's our way out. And just walked out.
Wait, he told you where to find Prixma's most valuable export?
Glad you know your economics, kid. We went looking for that volamite. What the hell did we have to lose? And we found it. Faerk, enough to buy us new flitters, space transports, and a couple of new cities. Maybe a whole new planet! But once Mantora and Planetia found out we had volamite—
They started trading with Prixma?
Faerk no, they tried to steal it. Took all we had to button down the supply and protect the trade route with a little help from our Tsigane and Kanth friends. The Tsigane protected the skies, the Kanth defended the ground, that kind of thing. Eventually, everyone decided it was a good idea and pitched it.
That's right. Now I remember. That's how the Outworlders started banding together.
Yup. And then the Tsigane found their stash of valuable minerals and the rest is history. Mantora and Planetia, by then, were too busy fighting each other over some other thing and forgot about us. I suppose they figured out that trading with us was far easier than invading us. Or something.
(He grabs a bottle of liquor from his desk and pours me a glass. I decline.)
That's quite a story.
I wish that was the end of it. The problem was, we don't remember him right.
That man? What do you mean?
Two weeks ago, before Nexus went live, Brevan and the rest of the Council decided to clear out the old office. They're turning that building into a museum. For faerk's sake, a museum! Thirty years ago, it was the only solid building standing in that joke of a place we called a capital. Now? Tall, silver buildings everywhere. Flitters zig-zagging across the skies above us. Unbelievable. We've come so far to get to where we are, so it felt like the thing to do.
I went through the really old back room, the one that had seen the junk of countless councils, when I came across an old archive unit. Hundreds of years old, something they took from the ship. Built to withstand a nuclear explosion. And then I remembered what it was, it was a reel of images and videos taken from Old Earth. Something the old timers took from Earth to remember it. The elders used to play it with us kids to remind us where we came from.
I’m not sure how this answers my question.
I’m getting to it.
So there we were, a bunch of old men and women, watching the old reels in the room where we had argued and debated policy for years. We drank a bottle of fizzy and watched these long-dead men and women going about their lives on Old Earth. It was so beautiful, old Earth. Why the faerk did we leave it and what did we do to faerk it up? Because you know we did faerk it up bad to run away like the pussies we were.
Then, as we watched, one by one, we went quiet.
Brevan was the first one to say it. "Faerk, that’s him!”
And then everyone said, "You saw him too?"
And we went through every slide and frame. He was there, only he wasn't, really.
My "man" was an executive in a shiny old building somewhere called Beijing.
Brevan's man was a mechanic in a place called Philadelphia.
Daisy's "man" was a woman. A film star, dressed in the devil red gown she saw.
He was there. On old Earth. And somehow, we all saw him on Prixma, but he wore different faces from that old reel.
“That man” didn’t look the same to us. That night in the bar? I saw a man in a suit. Brevan saw an old man in a jump suit. What must Daisy have thought, seeing a woman in red sashay towards the front like some refugee out of Mantora?
Are you saying ... you saw someone from Old Earth? Standing there in the bar with all of you that night?
"Someone"? What the faerk did we see or spoke to that night? A faerking ghost from old Earth?
(He took a long gulp from his glass.)
Who the hell spoke to me all those times?
Wait, he came to all of you again?
(He shrugged.) Nah, just me. Faerk it, just me.
When did you see him next?
After that night in the bar, after we found that mineral deposit, I was resting at the shack next to the mine, just thinking about things. Then I heard footsteps. Turned around, and there he was, exactly like he looked that night.
See, after that night, we tried to find him. And that's when we realised that we all remembered him different. So, when he appeared to me that night, I knew that he wasn't a normal man. I told him to stand back, and demanded to tell me if he was a Mantoran spy or metal head.
What did he say?
He said, "Well, Mr. Hacksaw, if I was any of those, why would I be helping you?"
I said: "You're just dangling a treat in front of us until we fall into a mineshaft."
Then, he said: "Well, that's a really valid concern, Mr. Hacksaw," he said in his weird singsong accent. "But let me tell you something that will prove to you that I'm a friend."
What did he tell you?
(Jeremiah gives me a hard look.) It's classified.
I see. You said that he "always came to you". How many more times did he appear?
Five. (He shakes his head.) Each time he said something that helped us prevent a terrible disaster. So, each time I saw him I knew some serious shit was going to happen. Last time he appeared to me was five years ago right before Mantora decided to pull another fast one with the Federation. He hadn't aged a day. Same suit. Same grin. Same stupid accent.
Were you ever convinced that he wasn't a Mantoran or Planetian spy?
I don't know what the faerk he was, young lady. Thought he was a hologram once, and made the boys sweep miles of earth for any of those nano-tech things that Planetians used. Nothing.
Whatever he was. He ain't one of us.
One of us?
Human. He ain't human.
Wait. What makes you think he isn't human?
He knew exactly where I was each time. Prixma. A Tsigane ship. Faerk, I once found him sitting in my living room and he offered me a cup of coffee from faerking Sisteria. Human or not. He's got tech I've not seen before and...
(He falls silent.)
What... what is it?
He knew things I didn't tell nobody. Not even a single faerking soul. He knew what I was gonna say before I even thought it. And ... he knew about events that hadn’t happened yet.
Like the future.
Crazy? You bet. I got my brain checked out so many times the neuroexperts thought I needed a shrink. But each time I came out clean. But do you know what bugs me most about this? Not how he disappears and reappears. Not that he knew the future or where I was.
No, not even the fact that some mysterious "thing" was responsible for every pivotal event in the Outerworlds. It is that I can't answer two questions.
(He holds up two digits.)
One: Why is he helping us?
And two: What the faerk does he want with us?
(He raises his glass, a big grin on his face.)
Shit. This isn't getting out, is it?
THIS TRANSCRIPT HAS BEEN MARKED CLASSIFIED BY THE FEDERATION OF THE OUTERWORLDS
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