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Tall Tales (Chapter Cover Art)


Story By JA Baker[]

Beyond The Beyond
Facts
Author JA Baker
Series Name Tall Tales
Alternate Universe Name
Year Written July 5th, 2020
Story Era Succession Wars Era





Benny's the name, JumpShips the Game!

Yep, I'm the owner and operator of the Persephone, the best ship this side of Taurus, and I can get you from Point A to Point B with the absolute minimum of fuss and interference. I know all the local warlords, major and minor pirate bands and every customs and enforcement agent within a thousand light-years. I don't care what your cargo is, where or how you got it, where you're taking it or what you intend to do with it once you get there. Hell, we never even have to talk for the entire journey! If you want to keep your airlock closed and forgo partaking the amenities offered by the Persephone, then that's all right by me.

You pay me to fly, not to care.

I've been out beyond Orion's Bow, out past the Perseus-Cepherus Cloud Complex and seen the far side of the Dark Expanse. Hell, I've even been... well, client confidentiality requires that I keep some of my exploits... less well know, shall we say?

So, Friend, where you looking to go?

Idrium? Sorry, Friend, but I only go to planets that actually exist...

No, it's not a matter of money... Okay, so that's a lot of money there... Look, like I said, I only go to planets that actually exist. I don't go chasing myths and legends.

Oh, yeah, sure I've heard the Legend of Idrium: some planet out so far even the Star League didn't know about it, right?

What exactly did I hear? Oh, so you want details? Well, my memory is somewhat hazy...

Okay, so suddenly my memory's better. Jesus, you don't have to pull a gun on a guy, okay?

Okay, so, you want story time? You get story time.

The Deep Periphery, a cover-all term for anywhere out beyond the so-called 'lesser states' like the Concordat, the Magistracy, places like that that could have a reasonable claim to being functioning nations with strong central governments. Past them, you get the lesser proto-states, the bandit Kingdoms and a scathing of independent worlds here and there. Star League had big plans to expand out into the Deep, especially the Terran Hegemony, which was completely surrounded by the other Great Houses, but history had other ideas. But that's not to say that people didn't go out there, perhaps further than most realize?

How far have I gone? I spent some time with the JàrnFòlk when I was young and foolish, went to some pretty deep places. Since then...

Look, like I said, there are some people I've worked for who'd look poorly upon me if I said anything, and no amount of putting a gun in my face will change that. They have a long reach, which is only matched by their long memories, and I don't want to be on their shit list if I can avoid it, understood?

Good. Okay. Now we're all friends again, let me continue our little fairy tail.

Nobody really knows just how far out humanity has spread. It's a big galaxy, after all, and even at its height, we'd only mapped a fraction of its size. And that's only taking into account the people who wanted someone to know where to forward their mail. History is full of groups, big and small, who wanted to find somewhere new, somewhere they could be left alone, for one reason or another. Some were fleeing persecution of one kind or another, others just wanted to be left alone, without any government looking over their shoulder.

Some of these people were dumb enough to think that a few dozen light-years would do the job, and, well, the history books are full of what happened to them.

But some... some just picked a direction at random and kept going until they couldn't go any further. Lot of people died trying to find their own personal Promised Land. Stars are littered with countless failed colonies, wrecked ships and worlds where people have been reduced to little more than savages living a hunter-gatherer existence, with no idea that there's other worlds out there.

Further out you go, the fewer examples you find; space is, after all, a massive expense going out in three dimensions, around a thousand light years thick in our little corner of the Orion Arm, even if most people still think of it as a two dimensional plain. So it's only logical that the further you get from Terra, the more spread out humanity would become.

Think of it like a shotgun blast. All the pellets begin in roughly the same area, but the further you get from that point of origin, the more spread out they become.

Yeah, I thought you'd like that analogy.

So, space big, people go out far. We all following? Good.

Now, some of these groups that wanted to get off the grid, as it were, they were smart. They took their time, gathered their resources, and planned. They made sure they had everything they could possibly need when they go to wherever it is they ended up, because there'd be no turning back. So they built massive stores of equipment, knowledge, supplies and spare parts. Some of these expeditions had a couple of dozen JumpShips, with enough defensive armament that no pirate would even think of looking their way.

Couple even managed to snag old, decommissioned warships, if you believe the stories.

Do I? Can't say I've seen anything to prove it one way or another.

So, these people, they go out, and not necessarily in a straight line. They know the general idea of where they're going, based on astronomical surveys and the like, but they're really going off the edge of the map, into 'Here Be Dragons' territory. Some of them were probably the first humans to visit some systems, maybe even the last. They reach all those far-flung colonies and outposts, the far reaches of explored space, and then they keep going, out beyond where even the most diehard of prospectors dare travel. After all, you get too far out, and even a simple malfunction can be a death sentence, as you can't exactly call for a tow back to the shipyard.

And that's not counting all the things that can kill you once you arrive at your eventual destination: storms, heat, mud, disease carrying flies and mosquitoes, or whatever the local equivalent is, radiation, toxic chemicals in the air, land and water, volcanos, tsunamis, landslides, sinkholes, earthquakes...And we haven't even started on the things that want to eat you alive. Humanity evolved on Terra and everything from our DNA to our immune system and digestive tracks evolved to handle that one world. Plenty of seemingly perfect plants, even here in the Inner Sphere, that have been left alone because something simple would kill any would be colonists.

Sure, the Star League could fix a few things, but not everything. Nobody wants to spend their lives in a hazmat suit.

So, let's assume that you reach an inhabitable planet without something breaking and leaving you to die a slow, lingering death in the cold emptiness of Space. And let's also assume that there's nothing on this new world, this other Eden, that will kill you simply because it can. Well, you're still not out of the woods, not by a long-shot. Because setting up a viable colony is hard work, far harder than most people realize.

Back in the early days of the diaspora, you'd get these little groups. Sometimes just a couple of families who'd charter a ship to drop them off on some recently charted planet. These idiots thought that they were going to go tame the New Frontier, armed with just their own two hands and a few basic tools. Well, tool is certainly the word I'd use, but not for their equipment. You need a viable population base to last more than a generation or two, especially if you want to maintain at least a basic level of technology and knowledge, because tools break or wear out, and you need other tools and resources to fix them.

Do you know how to smelt iron to get steel? I sure as hell don't! Wouldn't even know where to begin.

Then you've got specialist skills like medicine, weaving, pottery, real basic stuff that people living on your average Inner Sphere world wouldn't even think of. You want to build a colony out in the deepest of the deep, you got to make sure you have people who know how to build the most basic infrastructure from the ground up, because, eventually, you'll run out of whatever supplies you brought with you, and you'll need to be self sufficient by then. And that means more than knowing how to hunt and fish: it means knowing how to weave a net and carve a bow.

That's before we get into ensuring that you have a deep enough gene-pool to avoid it becoming a stagnant pound.

No, colonization that far away from any support structure is hard work. Why else do you think that the biggest Periphery realms are so close to the Inner Sphere? Only the best equipped, best prepared and luckiest expeditions even had a chance of making it all the way out there, so it's no wonder that so few succeeded.

So, Idrium. The subject of our story.

Legend has it that they're one of the the lucky ones. They found a world that wasn't actively trying to kill them, with plentiful and readily available natural resources. They set up shop, start building their new home away from home. Even send the occasional ship back to more well travelled space for anything new or difficult to produce. They also, again, according to the stories, pick up a scattering of extra colonists, often those whose ships have broken down or failed to find a world that met their needs. Years pass; decades, even, and Idrium goes from a city-state with scattered farms to an actually functioning world with limited orbital infrastructure.

Turns out that JumpShips make for decent space stations, so long as you don't mind them never going anywhere ever again.

And then, well, there's the bit that makes Idrium stand out from all the other stories of lost colonies out in the black.

I'm a qualified navigator, on top of being a Merchant Guild certified captain, so I know a little more than most about hyperspace theory, but I doubt even Kearny and Fuchida themselves could explain exactly what's supposedly going on out there. Hyperspace is, well, weird, and you get the occasional oddity that just defies our understanding. Best way I can put it is imagine a sprinkler: one point of origin, but dozens of outlets.

Now, run that in reverse, and you have hyperspace around Idrium.

We've all heard stories about jumps that go wrong: ships turning up in the wrong place, even the wrong time, often with the cargo and crew, well, it's best not to imagine what they can end up looking like. Whatever it is that Idrium is at the epicentre of is a little gentler than that, but it reaches out across nobody knows how far, pulling in ships like a whirlpool. More than one ship has set out to go from point A to point B, only to find themselves somewhere in the vicinity of Idrium. Some have tried to make it home, but most look at just how far they have to travel, alone, and decided to stay.

So, Idrium survives. Thrives, even. A second planet in the system is borderline habitable, certainly within their capabilities, so a second colony is founded. More ships arrive, population grows, and they start to look at other nearby systems, finding a scattering of new worlds worth settling. Idrium becomes an economic and political hub for a small but booming corner of the galaxy.

Success like that is bound to get someone's attention, and it isn't long before people start thinking that maybe Idrium should submit to their dominion. Especially incase someone figures out how to successfully navigate the hyperspace anomaly it sits at the heart of. The ability to rapidly redeploy troops across the entire Inner Sphere? Well, wars have started for far less.

But fate intercedes, and a war does start...a war that would bring the entire Star League crashing down upon itself. Suddenly, all thoughts of marching off into the far unknown in search of a system that may or may not be strategically important at some indeterminate point in the future fall by the wayside. Idrium, realizing that they've dodged the proverbial bullet, turn turtle: from now on, anyone who arrives unannounced has to stay. On top of that, stories are spread that the colony has fallen victim to some unforeseen calamity: everyone's dead, no point in coming out to look for yourself.

But then they get word that the Star League has fallen, Kerensky and his followers pissing-off in pretty much the opposite direction, and everyone who's left is gearing up to throw down over whatever is left.

Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

The distant light of civilization flickers and falters, the way-stations between the Inner Sphere and the truly deepest of the Deep Periphery fall silent one by one. Eventually, Idrium itself, never exactly widely known, falls from common knowledge, reduced to a footnote in a few dusty old texts about hyperspace anomalies. But they're still out there. Every so often another ship falls down the rabbit hole, and finds itself there.

Davion ships, Steiner ships, Kuritan ships... who knows, maybe even a few ships from Kerensky's fleet. Idrium is the junk-draw of the galaxy, the grate at the end of the universes storm-drain that collects all the cosmic flotsam and jetsam that comes their way. If one world is going to be sitting on a pile of Lostech, it's Idrium. Who knows just what they might have.

I'd sit back down if I was you, friend. You look a little lightheaded.

No, the drinks aren't that strong here. Least, not until you have them put a little extra in one.

Oh,don't get all upset, nobody's going to hurt you. We just want to have a talk about what you think you know about Idrium.

Am I from Idrium? Why would you think something foolish like that?

No, you go to sleep, and we'll talk later, okay?

Yes, may the Peace of Blake be with you.

The End


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