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March 18th 2020

Aremis Post: Fading Fortuna

Aremis Post

By Brandon Lazarides

This Op-Ed was reprinted with permission from the Charon Chronicle.

Stella Fortuna has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up in Acheron, it felt like I couldn’t get any further from Earth if I tried. Stella Fortuna was the day I could connect with my ancestral home and dream of a future where I would visit it in my very own ship. It was a day to celebrate hopefulness, courage, and Humanity’s incredible expansion into the stars

When I was twelve, my parents saved enough of their meager earnings to reserve seats on a starliner voyage to a UEE-sponsored Stella Fortuna celebration in-system. The starliner joined other vessels near a picturesque nebula by a jump gate. I’ll never forget the incredible view from the observation deck as ships that had never before left the system paraded to the jump gate and one by one launched themselves into the wider universe. The sight even made my stern father smile. I remember him turning to me to say that if I worked hard then someday I could have my own ship and journey anywhere I wanted.

It’s been decades since that special Stella Fortuna voyage, and I haven’t left Charon III’s atmosphere since.

As a young man, I still celebrated Stella Fortuna with gusto, but tempered my childhood dreams and ambitions. I scrapped my plan to captain a Freelancer on a grand tour of every UEE system and set my sights on owning an Aurora I could take to Earth. For someone like me, who worked an administrative job at a local spaceport, it felt like an ambitious but attainable goal. Every day I saw the latest and greatest ships, fancy clothing, and expensive armor from across the Empire. Seeing the bounty and diversity of the UEE kept me motivated to save credits to someday experience the wider universe. If so many others could live the UEE dream of freely traveling among the stars, then why not me?

Years passed, yet I found myself no closer to my goal; any financial gains were offset by a skyrocketing cost of living. The Empire’s economic booms that brought prosperity to so many skipped Charon, but we still paid the rising prices. Like many others in the system, I was treading water, but still hopeful for a better future.

Then my world literally fell to pieces in the Acheron earthquake of 2934. In a matter of moments my entire life changed. My apartment complex was shaken to the ground, crushing everything I owned. I lost my job at the port after officials assessed damage to the foundation and deemed it cheaper to demolish than repair. And of course, there were deeper losses, as I mourned many friends and loved ones who were killed. I kept hearing that UEE disaster funds were imminent, but while politicians debated parliamentary procedures systems away, I slept among the rubble. I scavenged for food. I drank contaminated water that sickened me terribly. I watched countless body bags be hauled away, there being no time or resources for proper funerals. Worse still were the bodies trapped under buildings that were simply left to rot. For the first time in my life, I forgot to celebrate Stella Fortuna, which now feels fitting since the UEE also forgot about me.

It took years to put my life back together. Something only possible thanks to the help of fellow Acheron residents, numerous local initiatives, and generous aid from our neighbors in Dellin. It was not lost on me that Dellin, our historic adversaries, delivered more aid to Acheron than the UEE. Saddened by this realization, I continued to avoid celebrating Stella Fortuna.

More misfortune befell my homeworld in 2944 when war erupted between Acheron and Dellin. The unity brought about by disaster crumbled quickly without the proper infrastructure to support it. Once again the UEE response was woefully inadequate and arguably harmful. Navy vessels refused to intervene and protect the people. Instead, they installed blockades that were supposed to keep the situation from escalating, but in reality only further restricted the flow of supplies and made our lives even harder. As the war stretches into its sixth year, the situation has only worsened. Meanwhile, the UEE still refuses to take any action that could help bring it to an end.

This war has crushed any hope that I’ll ever own a ship. I no longer dream of seeing Earth or even leaving this system. All I long for is peace and a better tomorrow for my homeworld. Two years ago I expressed this sentiment to a friend, who then asked if I had plans on March 15th, Stella Fortuna. Even though I hadn’t celebrated the holiday in years, I accepted.

We met at dusk and made our way up a scenic trail into the hills above our city, which had mostly been spared from the war. As we walked, my friend never mentioned Stella Fortuna. He talked about how he joined a local volunteer organization that maintained this trail and several others. He described how dedicating himself to this simple task in his spare time imbued in him a sense of purpose and the satisfaction that he was making his homeworld better.

We reached a stunning vista overlooking the city just as the sun set. There a small group gathered to soak in the sight. Someone handed out paper lanterns. My friend produced a pen and implored me to think about one thing I could do to improve our planet. I wrote it on the lantern and released it into the sky. As I watched it rise, a sense of peace washed over me as I realized that my small, personal goal would never be answered from above. The only way to guarantee a better tomorrow would have to be through action taken by me in the local community.

I joined my friend the next time he volunteered for trail maintenance and quickly became an active member. Soon I found myself attending city council meetings, talking to my neighbors about what could be done to make their lives better, and advocating for those that felt powerless. Others took notice of my passion, and last year I won a special election to fill a vacancy on the city council. For the first time in years, I felt a deep sense of pride and purpose. I felt like not only was there hope for a better tomorrow but that I could be a positive force for that change.

For decades, I loved celebrating Stella Fortuna because it made me feel a part of something bigger. A small part of a massive Empire that had conquered space travel and settled on strange worlds where Humanity was never meant to be. Now I see how Stella Fortuna just perpetuated a fantasy that things would be better if we stuck together.

For this reason, I urge all Citizens to support Antwan Lillard for Imperator. His plan to dissolve the Empire and allow each system to govern itself might seem extreme, but it actually acknowledges the Empire’s current reality. We can’t keep letting the tyranny of history keep us from accepting the fact that the Empire can no longer properly care for and support all its people. Speaking from experience, that has become a task best left to officials on a local level.

Stella Fortuna was meant to inspire people to be bold and brave when embarking on journeys into the great unknown. It’s time to acknowledge that Human history ties us to Earth, but Earth is no longer tied to us. We are now all children of the stars. We are in charge of our own destiny and this election marks the start of a new journey we must take. Antwan Lillard is the only Imperator candidate brave enough to lead the way, and he deserves the vote of all citizens in the upcoming election because of it.

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