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The Eye
By George C Anderson
Monday, November 11, 2002

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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Recent stories by George C Anderson
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What will happen when technology makes it possible for mankind to leap to the stars? Let's ask the Baron...


The Eye

Every technological leap brings change. Sometimes change is good, other times the benefits are debatable but there is one thing that never changes; nothing happens without money.

The discovery of gravitic drive began mankind’s mass migration into space. The drives operated by manipulating any naturally existing gravity field, attracting or repelling the ship as needed.

So neutralizing Earth’s gravitic pull would cause the ship to remain in place…while Earth itself zipped away through space along it’s orbital path at a speed of nearly a thousand feet per second.

Finally, an economical way to reach the stars without using millions of tons of high explosives! But the new technology was nearly shelved partly due to its obscene price tag and the fact that mankind had no enemies in space.

If the Baron Fertig Von Sachkunde, one of the early pioneers to finance humanity’s leap to the stars, had not stepped up to the plate when he did, things may have gone much differently.

The first step in any endeavor is to establish a goal. The Baron purchased an option on a suspected class ‘M’ planet known as The Eye of Orion, thus named for the star that it circled.

No one was in the galactic real estate business at this early stage of the game so what he really did was to establish his ownership of the planet here on Earth, precluding others from laying a legal claim to his gold mine in the sky.

Unlike buying a house or a country for that matter, buying a whole planet was unprecedented and caused quite a stir within Earth’s legal community.

The concept of allowing one person to own an entire planet was a legal Pandora’s box. The owner would, for all intents and purposes, be the absolute ruler of all who chose to live there.

Colonizing space is an expensive proposition and the Baron had no intention of footing the entire tab alone. The building of the ship and stocking it for a long mission would create millions of jobs, jobs that were desperately needed by the governments of the world.

Like every great endeavor intended to benefit all mankind, the world’s governments competed for contracts with The Eye of Orion Corporation, often building facilities and training workers at the public’s expense.

In exchange for the use of public funds, the Baron and the UN made a compromise where the Baron would submit a Constitution and a Bill of Rights for the eventual inhabitants of The Eye of Orion, once the colony became ‘viable’. Until then, the colony would be run as a corporation with the colonists being considered ‘employees’.

The contents of these two important documents and at what point the colony would be considered ‘viable’ were left entirely up to the Baron with the UN being named as the nominal ‘overseer’ of this process.

This little factoid about the colony eventually becoming a full fledged republic could be found in extremely fine print on the back of page thirty-one of the colonist agreement. The front of these contracts spelled out vague land grants and, depending on who it was, bestowed nominal titles upon the signatory that were granted by the nominal Emperor, who was none other than the Baron himself.

Once word got out that the Baron was setting up a monarchy in space, the media had a field day. Despite the negative publicity (or perhaps aided by it) those who liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor of the next big thing plunked down buckets of cash to secure for themselves a Duchy or Barony on ‘The Eye’.

In no time at all everybody who was anybody held a noble title with The Eye of Orion Corporation.

The Baron named his middle son, Gegner, the CEO/King of The Eye of Orion Corporation. The media titillated the public with Gegner’s rather ordinary biographic history and never failed to use his dual titles whenever they ran a story about him.

What started off as thinly veiled sarcasm boomeranged when every mogul who had purchased a title from The Eye of Orion Corporation suddenly began using that title in conjunction with their earthbound office.

This created a ticklish situation for some deep-pocketed national leaders who either purchased titles on a lark or had received them as gifts.

The President of the United States also happened to be the Duke of Umfarht, a title purchased for him as a joke gift by one of his children.

The titles were neither cheap nor fake as a duchy cost several million dollars and endowed the title-holder with a fief or land grant consisting of fifty square miles. Baronies consisted of and cost twice that much.

The sticky part of these titles, as far as public figures were concerned, stemmed from the fact that by decree of Emperor Fertig, the Dukes and Barons (or Duchesses and Baronesses as the case may be) were entitled to collect taxes from anyone living in their fief. The law also granted them the right to impose licensing fees and collect fines from those conducting business within their fiefdoms!

Whenever the President insisted that there would be no new taxes, some joker from the media was always quick to ask if he meant here or there?

In order to secure talent for the mission, contracts for key team members also featured an incentive clause whereby the CEO/King of The Eye of Orion Corporation could bestow (at his discretion) a title upon the signatory for meeting or exceeding their contractual obligations.

Despite the fact these mission goals were a bit aggressive (to put it mildly) there was no shortage of noble wannabe’s lining up to sign on the dotted line.

Naturally, nothing really happens without the hired help. Tradesmen and technicians could buy passage on the ship and were guaranteed jobs with The Eye of Orion Corporation upon their arrival at the colony for about half the price of buying a nice home on Earth.

This was to be a multi-step operation with construction personnel being amongst the first to go followed by other skilled trades shortly afterwards when the ship returned.

One of the advantages of gravitic drive was its capacity for supraliminal travel. Scientists calculated that the journey of approximately eighty light years would take less than a month, allowing humanity to focus on colonizing hospitable planets immediately rather than incur the considerable cost and effort required to colonize the hostile environments offered by near space.

The ships, for it was quickly decided that one would not be enough, were designed to be two and a half miles in diameter.

Half of the space was devoted to the machinery of the gravitic drives and other necessary equipment leaving the rest free for cargo and passengers.

Passengers were divided into two classes with Barons, Baronesses, Duchesses and Dukes traveling in style on the deck below the bridge while workers and other ‘non-essential’ personal were treated like cargo…loaded into hibernation chambers and stacked flat in the cargo bay along with the other equipment.

Once again, the media made quite a fuss over the disparities in how the ‘non-royal’ passengers were treated. Ironically, the ‘sub-human’ treatment of those who could not afford the hefty price of traveling first class had its foundation in several practical considerations.

Issues such as personnel requirements and the space saved by not having to provide food, water, living quarters and additional sanitation facilities for the passengers helped to keep costs down. Putting passengers in hibernation made the month long trip ‘instantaneous’ for the travelers and much more profitable for The Eye of Orion Corporation.

The Baron commissioned six ships to be built so that a ship would arrive and depart both planets every week with two back-up or rescue ships being available if the need arose.

The first ship was completed in just over three years. Another year was spent shaking down the bugs and training the expeditionary force for the mission.

Shortly after the second ship returned from her maiden voyage into near space, the original ship, now dubbed ‘The Furchtlos’, was provisioned and staffed for the initial six-month long exploratory mission to The Eye.

For dramatic effect, The Furchtlos embarked on its history-making voyage at night so the television cameras could show the folks at home the physical destination of humanity’s next generation of fearless explorers.

Neither the King nor his father, the Emperor was personally taking part in this historic first mission but both were on hand for the send off. Each Von Sachkunde made a speech that alternately praised the bravery of those who led the way, along with their own vision and courage for making the mission possible.

Even if the mission failed and The Eye turned out to be totally uninhabitable, The Eye of Orion Corporation had already grown to be the third largest employer on Earth.

The contracts for the massive amounts of materials, finished goods and engineering services required by the project fueled the economies of nations around the globe.

One of the problems that science had yet to crack was communications. The ships traveled so fast and the distances involved were so vast that communicating with a ship underway was impossible for the time being. Scientists were confident that they’d crack the problem soon, now that the need to do so existed.

As any good sailor will tell you, the ways of the sea are deep and mysterious and so it was with the endless void. The outbound trip took less than three weeks, bringing the intrepid explorers face to face with the unknown a week earlier than planned. They spent their spare week just orbiting the target, looking for signs of life.

The Eye was half again larger than Earth with a slightly richer oxygen to nitrogen mix.

For some strange reason the gravity and atmospheric pressure were only marginally higher than Earth’s even though the land to water ratio on The Eye was sixty/forty to Earth’s seventy/thirty.

Even from space it was easy to see that The Eye was teaming with life but the most thorough search from orbit failed to find any indication of a sentient civilization already inhabiting the planet. Once the planet was meticulously mapped, a site near the equator was selected for landfall.

The explorers set up camp, spending the next few months gathering samples of the flora and killing any fauna that got too curious…and everything died satisfactorily, proving that the planet was conquerable.

The explorer’s encountered several ‘pests’ that the colonist’s would have to be warned about but on the whole, The Eye was just another Earth waiting to be raped.

When the planet’s microbes proved be no match for the human immune system (and vice versa as far as the advance team could tell) the explorer’s packed up and made the long journey home in just two and a half weeks.

The ships proved themselves to be faster in reality than they were on paper, adding a whole new dimension of profitability to the project. Now the four ships would rotate between the planets on the average of twice a week, doubling the cargo transfer rate.

The Eye had plenty of hardwood forests and vast herds of (presumably edible) carbon based life forms. Her oceans were deep and teaming with life. It seemed that the Baron Von Sachkunde had indeed staked his claim to a gold mine in the sky!

The crew of The Furchtlos was quarantined and the specimens obtained from The Eye were carefully examined for the next six months.

While several members of the expeditionary team died on The Eye, their deaths were attributed to their own stupidity. They had taken chances with the local wildlife and lost.

Once the world’s scientific community was satisfied that life on The Eye presented no immediate danger to life on Earth, the green light was given for colonization to commence.

During the six-month quarantine period, two more ships completed their maiden voyages and were soon to embark on their shakedown runs.

The second ship, dubbed the ‘Ubermacht Rodelschlitten’, had completed its shakedown run and was being prepared to make the trip to transport the core settlement team to The Eye.

With the green light for colonization came the push to sign up homesteader’s willing to plunk down hefty amounts of cash for a two-week nap and the promise of a job on the other end of the ride.

Documentaries about The Eye’s pristine splendor were aired globally--but for some odd reason, none of these televised picture postcards mentioned the dangers posed by several of the planets indigenous life forms.

One of the more enterprising Dukes created an infomercial from the documentary that offered one stop shopping and easy financing for those who wished to settle in his duchy. For a mere three quarters of a million dollars (per person/double occupancy) one could buy passage on the ship, be guaranteed a job upon arrival.

This offer also included a lovely two bedroom pre-fab home beautifully situated on it’s own pristine 10,000 square foot lot. (Site preparation and assembly not included.)

This was a bold move on the Duke’s part because the fiefdoms had yet to be given physical coordinates. No one knew exactly where their fief would be or what the conditions were like there.

This particular Duke just happened to be a pre-fab housing mogul and ironically enough, his duchy would later become known as the ‘Tornado Alley’ of The Eye.

Monkey see, monkey do and soon the airwaves were loaded with special, discounted, one time only offers to settle in each of the other nobles fief’s.

Taking advantage of the easy credit terms effectively quadrupled the package price with some of the less scrupulous nobles spreading rumors that gold and other precious minerals had been discovered in their fief, causing sales to soar.

Due to the exorbitant price of transportation, buying a ride to The Eye was a one way trip for a majority of those who made the commitment.

Only the nobles could afford to purchase round trip passage if they bothered to go at all.

The original expeditionary team trained for a year before encountering the dangers posed by The Eye and several of those highly trained experts died.

In the first year of immigration to The Eye, a trip made by people who only knew what they saw on the documentaries and a majority of them city dwellers, a full fifty-percent perished at the claws and stingers of The Eye’s predators.

With no direct communication between the earthbound and their loved ones, except for e-mails that were shuttled in both directions by the ships, The Eye’s high mortality rate remained a secret.

It was not until a grief organization was formed on Earth to mourn the passing of those who were buried on a distant planet that the true figures came to light.

The Eye of Orion Corporation refused to haul cadavers because cargo space was at too high a premium. Even the hibernation chambers used to carry immigrants to the planet were filled with cargo on the return trip.

What started off as a small organization established to provide solace to those who had lost loved ones on a distant planet quickly evolved into an international uproar.

An uproar that sparked a UN investigation.

The Emperor and his nobles were slapped on the wrist and made to cease their deceptive advertising practices. The UN council also ordered The Eye of Orion Corporation to establish a survival-training program that all future immigrants to The Eye were required to successfully complete.

Naturally, the curriculum of this program and what determined successful completion was left up to the sole discretion of The Eye of Orion Corporation.

Another bit of fallout from the high mortality rate on The Eye was the commencement of a program to eradicate the most virulent of the planet’s pests.

A program that’s only success was to throw the planet’s balance of nature completely out of whack. The methods used accidentally wiped out several species essential to the food chain on The Eye.

When fate hands you lemons, make lemonade!

Immigration to The Eye was suspended for a month while several emergency runs were made to replace the lost species with their Earthbound equivalents.

This tactic created a few problems of its own but it stabilized the rapidly decaying ecology of The Eye and in the end was deemed to be an overall success.

And nothing succeeds like success!

The astounding success of The Eye of Orion Corporation spawned several competitive start-ups with each competitor offering a different twist on the noble theme.

Having foreseen this eventuality, The Baron already had a lock on the closest suspected class ‘M’ planets, putting the competition at a decided disadvantage.

Because of this, more than half of the start ups failed to attract enough investors to get even one ship into production while the remaining two foundered in their attempts to finance the maiden voyage of their only ship to the distant stars they held leases on.

The UN was once again called upon to mediate and the Baron was forced to surrender the lease on two of his holdings.

Naturally, the Baron was allowed to choose which two leases to surrender and he chose a pair of dogs he held only because they could ‘potentially’ support human life.

A merger of the two remaining competitors was arranged and the new parent company sent off expeditions to each of its new holdings.

The first ship returned after spending only a few hours in orbit around its destination. The whole planet was covered by a layer of moss like vegetation that was estimated to be a hundred feet thick in some places.

This is what had accounted for the free atmospheric oxygen and the trace amounts of moisture. The scientists on board could not detect any pools of standing water or any likely sources of subterranean water that are essential for human agriculture.

The mission to the second planet failed to return at all. Tensions rose as the days ticked by and after waiting two months, a rescue mission was mounted using the remaining ship.

Again, the second ship (ironically named the ‘Lady Luck’) returned after spending only a few hours orbiting the target.

Upon arrival, the rescue team encountered an automated warning message left behind by the doomed first mission.

The planet was host to a microbe that was deadly to humans and resistant to all known antibiotics. Rather than risk returning to Earth with the microbe on board, the crew of the doomed ship chose the moral high road and perished on the microbe’s planet of origin.

The dual strikeout caused The Eye of Orion Corporation’s only competitor to file bankruptcy shortly after the media reported on the fate of the lost expedition.

News of the second disaster rekindled old arguments about the dangers of space exploration and questioned the wisdom of humanity continuing to search the cosmos for habitable planets.

The Baron rode out the xenophobic tide in silence. The success of the colony on The Eye proved that space was conquerable and the continued success of the colony would calm the people’s fear of the unknown.

He quietly bought up the assets of his failed competitor and continued to focus his energies on exploiting The Eye of Orion to the fullest.

Naturally, the flow of people willing to pay exorbitant prices to immigrate to the colony diminished dramatically after the dual disasters.

Fortunately, the colony was self-sufficient by this point so transport service was scaled back to twice a month to accommodate the diminished demand.

Five years had passed since the founding of the colony on The Eye and the colonists now numbered over two million despite the high mortality rate experienced early on.

The Eye boasted several small cities and much of Earth’s culture had followed humanity into space.

The Eye was becoming more livable with each passing day and reports indicated that methods of coping with The Eye’s predator/pest population were improving annually.

The Baron waited the requisite six months for the furor to die down over the failure of the two marginal expeditions. He then commissioned a new documentary to be shot on The Eye with the focus to be on the quality of life enjoyed by the colonists.

The end result looked more like a horror movie than a travelogue.

The colonists had taken to wearing head to toe body armor to defeat the nastier creatures indigenous to The Eye with the camera capturing more than a few attacks by the same.

The scenes of how the colonist’s lived and worked proved to be even more negative. Most of the people interviewed were wooden to say the least. Spitting out obviously rehearsed, monosyllabic answers or flatly refusing to answer questions that touched on such delicate subjects as how they felt about living on The Eye. The truth was etched in the haunted eyes of the worker’s…these people lived in fear!

The documentary was purchased for an obscene sum of money and the crew that shot the film was sworn to secrecy. The Baron then sent an undercover emissary on the next transport to The Eye for a first-hand report on the true conditions there. When the emissary returned six weeks later, he had a harrowing tale to tell.

It seems most of the nobles had been approached by representatives of a company called Acme Amalgamated. One of Acme’s many ventures happened to be contract manufacturing. Acme was always on the lookout for ways to reduce cost and they saw a double-edged opportunity by establishing operations on The Eye.

In exchange for tax exempt status, Acme offered to establish manufacturing operations in the target noble’s fief, thereby attracting settlers to the fiefdom that the noble could tax. As part of this arrangement, Acme offered to collect the taxes directly from the employee’s paycheck and forward them to the noble at no charge.

Acme’s motive for doing this was less than altruistic. Less than ten percent of what Acme collected in taxes ever made it to the noble. Acme knew that The Eye of Orion Corporation made its money by bringing settlers to the colony. It back hauled finished goods to Earth for free as a service to the fief owners.

When new tradesmen arrived on The Eye, Acme was the only game in town. The Eye of Orion Corporation, primarily a transportation company, had long since stopped hiring. This forced the new arrivals to take whatever Acme had to offer.

Between the noble’s taxes, food and their debt to Acme, the workers watched helplessly as they sunk deeper in debt. There was no way to leave the prison made for them by the Acme Amalgamated Corporation.

If all of this wasn’t bad enough, the workers were put on an incentive program. Workers who consistently failed to make quota were forced to go on long hikes in the countryside without their protective gear…a virtual death sentence.

This is not to say that the workers didn’t exact their toll upon their oppressor whenever the opportunity arose.

The bottom line of the emissary’s report warned of the high probability of an armed rebellion by the colonists in the near future if nothing was done to correct the situation.

The Baron immediately sent for the Chairman of Acme Amalgamated to have a face to face meeting with the person responsible for endangering his colony.

The chairman was unavailable but the CEO came in his place. To the Baron’s surprise, the CEO of Acme was fully aware of the situation on The Eye.

The CEO then proceeded to express his concern that a work stoppage caused by a revolt would adversely affect Acme’s customer base, hence Acme’s bottom line, if the matter was not addressed immediately. In the same breath, he told the Baron that Acme had already taken steps to beef up its ‘security force’ on The Eye to better protect it’s business interests! After all, Acme was the largest single employer on The Eye!

The Baron intended on being the one to dole out a spanking this day but here he was on the receiving end instead!

The CEO of Acme Amalgamated turned on his heel and left the flabbergasted Baron with his jaw flapping wordlessly. Once the Baron regained his composure, he mentally slapped himself for neglecting to do his homework.

How was it that he was ignorant of Acme’s strong presence on The Eye? The only Acme mentioned on the tax ledgers…hadn’t the emissary’s report mentioned something about Acme being tax exempt?

The Baron called in his top advisors and set them to the task of unraveling the mysterious web that was Acme Amalgamated and learning who was the force behind it.

It took a few days as the pieces were well hidden but the picture that emerged on The Eye was frightening. Acme, under the cover of dozens of popular franchises, had its fingers into everything.

Acme’s top management team on The Eye read like the FBI’s ten most wanted list of corporate criminals here on Earth.

The coupe de grace lay in the discovery that Acme’s kingpin, who couldn’t make his meeting with the Baron, turned out to be the former managing partner of the accounting firm used by The Eye of Orion Corporation here on Earth. Acme had been set up by a man with an insider’s working knowledge of The Eye of Orion Corporation’s business plan!

On Earth, Acme was associated with a myriad of marginally legal business entities, many of which were known fronts for organized crime. When the figures were tallied up, the CEO of Acme had been factual in his claim that Acme Amalgamated was indeed The Eye’s largest employer.

Through its finance arm, Acme represented the lion’s share of The Eye of Orion Corporation’s profits. While both firms offered financing for the expensive trip to The Eye, Acme was far more ‘lenient’ when it came to testing for creditworthiness. Healthy people who applied to Acme always got financed regardless of credit history. Acme needed warm bodies to work in their sweatshops on The Eye and there were no consumer credit laws eighty light years from Earth.

The Eye of Orion Corporation conducted its affairs on The Eye in much the same way they conducted business on Earth. When the Baron’s employees on The Eye found themselves being victimized by Acme, their complaints about the many faces that Acme wore on the planet were taken by the Baron’s earthbound counterparts to be separate incidents involving separate entities because that’s how it looked on paper.

The Eye wasn’t the only place that suffered from the illusion of a free market so this didn’t bother the Baron very much. He could even understand how Acme might be tempted to exploit the situation they themselves created as other companies here on Earth did.

What he could not overlook was the fact that Acme Amalgamated was dangerously close to owning a majority share of The Eye of Orion Corporation’s public stock.

If he did not act quickly, the Baron faced the very real probability of a proxy battle that could potentially cost him the chairmanship! The Eye of Orion was his baby and this transgression by Acme was unforgivable.

Naturally, this meant war!

The Baron quickly and quietly restructured The Eye of Orion Corporation so that his leadership was no longer in jeopardy. His next move was to unilaterally revoke the noble’s tax exempt status. This effectively nullified any tax exemptions that they handed out.

He then imposed a stiff fifty-percent tariff on all finished goods leaving the planet putting the squeeze on Acme’s profiteering. As a punitive measure, he made it known that for a limited time anyone who desired to leave The Eye could do so for free, courtesy of The Eye of Orion Corporation.

Acme was quick to file suit. 

The fine print on the back of every contract issued by The Eye of Orion Corporation specifically stated that all legal disputes were to be settled by the laws governing The Eye of Orion, where the Baron was the Emperor and thus the law!

Naturally, when Acme found itself on poor legal footing, it attempted a proxy battle on Earth to have the Baron removed from the chairman’s position.

At the emergency stockholder’s meeting, the Baron played the documentary that he commissioned and let the nobles see first hand the end result of their dealings with the Acme Amalgamated Corporation.

A vote to remove the Baron from the chairmanship guaranteed that the documentary, along with precisely who had conspired with Acme Amalgamated to create these horrors, would be made public.

When the proxy battle failed to remove the Baron from power, Acme resorted to a last ditch tactic. Acme fired all of its employees on The Eye and shut down their operations there. Two thirds of the planet suddenly found themselves unemployed.

To make matters worse, Acme threatened to sue the employee’s relatives on Earth for what was owed to them.

The Baron, invoking his authority as Emperor, ‘planetized’ Acme’s former holdings on The Eye. He put the people back to work under the supervision of personnel employed by The Eye of Orion Corporation.

As a punitive move, he forgave the debts of every Acme employee on The Eye since it was The Eye of Orion Corporation and the artificially high price of access to The Eye that had created their condition of indebtedness in the first place.

Naturally, Acme sued.

Which resulted in the UN being called in to mediate once more. Unlike the shareholders, the UN representatives were not interested in seeing the Baron’s documentary. They ruled that since the Baron had commissioned the work, it was ‘tainted’ evidence.

After attorneys for both sides argued their case, the UN sided with Acme.

They stated in their decision that the matter of Acme Amalgamated vs. The Eye of Orion Corporation was in fact a rivalry between two earthbound corporations. Even though the Baron was the Emperor of The Eye of Orion, the UN opined that he had no legal say in how Acme treated its employees.

As the ruler of a sovereign planet, the UN upheld the Emperor’s right to strip Acme of its business interests on The Eye. The UN further sided with Acme by stating that any former employee of Acme Amalgamated that returned to Earth would have an automatic judgement held against them for all monies owed to Acme.

The cherry on top of this shit sundae was that the UN imposed trade sanctions against The Eye of Orion Corporation for being anti-free enterprise!

Naturally, the Baron appealed.

Minutes after the media reported the UN imposed trade sanctions against The Eye of Orion Corporation, stock markets around the world went into a deadly tailspin. The largest engine of Earth’s economy had been dealt a deathblow.

The cost of a trip to The Eye was tripled by the UN imposed sanctions and any goods imported from The Eye would quadruple in price, with the proceeds of both tariffs going directly to Acme Amalgamated!

The Baron gathered his family and other close business associates together at the spaceport.

There was only one ship still in transit between Earth and The Eye that was scheduled to return to Earth later in the day.

He ordered five of the six ships at the spaceport to return to The Eye immediately. He put his business associates on board the departing ships and waited at the spaceport with his family for the final ship to return.

Naturally, the returning ship was loaded with disgruntled former Acme employees eager to get away from The Eye. It took a while to wake them all up and assemble them in the cargo bay to fill them in regarding the bad news about the court battle.

Some of the people decided to take their chances here on Earth, conspiring to change their identity and disappear amongst Earth’s teaming billions. A majority of the colonists were willing to make the return trip back to The Eye. With their debts forgiven, they now had a chance at pursuing the life they originally migrated there for.

The ship’s captain announced over the intercom that the UN had issued orders to seize the spaceport after learning of the five ships that had left Earth’s space without authorization.

The ship that had just returned lacked sufficient provisions to make the return trip to The Eye with more than a skeleton crew.

The colonists, extra crewmen and the Baron’s family raced to the last waiting ship, allowing the captain of the other ship to take off immediately.

The refugees boarded The Furchtlos and the Baron ordered the captain to depart at once. Less than two weeks later the Furchtlos arrived in orbit around The Eye.

So it came to pass that the Emperor of The Eye of Orion and his son, the King, arrived at their land of opportunity. A place that had made them even wealthier than they already were but until this moment, a place that they had only read about in company briefs and seen in the occasional documentary.

And they all lived happily ever after…after the revolt that is.

Despite the Baron’s best efforts to relieve the colonists suffering, there was still a two-week lag in communications between planets.  

Once the head of Acme’s management team on The Eye learned that he was out of a job, he bribed the head of Acme’s security forces on the planet to back him up in his bid to stage a coup.

Acme’s web of deceit may have fooled the people of Earth but the colonists knew just who it was that had made their life on The Eye a living hell.

When the former COO of Acme’s operations on The Eye announced that he was taking over…let’s just say the news wasn’t received very well by the colonists.

A revolt erupted and the colonists of the savage land kicked butt! They used their superior knowledge of the ‘pests’ that plagued their everyday life to their maximum advantage, eviscerating the tough mercenary force sent by Acme to quell the worker’s unrest.

The colonist’s victory was only hours old when the Emperor arrived at The Eye’s spaceport aboard the Furchtlos. The only thing that saved the Baron and his family from a colonist lynch mob was the fact that he had a reputation as a decent employer.  

The Eye of Orion Corporation’s employees defended their boss from the people who were prepared to turn the Emperor and his entire entourage loose on the open plains of The Eye without any protective gear.

The Emperor made a speech shortly after his arrival on The Eye explaining to the colonists that the Monarchy he set up was nothing more than a very successful marketing ploy. He abdicated the Emperor’s throne on the spot and proposed a new way of doing things on The Eye.

The Baron was an astute, successful businessman who had dealt with the machinations of Earth’s governments all of his life. The citizens of The Eye would all work for the company and share the bounty that the company produced equally. A majority of those present voted in favor of the proposal and the colony proceeded to flourish at an unprecedented rate.

Meanwhile, back on Earth.

When the media reported that the Emperor/owner of The Eye of Orion Corporation had gathered up his minions, boarded the companies ships and sailed them all off into the sunset…the world’s stock markets went flat-line.

The world’s military craft equipped with gravitic drives lacked the cargo capacity for forays into deep space so they couldn’t pursue the renegade Baron to The Eye.

Plans for military transports that could make the trip were still just designs on the architect’s hard drive as factions within the world’s governments wrangled over who would win what contract.

The ensuing panic and rioting caused by the financial disaster sparked wildfires to spring up in every major city around the globe.

Billions died and civil order collapsed, effectively turning the clock of civilization back a thousand years overnight.

When the Baron returned to Earth six months later all he found were tribes of savage nomads wandering aimlessly through the ruins of a lost world, man the predator at his finest!

By George C. Anderson Jr.

Copyright 3/23/02

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2. Southern Extinction
3. Lost Identity
4. Rich Man, Poor Soul
5. It's in the Cards
6. The Sludge (Part 10)
7. The Music Portal
8. Part 3: Last Man Standing
9. Living On Mars: Our Story. (Part One)
10. Maybe the Universe isn't Rational After Al