You probably have never heard of me. That’s the way I and my people like to keep it, though --but not for any shadowy or disreputable reason you might think. We just know the value of being ‘grey men’; little else affords one any real measure of peace and quiet, especially with all the overlapping conflicts and blood feuds going on.
My father named me Zedicon, and it turned out my name would sound appropriate for what my life, dare I call it destiny, had in store; I was the last of his planned children, as well as the one out of them all who would help bring an agreeable end to so many controversial stories involving the unwanted liberation of some of our slaves… and the slaves of our neighbors and friends. The final letter in the alphabet, or the final word or ‘say’, my name forever hints at who I am out here and what I do. When one of our people’s stories has endured an unexpected addition, such as contact with Minmatar kidnappers, they send me in to get things back the way everyone over here desires them to be.
Soliara III has two registered moons if you check the mainstream maps. Upon closer inspection, it has small moon-oids that are not recognized as being stable full-sized satellites. They look big enough in our sky, though, and are of enough mass to affect our tides --more on this in a moment.
Soruma Aquiun, Commander of the 51st Exploration Corps years ago, found nothing of worth in our entire region to report or write home about. The empire was looking for different things back then than my family was; we found all we’d ever wanted out here and more. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
When most people look for information about the constellation we are in; Helab, and even its region; Aridia, they find next to nothing, just like the reported valuables and mining prospects. There is virtually no lore about this part of Space, either, at least from what I can tell.
Aridia, as a whole region of Amarr space, is considered to be poor and undeveloped. Some in less fortunate empires and regions of New Eden might disagree, finding it perfectly developed ‘enough’ and pleasant in some parts out here, but it is a far cry from the civilization-blanketed home-worlds deeper within the empire. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone pampered or spoiled where we live.
It was first explored by their 51st Exploration Corps in the 22200s. There have been occasional explorers and scouts this way since, but they typically conclude what Soruma had. I don’t think any of us have seen their returns.
The Ni-Kunni, originating from the Mishi system (Mishi IV, to be precise), call this place home. That is, perhaps, the only noteworthy lore, or lore at all, which we have. As you might imagine, it also means the Ni-Kunni are among the only and very few visitors we ever get, and even for them… coming out here is generally regarded as questionable at best, reckless and pointless at worst.
My system’s importance is due to it being a major route connecting Fountain and Delve. I don’t know much about either of those areas, though. I suppose I’ll learn some day, but it has never come up, and my life’s work keeps me too busy to ever estimate when that learning might come.
“Notable perhaps only in its unnotability,” this makes our area perfect for what my family likes to do; we prefer countrysides and deep wildernesses with few others ever seen or even present, especially when our greenbelts and buffer zones are not just states and continents, but entire interplanetary and interstellar voids. Those who can support themselves this far out… basically get to live however they please, doing whatever they want whenever they want. Imagine a Garden of Eden within New Eden; that is how our predominantly pristine and untouched temperate worlds all are.
Worlds neighboring ours out here include a few factories and courts, which you can find information about online, and you can find the black market, cloning, and gambling attractions you might expect. Basic amenities and industry are on all our colonized worlds, with just the right amount of law enforcement; everyone can get away with a lot, so long as they don’t go out of their way to brag. You won’t find the highest-end experiences anywhere in our region of the empire, but you will find the full variety of experiences --if you can tolerate mid-tier quality and below.
As I mentioned, Soliara III is the spot in particular I’d like to tell you more about --especially since, apparently, no one else ever has. My father might shy away from revealing any details at all about this world of ours, but I feel like it’s time to at least put it on the radar. We’re stable enough, and still of so little economic interest, that conflict (and even tourism) may never come out here… even if I reveal why we love it so much.
Weather first: almost a storm planet in some parts, temperate around its polar regions due to tectonics and geothermal venting there, and barren only in the rain-shadow of its tallest equatorial mountain range, this large terrestrial world has captured multiple moons, causing dynamic tides with few rogue waves to ever be concerned about; as our moons orbit, their pulls more of less cancel out the waves generated by their predecessors, one gravitational force tugging one way, then another rising up over the horizon to tug in a direction not quite parallel with that. This keeps things nicely stirred up, but never to the point that it becomes unmanageable. It also gives us a lot of ‘sky candy’; eye-candy overhead --plus plenty of late-night reading-light.
A unique jet stream, due to the polar outgassing, is fueling an apparently eternal storm system that causes towering flora to bloom and extend upward as that ongoing supercell passes overhead, showering those tree-like plants and mega-mushrooms with nourishment, plus enriching their soil with regular lightning strikes. Their closing and shrinking back down to half their storm-time sizes follows; every time this one storm has passed, continuing its monthly route around the planet, all those plants and fungi specimens stop stretching up and out in all directions for what this main weather pattern of ours provides. Imagine getting to watch a whole meadow or forest grow when the breeze and rains pick up each time, then reduce back to normal and stay that way as if no more growth is ever going to occur at all.
Wildlife: most fauna here gets its sustenance not by mastication and digestion the way many others do, but by proximity and osmosis; they approach flora and stand or rub there until they are sated, though the drinking of water and the releasing of waste are what we are used to seeing elsewhere. We do have some ‘normal’ animal species, though; slaver hounds and other creatures were brought here in generations past, and shall likely always remain. We keep them in check, preventing any mingling or unbalancing of the ecosystems.
Fireflies are the pollinators here, and they sync’ their blinking lights not to each other, but to the aurora, matching its colors, too. When red bands high above our clouds appear, you’ll see little hovering and flying dots of red turning on and off out amongst the grasses, flowers, bushes, and trees. When the sky bands become purple, those moving dots down here on our earth do the same --and this is especially magical when the ongoing storm is producing rainfall or mist which makes all those colorful dots sparkle… and the aurora bands dozens and hundreds of miles overhead begin to look ghostlike or ethereal.
Each moon of Soliara III has a different effect as it passes overhead; one causes flying fish bioluminescence and congregations, another causes some semi-mobile trees to lean its way, the third moon triggers fungi spores to be released --which has proven to be an aphrodisiac here, and the fourth moon makes our version of tortoises not howl but hum as if they are chanting monks on the beaches and in the woods. Why these different species feel moved to shift and ‘sing’ only to their corresponding moon is not yet understood by us. Whatever is the reason, it is one more way we have to determine exactly which biome we are in at any given time, which species are around us (such as the known predators, prey, and symbiotes of the ones making the noticeable movements, color changes, or noise), and what time of month and year we are in.
Most people here live in dwellings built into the countless caves, using the canyons and ravines as their natural streets and highways for air and space traffic, and this protects them from the storms. Everyone makes daily trips up to the surface, though, as it is not far away, and because, of course, the moons, aurora, fireflies, and other ‘sky candy’ effects are very popular. Some have even developed traditions and holidays around their cycles.
Everyone I know here is vegan; all my friends and family are, anyway, as are our slaves. There are vegetarians, pescatarians, and others, but a lot of us just never had meat or even fish in our diets, cultures, or belief systems, thus never developed a taste for --or addiction-- to them. Getting all the way out from our canyons to the fish-populated bigger rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans just took too much time and fuel for our less-developed world, anyway, not to mention the fact that we are still evolving to adjust to this world, meaning some of us are not genetically predisposed to digesting any of the animals here without discomfort and other undesirable effects.
Almost everyone I know here is also in good shape due to how often we have to climb or jump from ledges to get to places too narrow and difficult for our air- and spacecraft to fly or hover to. There are a large number of cliff divers and B.A.S.E. jumpers, too, and wing-suits are popular among the more-daring of that demographic. Some even merge this with spelunking, jumping and even flipping out over the open horizontal mouths of shaft-like caves and sinkholes just to do a bit of extreme-sports exploration and camping that way.
Now for the controversial part; while we are definitely in Amarr space and adoring of the empire that has protected and financed so much out here, saving and uplifting thousands of peoples and worlds, we are only modest when true Amarr are around. Spending most of our time in canyons and caves, and tending the farms and ranches which provide all our sustenance, being so far beyond the major trade hubs and routes of the rest of the empire, we get and stay dirty, even filthy, most if not all of our waking hours, building up layers upon layers of dirt, mud, silt, sweat, and other things. In short, we are outside and active in these areas far too often for wearing clothes to make sense, as they would get too soiled and ragged to be worth cleaning or mending. We are barely clothed, or even fully nude, as frequently as we can get away with it, and only put on clothes when we absolutely have to --and when we are fairly certain they will not become dirtied or torn.
With how seldom clothing is worn, and how undeveloped we admittedly still are, you would be correct if you guessed that jewelry is basically unheard of on Soliara III --or any of the planets or stations in our region. None of us want to waste what few clothes we can afford to make and maintain, so we certainly want even less to jeopardize something as expensive and even priceless as gems and jewels on handcrafted necklaces, bracelets, or rings. Because of this, Soliarans only wear even their wedding bands in the safety of their own vehicles and homes, taking them off when they go outside for any amount of time, even (habitually) if only to enjoy the feeling of the incoming storms’ rain.
Whenever we are able --or required-- to travel beyond our home-world or system, we still find it easy to integrate with, and respect the dress codes and cultures, of others. This stems from our generations of practice and necessity with working well together with our fellow colonist descendants from neighboring and cave-connected canyons and ravines; we are very much accustomed to changing how we speak, dress, greet each other, and even eat and drink anytime we walk a significant distance (a mile or two) through any of the tunnels linking these subset realms on our world, so donning an extra layer of clothing, such as a veil, just long enough to win the respect of inner-empire Amarr, or sampling their non-vegan fare once or twice, is negligible to us if even noticed at all.
If you are coming out our way instead, and want to find normal city folk, you go to the biggest canyons with the most caves visible from their deep cliffs (where you likely won’t find much difference from your world’s attire and customs at all). When you are feeling like you need some nether relief, just ask those people where the paths and passages are that lead to the caves and surface hangouts with the most aphrodisiac spore-releasing mushroom clusters --and try to time your visit to those ‘locations of love’ when the unending planet-traversing storm is on the way, as that is when the most aphrodisiac power will be unlocked. Finally, when you need some ‘me time’, or want to relax and recharge with a group of hikers or campers, just follow the game trails or foot paths out in any direction from any of our canyon-based communities, and in no time at all you’ll find yourself miles away and completely out of view, not a single sound of civilization to be heard.
I really like hiking alone whenever I have a moment --and it doesn’t really matter much to me where; I’m just as happy to hike into another canyon city as I am to a new cave tunnel or up and out to a random meadow or stream. I’ve indulged in this healthy ‘sport’ and pass-time almost every return-flight home from other systems. There is just something primal, timeless, and therapeutic about stretching my legs out into the great forests or across the surf-wetted sands of our many beaches that always does it for me --and sometimes I think I feel just as at peace and satisfied in those serene open-air escapes as I do around the storm spores and the people I feel comfortable with.
You can always ride a horse and drive an off-roading vehicle outside our cities, too, but I would rather trade covering less distance for feeling alive and on my own the whole time, my legs pulsing with renewed blood-flow every time I finally take a break after a long span. I think I’ve only ever driven or ridden, by myself or with anyone else, a handful of times in my whole life, and my legs and all the rest of me did not at all feel as alive and good as when I’ve been walking. The only way that will ever change is if I end up vibing with fellow adventurers who both know life beyond Soliara and this whole undeveloped region… and who still appreciate what our ‘poor’ planets and moons have to offer; I’ll consider riding and driving with them, at least so long as an equal portion of getting out and striding is involved.
Speaking of that, while I understand what Soruma and the others were feeling and saying way back when, I still can’t believe they felt as luckless and penniless as they reported when they first explored Aridia. Even the name of this region --Aridia; arid land-- doesn’t fully make sense to me; most places I have learned about and visited out here are not arid at all, and we have never had trouble tapping into their many forms of renewable energy and very useful ore. We have never had a problem growing all the food we need, either, even when we ended up having hundreds of ‘workers’ and breeders in multiple plantations and facilities.
The lava flows in particular, rich in valuable resources, are heavily mined and processed by that working class of ours (which non-Amarr will call the enslaved), as is a ring system now suspected of being the debris field of a forgotten fleet or gigantic carrier. House-sized chunks of something many millennia old and worn are still orbiting us. When our sunlight hits them at just the right angle, you can see them sparkling even more than the bugs and blades of grass in our stormy mists and dew --and it isn’t due to much ice composition at all up there; our ring system’s ‘bodies’ look that way because they have lots of non-precious metals and glass types in them, all appearing like fused blobs when your Venture or other mining vessel gets close enough.
There are also thousands of acres at each of our ranches which have arable and productive land, producing many tons each season of all our staple ingredients and spices. Most of the time we have too much to sell, and end up composting or repurposing a big portion of it. We’ve even donated a lot, some of it getting used for research and even art.
Art on this world, by the way, is often based on petroglyphs. This is both due to hundreds of generations and thousands of years of tradition and convenience, plus the fact that art made and kept in caves is arguably as safe as pieces kept in museums, vaults, or bunkers. I’ve seen images of people in cities on more-developed worlds hurrying to pile sandbags around their outdoor statues and other creative works, hoping to protect them as best they can from bombardments or other damaging events. We have never had those concerns or panicked moments here, and I suspect we never will.
Likewise, most of our music, dance, and other performing arts scenes are wholly underground. This is just where most people outside our starports live --and even many of our starports are deep enough in our canyons and ravines to count. This often gives concerts special resonating acoustics you don’t find in any off-world theater, and the light from campfires and candles can cast amazing shadows behind and above our dancers on the womb-like cave and cavern walls.
Flooding, surprisingly to me, is almost unheard of --even though the majority of us live in canyons and caves. This may be due to how many caves and cave systems there are on our world; maybe their tunnels just go on for so long in all directions… that it would be impossible for the water of our world to ever really flood them. We’ve sent drones and living explorers far into many of them, and almost never is a true end ever found (and because of this, they are well barred, guarded, and any approaching them, especially if they are minors not accompanied by their parents and professional cave guides, are cautioned and turned back).
I’ve heard that people on most colonized and developed worlds know more about Space than they do about what’s in their own oceans; it’s just a lot more difficult to peer down into the dark water miles deep than it is to look up through thin atmospheres into and across ‘the vacuum’. Here on Soliara III, the reverse can be true, at least for some; some people on my world know more about their cave system and adjoining cave systems than they do about Outer Space --and there are even some who have never seen the sky, let alone the stars, at all.
In a way I pity them; Space is full of so much room and beauty, not to mention options and luxury, if you know where to look and how to trade. At the same time, however, I envy those people who have lived their whole lives in our cave communities; I may never know the bioluminescence and other literally-buried wonders those people might take for granted. As much as I want to know those things, my work is more and more on our surface and off-world.
Every now and then, a planetary alignment causes a brief stretching and touching of aurora-like energy bands, and many craters on our planet and others in this system are thought to be evidence of a time when these worlds were closer, their electric exchanges much more powerful and sustained. This could have been millions or even billions of years ago. As an undeveloped system and region, we just haven’t had the scientific expertise to ever find out.
What we do know is that our interplanetary shipping lanes have to be carefully steered clear of these momentary energetic exchanges between our cosmic bodies, lest it interfere with their navigation and other electronic systems. Solar winds and solar flares are always a concern in every system people go through, but in ours… so are planetary winds and planetary ‘flares’ (aurora extensions). I wouldn’t be surprised if even our ring systems and asteroid belts become energized and potentially disruptive to a lesser degree.
When I take my ships out between the worlds and stations, I am always very conscious of this. I’ve developed somewhat of a sixth sense or biological clock about this phenomenon, but I know not to push my luck, lest I end up in an excited particle stream glowing and changing colors in a hypnotic, disorienting, and dangerous way; that would make it very easy for two ships moving along the same interplanetary lane to not see each other and collide.
We have detected sonar anomalies on most of our ocean and sea floors, and assume them to be shipwrecks --perhaps as lifeboats or broken-up parts of whatever became our ring system? No one has gone down to find out yet. I would if I had any experience underwater; ironically, I feel fine risking all in the ‘ocean’ of Space, but very nervous about the dark depths of actual bodies of water.
We have also detected what appears to be long-buried wreckage via ground-penetrating radar, and these ‘sightings’ make up a greater percentage of such finds, as far more of our population pays attention to the ground around and beneath them, cave-ins always being of greater concern than whatever is beneath the bodies of water far away from and a bit above them. Digs are uncommon, though, even though we have more reports of possible buried wrecks than underwater ones, because it is considered a little too risky to excavate when entire homes and neighborhoods are protected by natural columns and overhead rock layers. What is down beneath our streets and feet… may remain there, petrified, forever, only the enigmatic radar screen images available for us to deduce from.
Then there are our languages and dialects. Like in mountainous regions with many isolated valleys, each of our cave systems has developed a dialect, accent, and slang all its own. Everyone can understand anyone from our worlds, as we have been careful to stay connected and interacting in person as often as we can afford, but you can always tell the difference between people who are from one or more cave systems or canyons over. Sometimes the differences are amusing, but most people really enjoy and compliment this; we are not xenophobic or isolationists in any way, having come to rely on the resource wealth and specialties of every cave system and canyon town in our civilization.
Of course, I should also tell you about our local legends of colonization efforts, rumors of distant wars between the five empires, and how the Sefrim were still believed to be ancestors, not myths. Our legends are the usual sort I have encountered the likes of just about everywhere my life’s work has taken me; people sing the praises of their brave and hardworking ancestor’s ancestors from some ten or twenty thousand years ago, focusing much more on the morals and other concepts than the dates which have slipped and faded into the unknown. Almost as hazy and unknown are the secondhand accounts of battles and full-scale wars between the Amarr-proper, as we call them, and the others who dominate our galaxy, and sometimes the legends we tell of the ancient, distant past are more believable than the tall tales some of us like to entertain our fellows out here with about how the Amarr keep a god-like grip on the most desirable parts of New Eden.
My father, one of the people that likes to share such legends and stories from far-flung regions, is always half involved with Holding duties, and half with joining every expedition possible… so that he can learn more about the ruins of our civilization --and unknown (as of yet unidentified) civilizations-- on and between so many New Eden worlds. I could spend a whole lifetime telling you about all the ones we have uncovered and briefly visited, and speculated upon, just out here on Soliara III. Don’t even get me started on the voluminous collection of others my father has helped reach and study on our moons, the rest of the worlds and moons in our system, and the virtually countless ones beyond.
I think there were trillions upon trillions of people --ancestors of everyone in New Eden-- out here once. I think almost all of them got wiped out. Maybe this is just the nature of having that many different beings with their own viewpoints and needs; maybe it was always disagreements and resource competition that triggered wars and sabotage enough to leave all these ruins and unidentifiable objects we’ve stumbled over in endless abundance.
I’ve been toying with the idea of joining any scientific group attempting to map the family tree of all of New Eden; I would be fascinated beyond words if I got to help reveal not only more about our special worlds and all the stars we all look out and up upon, but also exactly how many of our ancestors survived the journey to these places and why. I would guess that the fluctuating numbers of our species looks like a heartbeat over the eras and eons; with the colonization surges and intervals of catastrophic declines, our breeding and die-offs must be one very long sine wave. If we calculate and confirm enough precision about that representation of our history, we might be able to estimate how many ruins we will find just about everywhere --and then, of course, my father and the other explorers would have endless fulfilling and lucrative reasons to keep going out there.
My father learned and practiced the faiths of each world he went to, not just their languages and dialects, helping him to better understand their peoples and show respect, blending in seamlessly, earning their thanks and trust, which encouraged them to share even more with him, sometimes even their secrets. He had also adopted some elements even of what had survived the generations and millennia-long migrations to and throughout our galaxy, such as Norse teachings and many others, like that of the Ljósálf; ‘Light Elves’. He’d even, unplanned, developed an eclectic faith and pantheon of his own after enough years, expeditions, and studies of all those corresponding things went by.
Now I know what some of your orthodox Amarr might be thinking; how dare he stray from our faith?! He didn’t, though; he was kindheartedly doing what worked best to bond with others who had not yet known of our light and wisdom, and he lived by our guiding morals and traditions the whole time. No matter what he said or tried during his many trips and meetings, it was always to reunite us all, and always for the benefit of all Amarr.
How fascinated I was, growing up, seeing that some slaves feared and hated their owners (some even becoming paranoid or racist against any Amarr)… while my father’s slaves loved and defended him as if they had become proud and appreciative kin. It got me wondering if this had happened between the Amarr ancestors and the Sefrim at some point; had the Sefrim treated the Amarr in a way which made them fall in love with those angelic masters of the legends… while the other empires’ ancestors had not?
Why did some workers/slaves (however you want to call them) flee into the arms of liberators from Minmatar space… while other workers/slaves… doing the exact same challenging work… flee away from those ‘liberators’… so that they could stay in ours? Listening to their own input and cultures made a huge difference in retention and their very health, not just their productivity or metrics and mood. This is why I keep telling people who talk with me about this… that I rarely saw any workers disciplined beyond reason, and that my work as a slave recovery professional is not at all like that of a bounty hunter or other ‘blunt instrument’.
After many years of these works; of finding fascinating ruins and majestic atmospheric phenomena in our reportedly ‘worthless’ region of the empire, and of proving there are much easier and more stress-free ways of keeping and commanding the loyalty (not just obedience) of our working class, we’d become Holders in more cities and on more worlds than just our current home of Soliara III. Along the some-twenty jumps it takes to reach Amarr itself, heart of the empire, we have established presences and business on more than a dozen habitable worlds. We have also been cultivating improving relationships and deals on the stations around and between, and this ongoing networking of ours affords us a higher measure of discretion and leniency whenever customs agents or other inspectors pass within scanning range.
We are not yet considered rich by central Amarr standards. We are also still operating almost exclusively in ‘undeveloped’ and ‘less developed’ regions of the empire. This has become our niche, though, and we are able to cater to almost everyone short of royalty where we have established these operations.
If you hear rumors about the Amarr man who has a lion’s mane worth of beard and hair, and who has woven together many beliefs and practices, you are on the trail to finding our current ‘man of the house’. If you hear rumors about the comely young lady who hunts for and liberates stolen slaves (workers kidnapped from us against their will), you are on the trail to finding me. If someone knows just who you are talking about when you mention either of those rumors, you are probably in Aridia or neighboring space, and soon to find your way the rest of the way to where we hang our Space helmets in Soliara.
There are many other rumors about our work affairs and family, too, but I’ll leave it up to you to ask around for them and decide which must be true. Some are exaggerations, some are understatements, and all of them are full of clues about where and what we really are --the likes of which you probably couldn’t ever find or make sense of by talking to the people who focus their efforts out in the more developed regions of New Eden and its interplanetary battlefields. We just don’t spend that much of our time anywhere near riches or wars, and never really needed or wanted to.
Another rumor has it the 7th Fleet has been sent to patrol this region of Amarr space for several years as an ongoing punishment for its failures in other parts of New Eden. We never wanted to pry, but we have always offered our finest products and services to those brave and seasoned sailors in hopes of honoring their efforts, thanking them for protecting us, and restoring what we can of their morale. Sometimes it is important to help remind people what it is they enlisted and are fighting for. (And sometimes this leads to the best-trained pilots and other Space-goers in the galaxy becoming fond enough of us to share their resources and expertise; we’ve already had a few former service members join our more-recent expeditions, many more of their kind purchasing some of our workers from time to time.)