Journals

Take to the Stars Episode Eleven: Manuel Valencia

Posted on Monday, October 16, 2017 By Tatiora

From the desk of Manuel Valencia
CEO, Icarus Investments Contractor, Seneca Inc.

Losing Icarus Investments was a blow, and by most accounts should have been the end for me.

Lucky for me, my mama ‘didn’t raise no quitter,’ as the saying goes. It took some time, and more than a little convincing, but I finally found someone who didn’t see my previously failed venture as a bad thing, but rather a stepping stone into something greater. I preferred being my own boss, but joining Paulo Rubini at Seneca, Inc. wasn’t a terrible alternative.

[[..]]

The decision to go to Mars wasn’t really a tough one to make. Heck, in some ways, it was made for me. Paulo insisted that’s where the next big ventures were and that’s where we needed to go, and things on Earth hadn’t exactly been kind to me, so getting away didn’t seem like a bad idea.

It was strange at first. I was used to grassy hills and blue skies, not dry red rocks and a darkness that seemingly went on forever. The stars were a comfort, though; in many ways, they seemed closer to me than they did when I was watching them from Earth. 

Paulo sent me to set up operations and service the colony in Nepenthes Mensae. The terrain here was difficult to get used to at first - lots of craters and plateaus made choosing a location for our base of operations difficult. We eventually nestled ourselves in between two of them that gave us a little bit of cover from dust storms, but still left us enough room to expand.

I’m not a fan of taking it slow, so we built up pretty quickly. Pragmatism led me to spending the extra cash to invest in geothermal power. The problem with solar panels is that they don’t pull power in at night and it isn’t always cost-effective to pull from the stored power after dark. This area didn’t have much in the way of geothermal vents, so I moved quickly to secure them before the other businesses could move in and benefit before me.

I’m also not a fan of competition. When I have the opportunity, I prefer to control all the things that I can - including resources, if possible. We settled right next to a silicon deposit, which I later discovered was the only one in the area. Our production of glass was invaluable to the security colony and my competitors floundered as they tried to keep up with the price.

The pirates were a minor nuisance at worst. Amusingly, I knew who hired them, and I didn’t waste any time in striking back. All’s fair, as the saying goes - or something like that. Phillipa never saw that network virus coming, either. What can I say? When you employ some of the smartest and most advantageous minds around, it’s impossible not to use every edge you have in order to ensure that your position remains the strongest. It was only a little bug, anyway - their systems weren’t offline for more than a day or so, and I didn’t touch their life support. Still put quite a chip on her shoulder, though.

Midway through the first week it was easy to see that none of the others were going to be able to catch up to the position I held within the colony. My wholesale prices were more than reasonable for them and we had established a bit of a rapport - therefore, it wasn’t a surprise to me in the slightest when they signed the contract to retain my services. I knew Paulo would be pleased, but frankly, I’m not in it to please him.

I’m in it for me. Redemption for my mistakes is the light at the end of this red, dusty tunnel, and I aim to get there before anyone else does.


Take to the Stars Episode Ten: Silas Critchton

Posted on Monday, October 09, 2017 By Tatiora

From the desk of Silas Crichton
CEO and Founder, New Meridian Corporation

Antarctica was nothing compared to this.

Yes, I used the “frozen north,” as my assistant liked to call it, in order to run trials of what would be necessary to sustain life on Mars. While my research was successful and my findings accurate, I wasn’t fully prepared for what it would actually feel like when I finally got here. 

[[..]]

It was quite awe-inspiring, I’ll admit. The chance to test my science on another planet, the chance to bring new experiences to humanity...it’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was a boy. But in order to sustain our operations, research isn’t enough - we need to compete for resources with other businesses here to seek a crude profit. 

When it’s a matter of pursuing science, I am never one to balk at challenges. I will overcome them for the good of my team and for the good of humanity. When scouting a location for our headquarters, we were quick to snap up the only silicon deposit in the area. I knew that glass production would be an important aid to our research, not to mention a resource that the colony would desperately need. 

This colony serves as a security center for the unsavory sorts that Earth doesn’t want cluttering the planet back home. I suppose that’s fine and well, though there’s always the concern of what these people might do if they were ever able to escape and revolt. The authorities here are surprisingly watchful, though - most illegal activity is pretty stymied and carries a huge risk.

It doesn’t tend to stop pirates, though. I feel fortunate that they didn’t target our shipments; at the time, it seems like our competition’s convoys of carbon and iron were of more importance.This allowed me to turn my attention to a promising young woman who applied to run our recently acquired optimization center. She knew precisely how to make our operations more efficient and increase the value of the goods we shipped. Everything was proceeding smoothly.

People warned me before I came here not to get too comfortable. The others who have journeyed out here to the stars have just as much invested in these ventures as I do, which made them potentially very dangerous. I was expecting dynamite or electromagnetic storms, or some other form of overt sabotage - I never saw it coming from within. 

The worker strike cost us days worth of research and production. By the time we’d fired or re-motivated all of them, we had losses we simply wouldn’t be able to recover. We came close, however, with some sincere promises of excellent compensation for exemplary and overtime work. I suppose our competition hadn’t crippled us nearly as much as they thought.

I don’t think our competition cared much for me returning the favor regarding diminishing their worker satisfaction. I’m positive that the slowdown strike hurt Mikhail more than me, and although I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did, well… that’s just how it goes.

We didn’t have nearly the power troubles I was afraid of. The only affordable solution we had at the time of founding was to use solar powered panels, which are great...when there’s sun. Mars’ nights are often long and harsh, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that solar power alone could sustain us. I’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised.

Our research here has only just begun. I wasn’t prepared to have to fight others to get the things that I need, but… science must press on, and so will I.

I’m ready.


Take to the Stars Episode Nine: Sam Moreno

Posted on Monday, October 02, 2017 By Tatiora

From the desk of Sam Moreno
Manager, Reclamation, INC.

I always thought that working with a bunch of people mired in debt would be one of those jobs where I ended up hating everyone and just went home to the bottle every night. These people were supposed to be degenerates who had to pay back society so that they could have their lives again. I was supposed to look down on them.
[[..]]

Thing is, I didn’t. Frank was the first one to enlighten me. These men and women had been wronged by the system, tempted by a world of business that used them as a stepping stone and left them to struggle. But now they had the chance to pay it all off and make their own way again - who the hell would I be to try and stop them? I found that working in the factories beside all of them was far more satisfying than overseeing affairs from afar like my employers had requested. 

We had a few other locations on Mars’ surface and our most recent development was in the Dawes Crater. The elevation differences didn’t bother the team at all, so they made quick work of setting up our new base of operations. The new colony was pretty industrial and had a good handle of chemicals and electronics, so we decided to try focusing on other stuff we knew they’d need like glass and steel.

Those stuffy scientists over at New Meridian aren’t my kind of people, but I have to admit that the M.U.L.E. technology they developed for burrowing in the ground and digging up resources quickly is extremely efficient. We managed to accumulate a large amount of carbon and silicon to fund our factories. A few days into our tenure there, the authorities decided they would grant us - and our competitors - an additional claim so that we could expand and better service the colony. We used it to erect another pleasure dome; they’re quick for us to build and they bring in the cash faster than most of our other operations.

Things were going pretty smoothly for all of us, which should have been my first clue that it wouldn’t be long before stuff started going wrong. I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up one morning to the sound of an explosion and the base rocking on its foundation. Immediate inspection found that foul play had destroyed the nearby aluminum mine and left us scrambling to repair it. 

Well, if there’s one thing I believe it, it’s this: turnabout is fair play. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got some dynamite laying around from one of our recent jobs, so…

Yes, things are going to get interesting


Take to the Stars Episode Eight: Ezra Hoang

Posted on Monday, September 25, 2017 By Tatiora

From the desk of Ezra Hoang
CEO, Penrose Collective

Many hands make light work.

I think of this saying often. It makes me miss my mother, even as I smile at her wisdom. I must often remind myself that I am not the only one who suffered dear losses during the war. We must all look to the future together if we hope to foster a healthy one.

[[..]]
The Penrose Collective is my new mission, my extended family. In some ways, the red rocks of Mars are not very different from our war-ravaged lands back home - one could argue that the familiarity of it all was a comfort. We tried instead to see it as an opportunity when we came here to make new lives for ourselves.

There is quite a difference between us and the others who have arrived here. They’ve all come to make profit - but we’ve come to make a life. We chose to spread our settlements out so that we could benefit from more resources and stockpile for any unexpected problems that might arise from living on a planet like Mars.

Unfortunately, a scientist named Ilana Kamat settled by some carbon deposits that we needed. No amount of negotiation could convince her to move - or to sell to us at a reasonable price - so we had to bide our time before we could construct our quarries and harvest the resource for ourselves.

It seemed to be common among these other people that they viewed others as competition. We intended to make money supplying the colony with what it needed, certainly, but I’ve always been of the thought that there was more than enough room for everyone. 

I had to give up on an aluminum deposit for the same reason. It wasn’t worth risking my workers’ lives when these other “leaders” were so willing to resort to violence to protect their assets. We turned our attention to the only silicon source in the valley and started pouring our efforts into manufacturing glass and electronics for the colony. As the money poured in, we felt our worries start to flow out of us.

Fuel was a constant need for our productions, so we built up plenty of factories. Everyone contributed as they always had, everyone came together to ease the load off those of us who are unable to carry on their own - the old, the young, and the sick. 

I have never known anger like I did the night an explosion shook our headquarters. We were lucky that no one was hurt, but two of our facilities were so badly damaged that we lost precious time repairing them. I realized then that no matter what my philosophy on peace might be, it had no place here. I had to stand tall for my people, to protect them from those who chose to attack us without honor. 

Our time on Mars may have only just begun, but it is nowhere close near ending. We will stay. We will live. And we will thrive.

 


Take to the Stars Episode Seven: Anastasia Xu

Posted on Monday, September 18, 2017 By Tatiora

Anastasia XuFrom the desk of Anastasia Xu
Heiress of the Asteroid Syndicate

Everyone comes to Mars with grandiose ideas. Booming businesses, second chances, a new life…

Me? I came to Mars because I was bored. 

Everyone always talks about how difficult it is to run a business. Frankly, I think they’re simply missing the ease of it. Hire competent people and demand that they do their jobs. You shouldn’t have to lift a finger to do anything once you get the pieces in place properly. Throwing a bunch of money at it doesn't hurt, either.
[[..]]

Perhaps it’s that first step that eludes them. Everyone keeps saying I’ve come here to prove myself, but they couldn’t be further from the truth; I already have everything I could possibly want. Why should I bother seeking their approval?

This really is an unsavory place. A prison planet, one where civilization sends the undesirable rabble and sequesters them away so they don’t have to deal with them. Fortunately for me, my business model means I don’t have to, either -- I have robots for all of that.

I paid Yoshimi a handsome amount to ensure that these contraptions could do everything necessary to carry out day-to-day operations. Their high level of functioning intelligence meant that they could communicate and facilitate trades with the economy, and all I had to do was watch. 

It started simply enough. I spread out my empire and laid claim to whatever valuable plots of resources I could find. We began to produce large amounts of steel -- it’s funny, the phrase “behind iron bars.” The iron makes steel, sure, but it’s really an outdated expression. In fact, the methods themselves are outdated - shouldn’t we be into laser-powered force-field shielded cells or something by now? It’s all quite primitive.

My father once told me not to get too embroiled in bidding wars for things. Commit just enough to force the other interested parties to spend their money, then pull back and let them buy it. You can just take it back from them when you buy out their assets later.

I don’t play that way, though. If something is on the market and I want it, it is mine, no questions asked and no price tag considered. One of those obnoxious little tin-can workers tried to supply me with the math behind the financial risks; irritating as it was, I had to give credit to Yoshimi for the thorough programming.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, my faith in Yoshimi Robotics was misplaced. The sheer cost of powering the robots and my facility was proving to be too much. Debt flowed in at a pace I’d never before seen. I re-routed what power I could and tried to continue producing my steel and electronics, but it wasn’t enough. 

A man named Ezra Song and his Penrose Collective started to overtake my business dealings with the colony. Despite several under-the-table payments made to bookkeepers, my debt prevented me from purchasing any worthwhile assistance. Those robots couldn’t keep up with the change, their algorithms weren’t enough, and before long - I received a letter from the colony stating that my contract was under review.

Under review? That wasn’t the only thing they’d be reviewing. I may be in debt now, but that won’t last - I will pull myself out of this and prove to everyone that I am not one to be underestimated. I want to make them suffer, to drive their businesses into the ground and take all of the profits for me. I want to prove myself to them.

And I always get what I want.

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