Discover more from Jump Over the Age Newsletter
HELION DISPATCHES 05
REPORT: EMBER'S HEARTH//H1
[BROADCAST WIDE CHANNEL]
[ORIGIN: PILGRIM SEED]
Hello there Helion!
Thanks Kimbal. I like it too. Hell, maybe that one’ll stick.
Y’know I’m broadcasting here, right?
That’s right, Cyrene Sabir here, coming through on all channels once again, still on that long sojourn to the Starward Belt.
We’re all cooped up in the Pilgrim Seed, along with thousands of other refugees, and, based on what we’ve been hearing out there, we aren’t alone.
Since our last report we’ve heard of a whole flotilla coming out of Cinza, trying to slip the loop SenetStat is about to close around the Three Sisters.
But this cycle we’re talking about the other, larger moons in orbit around Ember. Now, many of you are familiar with Ember and its many moons, hell, half of you probably come out of the three biggest; Hearth, Song and Step. But I also know there’s plenty that have only ever heard tall tales of those three.
I won’t get into the politics of those three satellites, especially as I am on a ship with a population from all of them and I’ve already overheard every argument you could imagine, but you might know the Pilgrim Seed itself, the ship I’m broadcasting from, came up out of Hearth’s gravity well. I wasn’t on board back then, but from what I understand…
…yes, and, to give due credit, what Kimbal has explained…
…that the flux events had made short work of the moon’s terraforming tech, the stuff it relies on to stay habitable, leaving the moon shedding atmosphere faster than a holed airtank. That’s why The Pilgim Seed (and other, smaller ships) set out from the moon on a desperate voyage.
So you’ll understand my surprise when I got a report from Ember’s Hearth, from the capital Passereau no less, explaining how the moon has been stabilized.
Now I broadcast this with a little trepidation, knowing that this ship is packed with Ember’s Hearth refugees who would probably love to return to their moon rather than continue with this long journey to the outer system… but if that’s you, listen to the whole thing and listen close, because there’s a lot more to this story.
Here’s the anonymous report, and as you listen spare a thought for those still back on Ember’s moons.
With the Three Sisters falling under SenetStat control, and this report on Conway Extractions’ own gains, well, we are all under threat.
Good luck and godspeed to you all.
This is Cyrene Sabir signing off. To a free Helion. Now and forever.
[LOADING REPORT EMBER’S HEARTH//H1]
[RECORDING // PASSEREAU ARCHIVE F22]
We first picked out the swarms as they crossed the marbled mass of Ember.
It took us a while before we did of course; there wasn’t much time for looking up and gazing at the storms back then. We had our eyes on the work to be done: The crops to be transplanted into barns. The barns to be sealed. The filters to be installed. The desperate attempt to keep a grip on a moon whose atmosphere was sloughing off cycle by cycle. All without the systems we had relied on, the ones the flux had scrambled. All without the thousands who had left on the refugee ships. The ones we couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get on board. But, in a rare moment of rest, some of us looked up, and there they were, countless black shapes against Ember’s oche swirls.
I can’t say I knew much of Conway at that time. Just another name, another faded logo you might find on a bit of scavanged tech. Just another one of the corporations that Solheim’s collapse sent fleeing from the system. But I’ve been told since that they’ve long kept a foothold at the edge of the system, some rock in the most isolated part of the Starward Belt that their machines hollowed-out and made a home of. That’s how they were ready, I suppose, to swoop in at our moment of desperation, to swarm this moon just as it was making its last, long exhale.
There’s an expression on Hearth—the deeper the root the darker the soil. Well, there’s a lot of expressions about soil on Hearth, actually, probably because the biome here is a matter of pride, a hard fought for arable patch in an infertile system. But this expression in particular has come to be about more than understanding nuances of farming cycles. It’s about the weight of time. Those deep roots tap into something richer than a fresh crop. In a place of interrupted histories, a rare strand of continuity has an unavoidable power.
The irony of those swarms is that, unlike a plague of invading insects, Conway’s drones were here to save our crop. The first broadcasts followed soon after, in the mode of a relief effort. Supply drop coordinates. The offer of drone labour. Broadcasts of flux-resistant software. We were a desperate and eager audience for these olive branches. And so the drones descended, massive now they were no longer in orbit, smooth and flat like a wing, each the size of a barn. Their black hulls, which hinged back to reveal large manipulating arms, or the twisted tubes of complex interiors, were soon streaked with Hearth’s dust and mud, flecked with green leaves and pale roots.
As they worked the fields they also repaired the terrafomers. Latching onto those vast conical chimneys like leeches on the flank of a huge beast. They planted themselves in the ground, their actions unexplained and increasingly obscure. There were no people of course. Like any lump of Conway tech they were directed by operators concealed in orbit, or perhaps elsewhere in the system entirely, linked by a comm system like an invisible string between puppet and puppeteer.
The thing with roots is they can survive for a long time without a single shoot. Buried deep, fed by symbiotic fungi and a trickle of water, there’s no upward limit to how long they can lie in wait. We never even thought to dig for Conway’s roots, that they might have been beneath us for our entire lives, down there where the soil is darkest. Ember’s moons were managed by Cybele, the terraforming corporation that gave us the atmosphere, but at all the system was Solheim’s. And Solheim itself was an ecology of companies, a network of owners and shareholders, of holding companies and subdivisions. And Conway had threaded itself through that network like a parasitic vine, so that when Solheim did collapse, the skeleton was held together only by this invader. In the intervening decades Conway has been in wait, making incursions here and there, but mostly preparing for the moment that Solheim was wound up—broken apart in tribunals in the Core Systems and bankruptcy hearings somewhere light years from this place.
The drones soon dug up the roots. Unspooled black cables and blocks from the earth itself and began to assemble them into manufactories and machines of unknown functions. They started to move us, gathering as much of Hearth’s population as they could into the streets of Passereau, where I record this testimony now. Hearth is theirs now, though they keep us for some unknown purpose, feed and house us. We watch the swarms pass back and forth all cycle now, their projects manifesting as dark shapes on the horizon, and gaping holes in the land from which tubes stretch like unwound intestines. They have saved us: the flux passes shimmering though our systems without damaging them, the sky is blue once more, the atmosphere breathable. But I don’t for one minute believe that this is for our benefit.
This is the beginning of a new cycle of growth, and all growth requires fuel. I only hope we are not the next resources to be consumed for Conway’s ends.
💫 Turn your Eyes Starward
Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector is in development. Wishlist it here!
💬 Join the Citizen Sleeper community!
Looking for a community to discuss the Helion Dispatches with? Feel like speculating on the future of Citizen Sleeper? Have a burning question to ask me? We’ve recently expanded the Fellow Traveller Discord to include a whole new Citizen Sleeper section for fans to hang out in.
Click here to join!