August 3rd 2022
Greetings, traveler. As enjoyable as the myriad sights and sounds of the universe are, we have found that it’s the people and the stories they tell that truly make our time here exceptional. We at the OBSERVIST LIFESTYLE are eager to provide an up close look at the unique souls that form the tapestry of our universe.
The six planets of the Pyro system spin under the livid glare of a volatile variable star, so life is difficult there on the best of days. The innermost planets are oppressively hot, while the outermost are deathly cold. There are almost no comfortable lodgings where you can spend the night, let alone safely park your ship. Detritus from fruitless terraforming attempts in the 26th century can be found floating in unexpected places, posing a persistent threat to the unprepared traveler. And at the heart of the system beats a star that unleashes hell whenever it flares. It is, in short, inhospitable.
Despite these obstacles – or perhaps in part because of them – Pyro has become a stronghold for pirates, fugitives, terrorists, and other kinds of people you wouldn’t want to run into while flying solo. Settlements abandoned when legitimate businesses fled the system have become hives of criminal activity. The largest of these is a former Pyrotechnic Amalgamated housing platform known among locals as Ruin Station. Its dilapidated halls are packed with squatters and black market dealers who eke a living outside the grasping hand of the law, but beneath the iron fist of whatever gang is in charge. Power struggles on the station are frequent, but violently anti-alien and anti-corporate terrorist group XenoThreat has been the reigning authority on Ruin Station – and thus Pyro – since 2947.
Since then, XenoThreat has used Pyro as a launch point for armed raids on their neighboring systems, especially the corporate-led Stanton system. While the Advocacy and Civilian Defense Force have thwarted XenoThreat’s attacks in the system, they have been unable to significantly hurt the organization. In fact, XenoThreat’s numbers seem to grow with each passing year. Experts say that as long as Pyro remains under their control, it is unlikely that the people of Stanton will see a respite from invasion anytime soon.
Madge Hartford, known as Dash to her friends, hopes to change that.
Inside M&V, the bar is packed from its fortified metal entrance to its neon-lit corners. It’s stuffy and smells of sweat from the press of bodies, but I breathe deep all the same, savoring the filtered air after walking for so long in the Hurston smog. People from ArcCorp, Hurston, Crusader, and even distant microTech have gathered in Lorville today to mix and mingle. A young man with an asymmetrical haircut and vividly-purple reflective sunglasses embraces another man in torn pants and scuffed boots, while at a nearby table three people in high-end suits converse in low voices with a woman in an old set of light armor. Against her hip she holds what appears to be a crumpled plastic bag.
A woman with gunmetal-gray hair spots me and waves me to the bar, where she stands with a glass of whiskey in her hand. I weave my way through the crowd, and when I arrive, she claps me on the back as if we’ve known each other for years.
“Glad you made it,” she says. She lifts one hand to signal the bartender. “Let’s get you a drink.”
This is a meeting of Citizens for Pyro, a concerned group of civilians who have taken it upon themselves to tame the adjoining outlaw system once and for all. What started five years ago as occasional forays into Pyro to hunt down criminals has grown into a full resettlement plan spearheaded by Hartford. A former accountant for Hurston Dynamics, she founded the group after her best friend Kyuwa Endicott was killed near the Pyro-Stanton jump point when a sudden firefight erupted between rival gangs.
“The Advocacy said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” She shakes her head. “‘Wrong place.’ ‘Wrong time.’ No. You can’t tell me that. He was exactly where he was supposed to be, in the system where he was born, flying the same cargo route he’d flown for eighteen years. They were in the wrong place. Not him.”
The bartender slides me a tepid beer, and I mount one of the rectangular stools at the far end of the bar, close to the booths. Hartford clinks her glass to mine before taking the seat next to me. The hazy red glow of the sign on the wall lights up her hair like a halo.
“They never caught the scum who did it. For a while, I thought I’d try and get revenge, but that petered out when I realized I had zero chance of finding Kyu’s killers in a system so huge and undeveloped. Almost everyone here has the same story.” She waves her glass at the crowd. I hear the clack of billiard balls hitting one another in the basement, just audible over the din of conversation. “They’ve lost family, partners, friends, pets, property – you name it, some outlaw from Pyro has taken it away. We don’t want that to happen to anyone else. The attacks, the raids, the deaths – we’re sick of it all. It has to end. So we’re going to rip the problem out by the roots.”
Hartford tells me that her organization plans to establish a base of operations within Pyro, preferably on Pyro II or Pyro III, within the next five years. There, she says, they will build a community who will provide economic and cultural incentives to keep the system secure. The hope is that eventually companies will be attracted to the system due to the higher safety levels and will establish footholds there, bringing credits and influence that could transform Pyro from a lawless wasteland to a bustling center of new growth. It may take decades, but Hartford believes this will rid Pyro of its criminal infestation once and for all.
“The idea’s simple: There are more of us than there are of them. And the more of us move to Pyro, the less room there’ll be for them.”
The group has recently gained momentum in light of XenoThreat’s repeated attacks on the Stanton system. They’ve also received substantial donations to their cause, and hundreds of new volunteers have joined, many of whom have begun rigorous training regimens to survive on worlds with extreme environments. When I point out how dangerous this will be, Hartford smiles.
“Outlaws have been living there for years in the exact same conditions. Don’t you think it’s time decent people took over instead?”
A cheer erupts from downstairs. Though it couldn’t be for Hartford’s declaration (I would later learn that the Stanton Knights had just won a close game against the Fora Flames), it feels for a moment like an expression of solidarity.
I tell her that I’ll drink to that. It’s a future I’d like to believe in.
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