We were three, summoned by the company to chart off reaches of the farthest quadrants, in search of undiscovered wealth. After signing our contract, wherein we were obliged with whom we could trade in company secrets, we were given a name. And with that name, a place where was last said to be the man. The place, itself three parsecs distant, lay beyond the light of the twin suns deep in the nebula of Orisus, the furthest reaches known, where remnants of worlds and civilizations long extinct, pulsed profits of dark planets harboring deep deposits of deuritium ore.
Ore freighters, their charts carefully set off the main shipping lanes, made wake to the dark places where slaves fetched them full cargos. Bellies filled, they’d ferry back to galactic shippers traveling along way points that dotted the shipping lanes. Ships destined for civilizations and worlds where wealth, gotten by the short lived lives and broken backs of men and slaves throughout the galaxy, was realized.
Ours was to partake our share of the wealth, and be spared death and the breaking of backs. Especially our own.
Among the way-points, places run by men concerned with the details of which made other men wealthy, we found Marley. Guided by a sailors instinct and luck, we found him, hard, grizzled, still counting his days, and wishing to keep to himself, spare for the occasional fellow sailor who shared with him their paycheck in way of a cold brew. Being fresh off our ship, we obliged him in a bar, nearly as dark as space itself, looking out over the vast void. A fellow company man by past trade, it took little prodding, and few drinks before Marley cozily began telling us his experience with the company, and the dark outer reaches. He took a long pull of his brew, set down the mug, looked out the port to space and began to talk.
“If you go there, you best be taking your notion of God and salvation with ya. Cause your God and death should concern you less than living in fear of things you can’t imagine that await, that you can’t see until you realize that the choice of death itself may harbor better rewards than what life would be should you live it. Colonization, that is, the taking of things from those who may be of different face, belief or love of your own, is never very pretty when it’s looked on at length. These heathens, the savages you find, really not much different than you and maybe even I, except we were first to know power which they’d not yet fathomed, these people of which taking from would become so common. Imagine if you will, your own early earth history, the Roman armadas, their captains being sent north, past the Gallic reaches, and onto the lands of the Barbarians. Would you think that the situation is any different than you have today. That you were one day considered Barbarians? It’s not now, and it wasn’t then. Men have always come from afar to civilize the beast of the lands. All the while, taking in plunder any riches they find and putting asunder all the lives of men who will not yield to the power before them.
“This was the situation we had found ourselves in when the reaches had not yet been charted by man, and he first took to deep space. Nothing had been learned then, nothing is learned now. The difference is our paths have crossed, and are now, it seems, inseparable in our shame.
“When I was a boy I fancied I’d be a sailor of space one day. I’d stretch my hands across the maps of the systems, then nothing but large dark spaces with pinpoints of lights of photos taken from great distance existed on them, numbered in sequence in order to make easy their cataloging. There were no names, the places remained mysterious, unattainable and unreachable. But I knew I would one day venture forth, and lay my own claim to these places, I knew that I would find light in the darkness, new worlds, and new wealth.
“Out of this darkness, I first came to know the ways of the company.
“As a child, I was schooled in the ways of navigation, propulsion and shipbuilding. It was a sailors life for me, I knew it from the beginning, though my family was not of the sailing line. Merchants all of them. Small fortunes perhaps, and within our own realm we were well known. So it made sense in a way that I, their second eldest child, should take to it the procurement of resources in shipping by which we could make our family way. So my father saw to it that I was brought up in the right fashion of a sailor, and had the right schooling for a sailors life. In my early years, I came to know many who had traveled, and I listened intently their stories of adventure, and on occasion, horror.
“It was the best schools that could be afforded for me. And in the end, it paid with dividends. I landed an early command in the merchant fleet as a junior navigation officer. Heady I was with excitement, as we would be among the first to reach past our own known boundaries, and press across the dark voids and begin to fill in those little pinpoints of light on the charts with names instead of numbers.
“It was in Orisus, this very system, where my encounter with the company would begin.”
And so our journey begins.