Colonisation fleets: Successful, semi-successful, and completely unsuccessful

Colonisation fleets: Successful, semi-successful, and completely unsuccessful

Given the generally cold (and occasionally fissionable-hot) relationship between most of the humanoid governments and the Cortii, it may not be immediately obvious that there were Cortiian units on a lot of the early colony ships. And then, if you think about it a bit more…humanoid governments had been hiring Cortii to do their dirty work since long before the colonisation waves, and dealing with new things is inherently risky. Having some heavily-armed, survival-trained, and cynically-minded mercenaries aboard to drop out of the airlock first can pre-empt so many problems.

‘A testing environment solves many problems.’~Training of a Cortiian

Ships and stations

Initially, there were the interstellar drives – sub-lightspeed, because lightspeed, increase in mass to infinity, etc., etc. From whichever of the Central Worlds was the original homeworld (no one really wants to solve that argument), exploration ships took the long trip at somewhere between half and two-thirds of light-speed to other rocky planets in the original solar system, and set up bases, experimented with air scrubbing, water recycling, and food production until they got good at it, and finally took the sideways step into terraforming – with more and less successful results.

From there, with a lot of the basic experimentation done, colony ships were sent to nearby solar systems. Since absolutely no one really wants to settle once and for all which of the four Central Worlds was ‘the’ Central World, stick a finger in the hologram on whichever you like. Those ships also had Cortiians aboard.

At some point after that, researchers stopped banging their heads on trying to solve infinite mass versus propulsion, and had a breakthrough that resulted in point-to-point travel, or as it’s more commonly known, deepspace drive.

This resulted in the First Colonisation Fleet, which would fall firmly into the ‘unsuccessful’ category of colonisation attempts.

‘In the hands of a fool are all things foolish.’~Sayings of the Wise

The First Colonisation Fleet

Given primitive humanoids and their tendency to breed indiscriminately, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that a lot of the incentive behind the development of the original deepspace drive was to solve a massive overpopulation problem. Population-wide contraception actually preceded it by a few generations, but by that point all the Central Worlds were pretty much teetering on the point of not being able to support their populations.

With the advent of the deepspace drive came another massive incentive: hail conquering heroes, go forth and be granted as much surface space as you can possibly manage. The governments of the time didn’t need to resort to deportations – they had more volunteers than they could build hulls and suspension tanks for. Private initiatives sprang up across Central space, building deepspace ships and offering space aboard.

Records of the time, given the sheer numbers of parties involved, are contradictory, but somewhere between six hundred and thirteen hundred experimental ships vanished into deepspace over a period of a hundred years, each carrying several hundred to several thousand aboard.

Even some of these had Cortii aboard, due largely to hazard bonuses and pre-payment contracts. Even the healthiest culture of cynicism is soluble in enough credit.

However, given experimental drives and the fact that the numbers of ships leaving Central Space in every direction vastly exceeded the number of planets about which long-distance research and exploratory probes had more to say then ‘we’re pretty sure there is something there’, only a fraction of that First Colonial Fleet actually resulted in stable, high-tech colonies.

Miners and scout ships in remote locations still occasionally trip over drifting wrecks, and first contact teams have discovered several humanoid populations on outer-system planets with some interesting gaps in their fossil records, a really big impact crater, or stories of ships that carried wisdom from a distant land.

‘Coincidence is the crutch of optimism.’~Training of a Cortiian

The Second Colonial Expansion

…might fall into the semi-successful category. Much better controlled, with destinations that at least rated a definite maybe on being terraformable, or stable enough to support a station habitat, twenty systems were selected for the initial wave, reconnoitred on a detail level, and finally approved for colonisation.

Not to mention, the deepspace drive had had a couple more centuries of fine-tuning. All twenty ships made it, one got blown away by defences the probes had missed, two turned out to be station prospects rather than terraforming prospects, but overall it worked. Most of those twenty ships carried one or more Cortii aboard.

In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that the defences the probes had missed were in fact Base Zero; the Cortii had a sizeable fleet of their own and substantially less bureaucracy. The Central Worlds government declined to believe that there was a Cortiian base already in the system, but their ship went in heavily armed nonetheless. In the event, not nearly heavily enough.

Those colonies, in turn, spread, and split over time into the various political factions that form the basis of current Cortiian employment – pardon me, today’s civilisation.

Interview with a Cortiian

Interview with a Cortiian

A Cortiian and an author sit on the side of a large fountain… (not the start of a bad joke)

J C Steel: Nice touch of paranoia.

Anst an Nabat: It’s a nice fountain. Care to tell me why I’m here?

JCS: I take it Khyria delegated.

AAN: She mentioned something about this being an assignment I should be able to handle alone.

JCS: Ouch. One unarmed human asking questions. Nice burn. I told her the people who read our stories like sound-bites. Interviews. You’re who turned up.

AAN: …Interviews. Not that I don’t enjoy your company, but what am I going to tell you that isn’t already in one of the books? I’ve lost count of how many indiscreet confessions you must be privy to by now.

JCS: It’s a thing. Not a thing I really understand, but what I understand about book marketing could go on the back of a postage stamp and leave lots of room. Try this one: what does Cantara rank mean, in the Cortii?

AAN: Seriously? A Cantara commands five riders, or a Canta. They report directly to the Cortiora when the whole Cortia is present, or operate independently when necessary.

JCS: And the Cortiora and Cortertia technically also command Cantai of their own, right? Any special roles within that structure?

AAN: Cortiora holds overall command. Cortertia is second in command, and traditionally responsible for information-gathering. It’s not a hard and fast rule. Third Cantara mostly takes responsibility for standard training and evaluations. Fourth Cantara tends to be the social one – generally something like this would be a Fourth Cantara’s problem. Fifth Cantara is flexible. Often mission requisitions, supplies, and stray bureaucracy.

JCS: What’s the oddest thing about Earth, to you, Anst?

AAN: Do you want the list alphabetically? … I assume you don’t mean the things it has in common with almost every other human-governed world I’ve seen. Probably the levels of environmental damage. Even the most over-populated Central Worlds would be surprised by the scale.

JCS: So you’d be even more surprised to hear that there’s a sizeable amount of the population that prefers to believe that man-made environmental damage is a myth.

AAN: Actually, denial is common human trait, so no, not particularly.

JCS: Favourite Earth food to eat?

AAN: Roquefort cheese. It’d be considered a biological hazard on more advanced worlds, so I can honestly say it’s got a unique taste.

JCS: …could you have picked something a little harder to spell? Not a question. Can you tell me something about your name?

AAN: It was computer-assigned when I was recruited, based on my ID code. It sounds Kihali, but Hejj’in’s a big swathe of space.

JCS: Any plans to go?

AAN: To Hejj’in? It’s a long way from FPA space. I’m more curious about Atari, if I were planning to spend a lot of a leave on a space liner.

JCS: Why Atari?

AAN: It’s not FPA space, there are some interesting stories about Atari worlds, I haven’t been there yet – pick one.

JCS: Favourite thing to do in your free time?

AAN: Be transported halfway across the galaxy for a chat about cheese.

JCS: …arsehole. Anything else?

AAN: I enjoy riding. Horses tend to be undemanding company.

JCS: Anyone taking bets yet on when or if someone’s going to make first move for an official First Contact on Earth?

AAN: I’m sure they are, but anyone with a standard lifespan isn’t likely to be around to collect. The Nasdari and the FPA are unusually unanimous on letting someone else step in on this planet.

JCS: What are the main concerns for an alien government?

AAN: There’s a list. Geo-political instability, if I had to guess, would be near the top. You’ve got a lot of little countries, and no real single place where a First Contact team could set down without being shot at, or where negotiations could begin without offending some other minor government. The shooting wouldn’t worry the Nasdari, but stopping it would take time and credits with no real return on investment in sight.

JCS: Right. Is anyone else likely to step in?

AAN: Not that we know of, but the universe is a big place. The more likely alternate scenario is that you bomb yourselves out of existence and both the FPA and the Nasdari blow thrusters trying to stake a claim first.

JCS: Hah. Yeah, that scenario is amassing more and more voters. What fact about the Cortii do you think would surprise most humans?

AAN: …sometimes I can go minutes at a time without planning how to kill them.

JCS: Funny. Try this one: what do you think about the way your character is written in the series?

AAN: I’m really not that narcissistic. You probably write me as more patient than I actually am.

JCS: OK, poor choice of question. What do you think of how the Cortii in general are written?

AAN: Given how very few facts we can let you actually publish, I’d say you’ve captured it with a certain nasty accuracy.

JCS: What do you think of writing, as an art form?

AAN: It’s not one I’m very familiar with. If anything I do ends up written down, it tends to be reports. Cortiians in general tend towards more physical art forms, if they practice one at all. I’m getting to the point where I can appreciate what you do, but reading as a pastime isn’t something I’d be likely to indulge in on Base.

JCS: Speaking of, I’m not too sure on interview protocol, but standard North American attention span is currently rated at about 6 seconds, so we’d better wrap this up.

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