The palladium drive is over, and many of us are left wondering whether any of these past seven days really happened.
The press area here at Thompson Dock is messier than my sleep-deprived thoughts: empty drinks vials (variously caffeine and alcohol), half-eaten pseudo-food and mounds of blankets under which other lesser journalists have finally succumbed to their exhaustion. One look at it all, and you imagine their stories of triumph, frustration and stress that are part and parcel of a reporter’s life.
But our feverish drive to report on the actions of our fellow men and women, and the inevitable human dilapidation it causes, is no more than a sideshow. As we write our words, it feels like we are taking part and that the adrenaline we feel equals that of the people on whose lives we report. In truth, we merely live vicariously, parasitising on the blood, sweat and tears of others.
In short: reporting on it is not the same as actually doing it.
Only the fools among our profession, if you can call it that, could believe that their post-event torpor in any way compares to the hopeless enervation experienced today by the thousands of miners and bounty hunters who protected them.
Nevertheless, every single one of us has been infected with the joy and excitement permeating throughout this band of scientists and their associates this past week – it’s impossible not to. Obviously, I’m not impartial, but knowing that a state-of-the-art research outpost will be built for the Canonn because of tens of thousands of commander-hours being given by thousands of pilots from all over the bubble…
Honestly – you’d have to be inhuman not to be moved by it.
THE CANONN INSPIRES
However central the Canonn, and the eponymous Doctor from whom its name is taken, might seem to the wider events throughout the bubble and beyond, the fact remains: Varati is a frontier system.
This means that pilots don’t pass through Varati, they usually end up here. Before the Canonn chose it as its home, there was nothing of any real interest here: local factions squabbling over the usual complement of stations and ground bases, some twinkling rings of metal (very much shadows of their former glory) twenty thousand light seconds out from civilisation, and the usual bands of pirates preying on those desperate enough to seek their fortune there.
Then, one day, a man of science with a penchant for biscuits started attracting attention as he asked the necessary awkward questions about these now infamous unknown artefacts. More and more people were attracted, not only to the mystery, but to him (and no doubt his biscuits) and then to each other. Before long, this now famous independent scientific community was born.
Several months, many discoveries and even more mysteries later, the Canonn attracted some unwanted attention. While the vast majority of humankind is appreciative of the work the Canonn has done, some, it would seem, seek to end it. Dr Arcanonn himself was forced into hiding because of threats on his life, after a trusted assistant of his was manipulated into spying on him and his teams. The ongoing investigations into this have led to some places filled only with shadows and whispers, and it seemed we’d never get the doctor back.
But then came the knights in shining armour, offering to build a secure research lab for nothing if the Canonn could raise enough palladium to build it.
These scientists, often on the fringes of society, were faced with their biggest challenge ever. Not a mysterious signal or behaviour from a potentially alien life form, but a code to crack: the human code. They knew they needed help – they had the data to prove it, but how would they get it?
As it turned out, once the word was out, they didn’t need to worry. Commanders from across the various interwoven political spectra flocked here – to Thompson Dock, in the little-known system of Varati on the edge of the Polaris frontier – to help Dr Arcanonn and his teams.
Most came immediately. Those that didn’t, only needed asking once.
THE HEROES OF THE HOUR
For a week, we observed the glorious ballet of the thousands of palladium haulers coming and going; bringing with them vast quantities of this precious metal that had now become the lifeblood of science.
These men and women, who blast rocks for a living, suddenly became the heroes and heroines of a story bigger than any individual, bigger than the doctor himself or the Canonn. Bigger, some say, than the infamous ‘powers’ that so dominate the human (for now at least) galaxy.
And there, the Guardian Angels – the bounty hunters who staked their lives, hour after hour, day after day, to stop the pirates from interfering. The pirates kept coming – their black hearts given life by the promise of a few easy credits – but they didn’t win, and they were never going to win – because the guardians were always there, always watching.
Thompson Dock last night played host to the biggest party this system has ever seen – so big, in fact, that it spilled over to nearby Bond and Forsskal hubs. It pulled me in, too, of course – it was impossible not to!
Today, though, most of the miners have now shipped out, apart from a few scientists who’ve discovered a love for it, and the bounty hunters are already looking for their next contracts. The only commanders left are those whose hangovers rule them out of flying, and the odd one or two who have decided to stay.
But when our visitors do all leave, the floors and surfaces are cleaned and the dust settles, what they leave behind is much, much more than just a pile of palladium.
And here at the Canonn, I know we will never forget that. This is Verity Gavroche, finally making use of my English Degree (and now in serious need of sleep before I forget how) saying good night.