Account of Life on Romulus


Editor’s Note: Francoise Patreau, 59, one of the 4000 original pioneers on Romulus, gives an account of the beginning of the Romulan colony. Francoise left a successful career as a communications executive on Earth to emigrate with her family. Her industry experience caused her to be elected vice president in charge of operations of the planetary communications company, a position she held for ten years. She succeeded the chief executive of the company, and she holds that position to this day. At this writing, she also-serves as a member of the Industrial Planning Board of Romulus. Though Francoise has no experience as a professional writer, she is an articulate spokesperson for the Romulan way of life.

Why does a rising communications executive who’s just approaching the prime of life quit her job, forfeit all Earthly assets and start over again on a wild, uncivilized world half a light century away? I made the decision on a sultry afternoon eighteen years ago as I sat in my 152nd-floor office overlooking the Paris region. Outside, thick, yellow haze blurred all detail of the rows of building that seemed to stretch to infinity. Long ago, Paris was a city, and at its edges lay farms, woods, and fields. Though people had manicured and civilized the European continent, other parts of Earth contained virgin forests filled with wild animals. In 2357, all of Europe lay under a blanket of Human structures or chemical farms, stripped of all natural life and cultivated to the limit. This depressed me.

I turned once again to my editing screen and looked at the report I was unable to continue writing, yet another revision of the Economic Justification for Upgrading Central Infotranscore in Service Region 138. For each person that actually lifts a driver or a bonder, there had to be ten people to write justifications for him to do it. Why? When I was an engineering student, developing ways to improve communications between people seemed a worthwhile endeavor. Now twenty y ears later, with any other person on the globe a t my fingertips, it seemed pointless. In my youth, I thought it foolish to leave the comforts of Earth and risk one’s neck on one of the colony worlds, but now?

I cleared my editing board and entered the code to link me with the Eurodata library. As soon as I connected, I requested the index of GAILE publications. An enormous list began to roll by before me. It contained so many documents, I didn’t know what to ask for; so in desperation I requested the latest issue of the bi-weekly Pioneers Update. The lead story announced that GAILE had opened applications for people who wished to colonize Romulus, the uninhabited planet of the twin worlds discovered fifteen years before. A new world! The idea resonated in my soul! I turned back to the index and called up all publications on Romulus.

I read all afternoon until well past quitting time when my husband called. His face bore concern as he looked at me from the screen. “Is everything all right, Francoise?” he asked.

“Pierre,” I replied, “I am going to Romulus. I wish you and the children would come with me, but if you do not, my decision is unaffected.” His eyes opened very wide, his jaw dropped and for a long moment he said nothing. Finally, he stammered, “You will be home for supper tonight, yes, Francoise?”

“Yes,” I answered, “tonight.”

The apartment was in an uproar when I walked in that evening. Pierre still seemed dumbfounded by my announcement, but my two teenage daughters, Marie, 16, and Collette, 13, positively bubbled with enthusiasm and bombarded me with nonstop questions. “Will we live in the wilderness? Can we have a dog? A horse? Will we be farmers or tradespeople? Are there wild animals?” It took some time to calm everybody down and to explain some of the serious things about the pioneering program and my serious reasons for wanting to join.

Early the next morning while the others slept, I rose to begin preparing our applications. I knew it wouldn’t be easy for a man and a woman, both past 4 0 with two children, to be selected to live on the newest and therefore most rigorous of the planets. Yet I also knew that a new planet would need mature, experienced people as well as the young to develop a technological society. I felt I could make a good case that Pierre and I had the skills and experience essential to a new colony and that we were also physically fit to go.

Becoming physically fit took the greatest effort. Neither Pierre nor I could be considered athletic and our jobs kept us at desks most of the time. I devised an exercise program for both of us including swimming, running, and yoga which I hoped would get us into reasonable condition in time for our preselection physicals. The first few weeks seemed agonizing, but soon I could feel my body firming up. I ate like a horse while losing five kilograms. Pierre said I never looked better, a good thing for him because my sexual appetite responded to my improved physical and mental attitude.

After extensive review of our applications, personal interviews, and thorough physical exams for the entire family, GAILE accepted us as a group for the first shipload of pioneers to Romulus! We felt jubilant, for less than 20,000 people in the whole of Human history had the honor and the thrill of being the first to settle a virgin world. I took great pleasure in informing my employers that I would no longer be working for them and left my job within a few weeks. Although our ship would not leave Earth for almost two years, Pierre and I wanted to spend time learning about our new world and to participate in the colony planning meetings. Since our Earthly wealth would be of little use to us on our new planet, we could afford to live off our savings until we departed.

As soon as the Galactic Association approves a planet for colonization, GAILE staff planners begin to define the shape of the first colony. Much of the preliminary work consists of scientific studies to identify potential diseases, earthquake zones, weather patterns, dangerous animals, edible plants, and other phenomenon of importance to settlers. The GAILE staff also identifies preliminary settlement sites and selects suitable strains of Earth’s food crops for each of these areas. This research takes many years but forms a vital data base that helps pioneers to make their decisions rationally. During the preliminary stage, planners draw up a multitude of wild designs for the planet’s development, estimate maximum and minimum immigration rates, set final pioneer selection criteria, and generate dozens of reports (many of which are never read).

About three years before the scheduled settlement date, GAILE staff members begin to select applicants for the first colony. As these people are chosen they join in the planning process and make the final hard decisions about the location of the first settlement and its organization, both political and industrial.

Pierre and I became involved early in this second stage of planning. Because of the enormity of the task, the Pioneers’ Planning Committee divides itself into subcommittees along lines of interest. I served on the Communications and Computer Services subcommittee while Pierre served on the Power Distribution subcommittee. Other pioneers formed committees to deal with government, housing, farming, industrial construction, land use, natural resources, and transportation. As with most committees, only interested individuals ever accomplish anything, and so most of the work of the Communications committee fell to three or four people with expertise in that field. GAILE had specified much of the hardware we would be allowed to take with us before we pioneers entered the picture. It then became our task to make best use of what was allotted. We soon found it impossible to plan communications without considering other factors such as the location of the first settlement, its population distribution, and the forms its industry would take. We therefore held numerous meeting with members of other committees to determine what they were doing.

In short order this process bogged down, and it became clear that some people would have to take responsibility for the overall design of Romulus’s society and provide guidelines for the detailed planning groups. The GAILE staff called a meeting of the 9500 pioneers thus far selected to elect a Steering Committee for the colony. The meeting wasn’t held in one place. Pioneers from around the Earth linked into a private channel that allowed them to listen to each candidate for the committee’s seats. The candidates then answered questions and the pioneers voted, recording their choices electronically. As expected, the election produced a panel of moderates who believed they should solicit the detailed opinions of all colonists before drafting a master plan.

Historically, there had been two forms of colonial organization: Hadar’s model of total free enterprise and the Genesis model of a centrally planned society. Soliciting the opinions of 9500 people naturally produced a wide spectrum of views ranging from stoic communists to rabid free enterprisers.

Once again, the Steering Committee adopted a middle ground approach. They provided that major industries be owned by all Romulans, but operated as profit-making entities. New industries and work that lends itself to fragmented industry are allowed to operate freely. Upon arrival, each pioneer is given non-transferable shares of stock of major industries in proportion to the amount of capital equipment brought by his colonial vessel. This stock pays dividends and may be transferred only to the colonists’ children or designated heirs. Stockholders (which theoretically includes most adults) elect the officers of major firms.

The Steering Committee set up this complex scheme to cope with the problem of allocating the very precious supplies of imported equipment, such as power reactors, computer main frames, comsats, hospital equipment, mining equipment, and machine tools. It ensures that any excess profits generated by the operation of these vital industries will accrue to all citizens and not to a select few.

Shortly after the organization of the major industries, I found myself elected Vice President in Charge of Operations of the Romulus Telecomplex Co-op. Most of my life I had worked as a specialist. I moved from job to job in the communications industry, but in any one job I controlled no more than one small segment of a very large endeavor. For the first time in my life I found myself responsible for all aspects of the communications industry, including erecting and starting up the computer center, training new craftsmen and programmers, designing access terminals for homes and businesses, and placing communications satellites in orbit. On Earth I had a virtually unlimited supply of scientific knowledge and expert opinion to assist me with everything from building contracts to orbital calculations. On Romulus I would have only the aid of a few overworked individuals and the computer’s library. I would have to make most of the critical decisions alone.

The months of intense preparation finally passed and the day came for us to leave Earth forever. We climbed aboard an orbital shuttle at the Paris spaceport carrying small bags that held what remained of our Earthly belongings. The antigrav shuttle drive operated so silently that we found ourselves in the blackness of space almost before we knew we had left the ground. The shuttle linked with two orbiting space complexes to drop off and take on passengers before heading toward the orbit of our starship, the Romulan Provider. The enormity of the starship overwhelmed me. As we docked, it loomed larger and larger until it seemed to fill all of space with a metallic silver array of long, slender cylinders.

After linking, we climbed up a tight circular staircase into the airlock, and I felt a dizzy sensation as we passed between the g-fields of the spacecraft and the starship. The ship’s airlock opened on to an enormous anteroom containing circular rows of built-in benches and a central core of six large elevators. Four crewmembers awaited us and showed us to our quarters. As a family group, we were given a small split-level apartment complete with a mini kitchen and computer access terminal. Simply but tastefully decorated, the apartment felt so cozy that during the weeks of our journey we nearly forgot that we hurtled at near light speeds through the hostile void of space.

The loading of the pioneers took more than a week as they came in small shuttles from all parts of the Earth. Our family arrived early so that I could make final checks of the telecomplex equipment as the ship’s crew loaded it. The loss of a single critical item could cause serious problems for the first pioneers. We had no backup, no existing equipment already in place, and the Romulan Provider would not return in less than six months!

At last the final pioneers climbed aboard and the buzz of 4000 voices filled the corridors of the ship. Although many of us had worked together for years, this was the first time that most of the pioneers met each other face to face. When the moment of departure came, the captain announced it over the loudspeaker and every person on board crowded to the windows to take one last look at Earth.

I didn’t feel the slightest sensation of motion as the ship moved out of orbit. It traveled very fast, for as we watched, the Earth began to shrink visibly. In forty minutes the moon came into view beside the tiny Earth and within two hours the two spheres had shrunk to tiny points of light against a backdrop of billions of stars. During those two hours, 8000 eyes stared at the shrinking globe. No one spoke and a cold somberness descended upon the festive pioneers. I can’t express the emotions that filled me as I watched the Earth drop away into the void of space, knowing that I would not see it again. That tiny sphere of my primordial origins had contained my whole life. As the ship pulled me away, I felt the roots of my soul being torn apart as they clung to the soil below.

The busy routine aboard ship made us soon forget the somberness of our departure. The business is planned so that pioneers don’t have time to brood about the past and the loss of their lifelong home. Most attended classes about the new planet since they had little time to study it in detail before departing. Because I had spent so much time in preparation, I didn’t go to school but spent each day planning the telecomplex’s first months of operation after our arrival.

After nine weeks in space, Upsilon Lupus began to grow from a point of light among the billions to a bright sun. Once again all pioneers crowded to the view ports as the Twin Worlds came into view. Without doubt, Romulus and Remus form one of the most beautiful astrophysical sights in the known galaxy, two iridescent spheres, marbled in blue and white, contrasted against the black background of space. Slowly the great ship glided into a low orbit over one of the worlds, and we began to recognize the continents of Romulus we had studied on the maps.

Unloading the first shipful of pioneers on a planet takes much longer than unloading subsequent ones. The ship spent eight weeks in orbit before the last of the pioneers and their living spires grounded. First the great space tug, brought disassembled in one of the cargo spires, had to be put together. The tug then took the first cargo spire to the surface, along with a small crew of workers who prepared the foundations for landing the personnel spires. As soon as the first foundations were ready, .the tug brought our spire to the ground. The crew had arranged people in the spires in the approximate order they were needed on the surface. The plans called for Pierre and me to land at once. He had to begin work on the fusion reactor that would supply power to the city, while I had to start supervising the installation of the planetary computer. Our daughters stayed aboard the ship for several weeks until the rest of the spires could land.

Our spire grounded in the early morning of the 44-hour Romulan day, and we opened our view port to a scene that few 24th century Earth people had ever seen. The spire stood on a broad plain of green grass and low shrubbery extending un-_ broken to the sea. In the distance, a forest of trees climbed up a ridge of low hills on the horizon. From our window, we could see no sign of Human presence. No artificial structures blemished the natural vista of green and blue.

We went outside and deafening silence accosted our ears. Gone was the constant whir of machinery that had become welded to our subconscious on Earth. As I looked on this beautiful, peaceful scene, I felt the tensions of the journey drain from my body leaving a calm lightheartedness I had never felt before. I took off my shoes and ran toward the beach. “Come on, Pierre!” I cried childishly.

“But Francoise, the computer?” he replied.

“The computer can wait a few hours!” I yelled back. “This will only happen to us once!”

I was born again during those first hours on Romulus. My world became filled with the newness of a child’s world. Every plant and tiny creature, every rock and grain of sand seemed new and fresh and so very, very fascinating. My senses opened to the natural fragrance of the soil, the plants, the ocean. The rising sun warmed the air, and small flying creatures drifted overhead in the first stirrings of the sea breeze. We walked for hours along the shoreline, stopping to look at each new thing we saw. Sometimes we splashed barefoot through the icy surge at the water’s edge. Several kilometers down the beach, we lost sight of the spire. I put my arms around Pierre and whispered, “Make love to me.”

“Here!” he exclaimed with astonishment, “Outside?”

“We have the whole world to make love in if we want it.” I replied laughing. “All of it belongs to us now.” We held each other on the sand, in the warmth of the sun, and it was the best it has ever been for both of us.

Upon touching the planet’s surface, the pioneers had scattered in all directions like dandelion seed, but several hours later they began to drift back to begin long days of work preparing for the arrival of the others. Pierre and I were among the first to return, and we began to examine the cargo spires that contained the equipment. They lay on their sides like great cigars, and opened by splitting crosswise into short cylinders, each of which had a cargo door in one end. I found the section containing the computer equipment, opened a small access hatch and climbed inside. Most of the equipment survived ^he landing intact, but one large crate containing a temporary storage had shifted and crushed some access modules. I located the drawing viewers tucked just inside the hatch. With these the construction crews could begin the foundations of the prefab building that would house the computer center.

The next grueling weeks taxed all my strength. The 44-hour day of Romulus is rough for Humans to get used to, but until we had the major buildings up, we worked during as much of the day as possible. Our general plan consisted of rising at dawn and working 16 hours. Then we napped for four hours and worked another 12 hours, with the bright light of Remus overhead. Before the rest of the spires came down, we had to get the power plant operational and the computer center fully checked out and functional. We had to be ready when the Romulan Provider departed with its priceless data base of Human knowledge.

All through the summer months, the 4000 original pioneers labored to erect the shops and mining facilities required to make machinery, electronic components, and housing materials. Stores of freeze-dried food supplemented the food grown in hydroponic gardens. In the winter, the second shipload of pioneers arrived with fabricating tools and farm implements. For the rest of the winter, the new arrivals put this equipment to work making trucks and prefab houses for the future farmers. That winter we prepared the first communications satellite that would link farmers and miners in the outlying regions with Sharam, furnishing them with communications, entertainment, and vital access to the computer library.

There were problems placing a satellite in synchronous orbit about Romulus. Ordinary satellites tended to drift off location during the early years of operation and constantly had to be moved back to position. We finally solved the problem by building a self-powered relay station that would automatically reposition itself.

In the second year, after putting the farms and mines in operation, the time came for the pioneers to assign priorities to the kinds of goods they wanted to have. Since most of them had come to Romulus in part to escape the crowding on Earth, the overwhelming majority of pioneers left in Sharam first wanted land of their own. This required the production of housing units and personal transportation in large quantities. In order to minimize waste, pioneers had to place firm orders for prefab housing, power generators, and automobiles before the shops tooled up to produce them. During the third year, pioneers scavenged communications sets and personal appliances from the spires for their homes in the wilderness. The vacant space was converted into offices and larger apartments for the people left in Sharam.

Because our work tied Pierre and me to the original settlement, we were among the last of the original pioneers to secure our own plot of land, some eight years from the day we grounded. We enjoyed the eight years in Sharam, for as people moved out it became a more pleasant place to live. The colonists who remained made attractive additions to the spire buildings and landscaped the city with ornamental native trees. We purchased our own levicar and used it to take us far from the city on weekend camping trips that gave us the chance to compare potential living sites.

In the colony’s eighth year we took delivery on a small prefab house and staked our claim. We settled on 25 hectares of a hillside overlooking a small lake on the Wolf Peninsula about 250 kilometers from Sharam. As both Pierre and I still had to work in the city, we retained our spire apartment. By this time Marie had been married for almost two years and Collette was engaged. Pierre and I spent most weekends alone at our retreat, enjoying the natural beauty of our new world. Though I have spent most of my life amidst the bustle of cities, I relished being surrounded by unspoiled wilderness. We had a few neighbors within forty kilometers of us, but we couldn’t detect a trace of their presence from the ground. I developed a passion for gardening and cultivated a variety of imported and native plants. In the summer months, the crystal lake became warm enough for swimming, and on summer days we often spent the entire day at its edge.

In the colony’s tenth year it became clear that Sharam was reaching its limits of growth. Although the population of the entire planet numbered only 160,000, 70 percent of these worked in or near Sharam. Though still a tiny town by Earth standards, we knew it would not adapt well to the inevitable growth of the future. We had designed it to serve as a first settlement in a world of scarce transportation and building materials. Establishing the Romulan colony’s industrial base obsoleted the crowded little city.

The Industrial Planning Board recognized that the lifestyle of Romulus would remain essentially a rural one for many years to come. Cities would serve primarily as focal points for shopping, commerce and socializing. To relieve the strain on Sharam, the Board decided to establish a new industrial region at the base of the Wolf Peninsula.

The region would include a city designed to accommodate the rapid future growth of Romulus and to supercede Sharam as the colony’s principal commercial center for the rest of the first century. To this end, Reforma would consist of two principal parts: the first, a densely constructed commercial/entertainment zone where no levicars would be permitted and public transportation would be integral; and the second would be a giant industrial tract designed to accommodate future factories and plants. This larger, low-density region would be equipped with an automatic levicar control system along principal transit corridors, enabling workers to make the daily commute from their rural homes in speed and safety.

The planning of Reforma presented an exciting challenge to all business leaders on Romulus. Architects drew general plans for the new city in less than two years, and within months the ground had been broken for the first industry, including a power plant, a metal forming shop, an automotive factory, and a new telecomplex facility. Soon thereafter, work commenced on the hub transportation system. As soon as the first guideways began to run, small businesses, many of them from Sharam, moved in. To encourage the growth at Reforma, spire sites have been integrated into the design and soon all new pioneers will land there. Because Reforma has tremendous potential, both of my daughters and their husbands now work there. Telecomplex headquarters remain at Sharam, but the new facilities at Reforma will soon overshadow the original computaplex.

Every year on Romulus seems different from the last. Today I serve as Chief Executive of the Telecomplex Co-op, a position I hope to hold for many more years. As such I am less concerned with daily operations and more concerned with planning for the future needs of our world. The difficulties of the early years have passed. They were exciting times, yet I think the most exciting times for Romulus are still to come. In many ways, today’s young pioneers from Earth have greater opportunities than the first pioneers. I hope to continue to participate in our planet’s development for the rest of my life, to see my grandchildren, the first generation of Romulans, grow and prosper, and to partake of the future comforts that the growth of our planet’s new industry will bring us. I know in my heart that in the free and stimulating environment of Romulus, future generations will make outstanding contributions to the knowledge and achievement of all civilizations throughout the galaxy.