Pax Sine Iustitia
Present: Terri, Maer, Bobby, Jay and Tony
Air Date: 23 Jun 2009
Friday, 18 Aug 2519
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
11:30 hrs, local time
In the four days since making landfall, we’ve done what we could to set up a more secure encampment, make what repairs are most needed, and lick our wounds. Christian and Rina are the worst off as they’d suffered the most damage. Not that it slows Rina down much, determined as she is to get through the repair work. In fact, Arden has to slap a patch on her to get her to sleep and heal. He straps her down and force two days’ bed-rest on her. Christian voluntarily does the same. Thanks to the sedatives and the mandatory rest, Rina gains back some of her strength lost to stun damage, but her shoulder wound isn’t healing as it should—she’s cheated on Arden’s orders too much. Since we are up against the wall and the repairs are necessary, she plows on despite.
She has reason to be jumpy. There’s no telling if the G-23 Paxilon hydrochlorate added to the atmo plants is still active, if we will suffer the same fate as the resident Mirandans 12 years ago. Furthermore, there’s the risk of contracting disease. The once-inhabited areas of Miranda are literally carpeted with the bodies of the dead in various states of preservation and decay. No telling if the ground is safe to walk on, or if the water safe to drink because of any lingering residue or run-off from the dead. There is the cold hard fact that we do not have enough supplies to stay indefinitely even if the air, ground and water are safe. After 12 years, very little in the way of canned food lying on Miranda will be safe for consumption and anything fresh or frozen will have long since gone. Until Rick has had a chance to study what flora and fauna still live here, we do not even know if we can live off the land.
We must get off Miranda if we’re to survive.
And yet, we have unfinished business before we can go. The matter of Pala and the hurricane that hovers over it is something we must somehow deal with. Rina has already supervised the removal of the remote hardware from the Gift’s shuttle, returning it to Nika’s control. We plan to fly the shuttle to the island and assuming we can navigate through the storm, we will investigate further what we can find there.
There are plenty of things to discover right here on the mainland, too. Ships, for one, left behind by their owners as they succumbed to the Pax. Lots are still in useable shape, and we ruthlessly scav them for parts. We find trace amounts of fuel, some parts, and materials for repairs. We briefly consider repairing one of them and exchanging it for the Gift, gaining a more advanced model of craft…but we’ve fallen in love with our old girl and the idea of abandoning her is tabled.
The ships on the ground have been scavenged pretty heavily—by whom we don’t examine too closely. The less we’re reminded of Reavers the better. And grim though the subject is, we decide on a course of action should any of us turn Reaver. Arden is pretty much immune to the Pax and we tell him to kill us the second we show signs of having been Turned. That’s assuming we don’t somehow kill him first.
Jake, meanwhile, has the singular distinction of being the first cameraman on Miranda after the disaster and he’s getting a ton of good footage. Abandoned world, dead cities, stuff preserved or decaying as fate decrees. Unseen by human eyes, untrod by human feet, it’s all virgin territory.
It’s a media journalist’s wet dream.
Rick takes as much time as he can to investigate the area, studying the animal and plant life, running tests on the water and air—determining what’s safe and what’s not. If we’re unsuccessful in getting off Miranda, that knowledge will be crucial in our continued survival.
Jake accompanies Rick out into the field, for both the footage and safety—no one goes out in-country without a buddy, or without a weapon or a comm. Until we know how safe the area is, we treat it as a hostile environment.
The survivors we rescued off the Independent ship are still breathing, still with us, and something of a worry. Their minds and emotions are fragile and certainly taking them straight from the horror of their ship to the horror of Miranda cannot be doing them any favors. Yet they are alive, and that’s not nothing. As the days progress, they come out of their traumatized shells enough to start helping us with very simple tasks. It gives them something constructive to do and it allows us to keep an eye on them while we work. By the time we leave for Pala, they’ve recovered enough to feed and care for themselves and rather risk taking them with us to the island, we make sure that they have what they need to survive if we don’t manage to come back. It’s not much, considering our resources, but it’s better than nothing.
We work like fiends for the four days after our landing. We get our shuttle back to its original flight condition, with Nika doing most of the work and Rina supervising to save her arm. Rina gives the repairs a green light and we take off for Pala.
We finally figured out to use the neutrino detector in our approach to the island and wiring it to our sensors, we can see there is a weird twisting tunneling path through the storm and not having much in the way of alternatives, Nika flies us through it.
It’s a rough ride, requiring constant finessing by both pilot and engineer, and despite their best efforts, the storm gains the upper hand, inflicting enough damage that our landing is more crash than controlled. The impact fades, the dust settles and we gather ourselves up and step off the shuttle onto terra firma incognita.
We step out into an island paradise. Sunny skies, despite the clouds, sandy beaches, gentle breezes. The surf roars to one side, the jungle growth opposite cheeps and chatters with animal life. Two figures emerge from the green and as we blink in the light of day, they resolve into two children, no more than seven or eight years of age. They are near naked, clothed in loincloths, healthy-looking and unafraid of our sudden appearance.
“Hello,” they say.
And thus begins our surreal introduction to the inhabitants of Pala.
The children are an odd mixture of innocence and experience, educated and ignorant, as talking to them on the way to their village makes clear. What is also clear is we are not the first to fall out of the sky in their lifetime: they tell us another ship crashed here several months ago and unlike our own ship, theirs is at the bottom of the sea. Suspicions rise and are confirmed quite soon after our arrival, when Harbinger’s crew shows up to greet us with the rest of the colonists. Brian, Shyla, Harrington, Hank, Pei-Ling, their pilot Go Mifuni….Jason….Amazingly and against all reasonable expectation, they are all alive and well and it’s an unexpected homecoming for Nika.
And an unexpected embarrassment for Brian. In the months since his stranding here, he’s acquired a native lover and seeing Nika as he has the other woman on his arm makes for a rather uncomfortable moment for him. His lover has no such problems. Instead, she’s overjoyed to meet Nika and her friends at last and her bubbly enthusiasm does much to smooth things over. Her behavior is only the first of many surprises.
The colonists first arrived over 40 years ago, setting up Pala as a secret get-away for their small group. The first-comers engineered the HAARP mechanism that maintains the artificial (but deadly) hurricane over the island to hide Pala and her inhabitants from outside interference. Shielded from view, protected from others, the original inhabitants lived on quite nicely thank you, spreading out over Pala and increasing in number til at our landing there were about a dozen settlements and close to three thousand people there. Of the Palans, the rest of Miranda’s population hadn’t a clue….and that’s exactly the way the Palans liked it. They were a smallish colony and they liked it that way, thank you very much.
Their numbers got a significant boost years ago when Arden’s crèche arrived. Or rather, crashed. The Paxing of Miranda had come and gone by then and the effects were mitigated by the HAARP, though some of the original inhabitants were Reaverized and had to be put down, while others died from the extreme deadening of free will. Those that survived met the newcomers and took them in, integrating them into their society…and into their gene pool. Children of such unions were neither Human or Altered, but Hybrid. And as the years after the Pax progressed it became clear that there were definite advantages to being Altered or Hybrid.
The initial application of Pax to Miranda had the disastrous effect as documented by Dr. Caron’s team and as later revealed by the Miranda Wave. What no one was able to record were the aftereffects. The Pax dissipated, losing its strength over time and now, though weakened, it still has the ability to affect those living on the planet.
It occurs in waves, as a meterological event the Palans call “Calm Seas”. The fully human inhabitants are gripped with extreme lassitude, and were it not for the invulnerability of the Altered creche to the Pax, or the partial invulnerability they’ve passed on to their Hybrid children, the original Human settlers would have died out to a man. Everyone on Pala soon developed a sense for the Calm Seas and can tell in advance when the next event will descend on the island. There is enough time to get everyone affected settled with a caretaker for the duration, the event arrives and everyone waits for it to pass.
The Calm Seas recedes and the Humans and Hybrids recover. Multiple exposures to the event causes memory loss, however, and its effect has far-reaching consequences.
For instance, the original colonists had arrived with Core tech to make Pala as cushy as they could want. Over the intervening years and waves of Calm Seas, the desire and the knowledge to maintain complicated technological machines faded and while the standard of living is not Pre-Industrial, there is less tech than what one would expect of a modern society. Health care infrastructure is pretty simple, but educational resources are surprisingly high. Stranded on a tropical island, the children still yet know the story of their origins, the world their ancestors left behind, and reasonable know-how to fix what remains of the tech they still have.
The gaps in the knowledge and memories of the elder colonists are a combination of the deliberate and the imposed, and the society that emerged is neither the cultured Core nor the rough-and-tumble Rim…but somewhere in between. Technical knowledge is forgotten for those machines and systems that are out of place or out of synch with Pala. There is little point in knowing how to fix a Cortex box when one has no access or signal to acquire, shielded from both by the HAARP. What need do the inhabitants have of wombats and the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, when neither live on the island? Lawsuits, sit-coms and taxi cabs are alien and irrelevant and their existence fades in the consciousness of the islanders. Physical objects are the first to go, then as the years add up, more intangibles join the pile of Unneedful Concepts. With certain exceptions, memories of Life Before Pala fade and are left unrecorded so as not to induce a pining for them in subsequent generations. Awareness of religion is more fable than faith, and the islanders seem happy despite the lack of congregation and ceremony. Life and death of animals and people are matter of factly dealt with, with practicality and lack of sentimentality dominating. Matters of serious illness are cause for effort toward a cure, yet less of regret for the suffering involved. A person either recovers or succumbs, as circumstances decree. Mores are relaxed or become irrelevant and there are several instances where the crew trip over the differences, sometimes with hilarious results.
Sex is one of those areas that underwent an attitudinal change and so Brian finds himself between two women, the native who thinks nothing of a three-way or partner sharing to be odd or uncomfortable, and the spacer who cannot quite get her head around her lover’s settling down with one woman—island beauty or no.
Christian keeps his ears and eyes open, as a Companion he finds everything very educational, and he also opens his arms to Harry, who seems happy to step into them. Arden and Nika retreat for alone-time in the picture postcard setting, with moonlight walks on the beach and private moments spent out of sight elsewhere. Rick and Jake explore the delights offered by the colonists. And Rina steers clear of any emotional or physical entanglements and spends as much time as she can repairing the shuttle. The work is a great distraction from what she’s missing and she dives into it gratefully.
She’s not alone. The two children who met the crew on arrival tag along with Rina during the repairs, alternately surprising her with their mechanical savvy and annoying her with their constant questions about what she’s doing. After one long winded query from the boy of the pair about metallurgy and friction on atmospheric re-entry and the composition of the hull, she loses her patience and declares the Shuttle is sheathed in the rare metal "Unobtaniun" and refuses to answer anything else for the time being.
God, but she really really REALLY wishes she and the crew were off this tropical sandbox.
And that is a matter that needs to be resolved with Harbinger’s crew. They’ve been marooned—however pleasantly—on Pala and have suffered one Calm Seas already. The longer they stay, the more their urge to leave weakens. It’s only a matter of time before they forget their original purpose and sink into Palan life, never to emerge. Shyla and Harry and Go Mifuni want to leave with us when the shuttle’s repaired. Pei-Ling, Hank, Jason and the others wish to stay. Brian is on the fence—he’ll leave, but not before he extracts a promise from Nika to regularize their relationship. If she won’t commit to him, he’s got no reason to follow her and Summer's Gift into the Black. Nika hedges, saying she’ll negotiate the agreement once they all get free of Pala. Brian agrees.
Over the four days we spend on Pala, there is a large amount of catching up on old times, a filling in of new ones, and visiting between the Gift’s crew and the Harbinger’s. Harry is coaxed out of her hut on the island heights to join us, and later remains in Christian’s company. A trip to the HAARP is planned, the facility being virtually the only thing originally installed and left unaltered, its attendants trained in its maintenance in their pursuit to keep the island safe and hidden. Though it’s an interesting trek up the highest mountain on Pala, and the HAARP itself is interesting in its own right, the answers we came to Pala for are down below in the history and the lives of the colonists. We thank the islanders for the tour and make ready to leave the next day.
During our goodbyes to old crew and new friends, Go Mifuni ambushes Brian and attempts to steal the shuttle. He shoots Brian in the gut when we rush him and sets off an incindiary device just as Christian takes Go out with a flash bang. Brian grabs Go’s device and tosses it clear of the others, suffering blast damage and burns as a result. The rest of us get hit by the backwash and Brian dies. We revive him and take off for the mainland and the Gift. We reach our bivouac and fire up the best hospital facility we can find and Arden starts working on Brian to keep him alive.
The situation is as follows: we’ve got a badly burned and possibly brain-amaged Brian hanging on by a thread, but alive thanks to Arden’s hard work and vigilence; Harry and Shyla are helping the rest of us repair the Gift to make her spaceworthy enough to get off Miranda and to take Brian Coreside for the medical help he needs. The repairs will take four months and meanwhile the Universe is still spinning and the consequences of our actions remain to be seen.
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