Remembering victims of state-corporate dealings at a Daymar graveyard

Remembering victims of state-corporate dealings at a Daymar graveyard
UEES Flyssa crash site on Daymar / by Svalbard Sleeper District / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

We are a year away from the 90th anniversary of the deadly crash of UEES Flyssa on Daymar, an incident that took the lives of 65 people, sent by the government to protect Stanton's resources for corporations. I spent a night near the remains of their vessel thinking about the legacy of the event

Note: this article originally appeared on 21 June 2951 in Conscientious Mag

/25 March 2953/

Descending into Daymar's atmosphere, you feel the haze as much as you see it – a searing presence of voluminous temperature and accompanying glow that embraces your downward movement like on few other planetary bodies. Hills of varying height accentuate the landscape as far as eye can see, like ripples and waves in the sea, interwoven and embraced here and there.

I am here with an accomplice – an adventurous acquaintance who did not wish to be named due to the origins of his Reliant vessel I was a passenger in. My friend – a supporter of the Union of Conscientious Reporters and someone I met while making connections at revolutionary organisations a few years ago – has been involved in a number of operations for "relieving" major industrialists of some of the ships from their "bloated" fleets, as he likes to put it.

That was also the method he used to get hold of the machine he is giving me a ride on, for this little adventure we have embarked on. His drive for wandering met my wish to visit the site that is the focus of this article. Due to the backdrop of his history on how he earned the ship however, he will neither be named nor appear in images I use for the piece. The Reliant is to serve as our kitchen and shelter through the coming night, given the incompatibility of Daymar's atmospheric composition with being outside of your spacesuit and helmet.

Leaning forward in the co-pilot seat, I stare through the haze of the sand to make out the silhouettes of the capital ship's crashed sections, as we are shedding the altitude with extended gear and VTOL thrusters pointing towards the ground. The dark, angular shapes of the ship stand out against the soft curvature of the landscape, giving away the location of one of the tragic events in contemporary history.

UEES Flyssa was not in Daymar orbit that day in 2862 to counter a Vanduul incursion. The vessel and its escorting fighters were there not to guard a population centre, or to stage drills, or to take part in a UEE/Navy ceremony. The fleet was here to protect the system's resources, set aside by politicians of the state for a big corporate takeover.

Who was the fleet supposed to protect the mineral deposits from? A bunch of miners who had perfected the practice of using a combined operation of vessels to gather significant volumes of valuable materials on Daymar. Lone miners and small groups had organised efforts of obtaining ore there intermittently, with those living in Stanton having to find ways to survive following the economic crisis of the previous decade.

While the Navy had initially turned a blind eye to the "small fish", recognising their material predicament, this time they decided to make an example out of the industrial fleet and send a signal to those with ideas about such operations.

We touch down in the soft sand surrounding the crash site, the gear of the Reliant sinking slightly in the ground, about a kilometre away from the large pieces of what was once an imposing Navy machine. We discussed whether to land closer, but decided an extra walk would suit the trip and give us a better perspective of the location.

The quiet day is already turning into evening. In the rear hold of the ship I am shuffling through attachments on my armour pieces, equipped for additional protection from the elements but also as a measure of safety, along with the sidearm I rarely bring out of my usual backpack filled with reporting hardware and items. OxyPens, flares and the heavy pistol are all heaving on the attachment points as we walk the distance to the wreck, making it feel like more like a rescue mission than a writing trip.

Setting up on a nearby elevation, I unpack the backpack, set up my camera and begin taking the scene in while my companion's climbing efforts attack taller hills, with his own camera slung across his back. He's also looking for angles to take pictures of the impressive Javelin remains.

We are as quiet as the location itself, but to anyone not only interested in exploring notable sites but also into history, this place speaks. Serial numbers on pieces of the hull and pieces of the ship's bridge, once filled by a crew, are some of the impressions I note while observing the debris, walking on creaking floors, and touching dust-filled panels. Somehow the momentous pieces of the ship blend in harmoniously with the surrounding sand and boulders. An unlikely alliance of an industrial machine and a natural space of emptiness.

Under the orders from Admiral Pavlina Marlin, an ambitious commander eager to complete her assignment in Stanton and be rewarded – as she hoped – with a deployment to the war front, the massive Javelin-class destroyer was parked in orbit while the accompanying flight of fighters descended on the miners to arrest them.

According to the official version of the story, the mining operation dispersed at the sight of the approaching ships and attempted an escape in different directions before they were apprehended with the exception of one ship, which was aiming to get to safety by exiting the atmosphere. Flyssa was positioned by its crew to intercept the effort.

The rest of the events in the story were triggered by a series of explosions on the miner ship, caused in turn by existing damage and failures onboard the dilapidated machine. Compounded by explosive reaction of the ore material in its hold, the resulting wave smashed into the destroyer. At a loss about the developments, the commanding captain ordered the crew to execute a drastic manoeuvre, which, due to damage to its thrusters, caused a system overload and fires in the combat vessel. Flyssa lost control and descended at high speed into the atmosphere, crashing on the Daymar surface and wiping out all 65 members of its crew.

While initially intending to remove what remained of the destroyer on the surface, the Navy abandoned the plans when Daymar became a property of Crusader Industries. The only positive outcome of the development was to see the wreck site – the material manifestation of the event – preserved for those who value keeping historical memory. A few travellers visit the location – about 240 kilometres from ArcCorp Mining Area 141 – with rumours about criminals using the hulk for their purposes.

Dusk begins to form on the moon as I activate a cyan-coloured flare on my chest to signal my position to the friend. In the forming low-light conditions, the star-filled sky stands out in contrast to the dunes and hills. Subtle tones of the nebulae act as a backdrop for the thousands of them looking down, with the cyan glare of my flare offering similar tints in lighting.

It is time to satisfy the hunger that has crept up since we began covering the sands in our footsteps. We will be returning to the Reliant and turning in, in the comfort of breathable air and the safety of the hull. Finishing my notes, I begin to descend the hill towards the ship, taking note of the light emanating from my friend's flare a few dozen metres ahead.

Spreading my sleeping bag out in the cargo bay opposite of the pilot, I lie down under the low lights of the powered-down ship interior. Every now and then, a dust storm kicked up in the full darkness sends volumes of sand into collision against the exterior plating, with winds providing a vocal backdrop. I'm wondering if this serene but inhospitable place would have been the resting choice of the Javelin crew, had they been faced with certain death. Temperatures sink to a warm 20C degrees at night here, contrasted to the 150C in the baking sun during the day. Sleep creeps in soon, with the howling of the winds turning into a lullaby.

What happened to Flyssa was acknowledged as a set of unforeseeable chain of events by a military investigation that still resulted in Admiral Marlin being sidelined for failing to adopt an approach that suited the circumstances of the encounter.

But more important than that is the question of whose interests the fleet was serving in the ill-fated operation. It was not to the benefit of the state to scare off civilian miners making a living – those enjoying the comfortable offices that come with political positions were unaffected by the economic crisis that had brought fleets and individuals to the surfaces of Stanton's planetary bodies looking to extract valuable material out of necessity.

The state had no working economic plan for workers and their families of Stanton. But they certainly did have intentions to set the system aside as a present to corporate power. The typically shady dealings between political and economic elites meant these plans were not known in 2862, but everything became clear three years later, when Stanton was auctioned off to the four entities of economic leeching we see running the system today.

Stanton was not empty and desolate before ArcCorp, Crusader Industries, Hurston Dynamics and microTech swooped in to capture the system for bolstering their already full coffers. Tens of thousands of people lived on all four planets here. They became victims of a double strike, first falling prey to the UEE's declaration of Stanton as eminent domain, and then to the incoming corporate behemoths driving them off their land. In the blink of an eye, working-class communities, their customs and heritage were swept aside for ensuring maximum profits for companies already rich from exploiting the Empire's workforce.

The legacy of this state-corporate deal-making is what Stanton is today. It is not the polished marketing lines of the businesses running its four planets and a dozen moons; it is not their vacuous, self-oriented slogans on "reaching to the future", "exploring the stars" and "creating tomorrow" that say nothing and mean nothing; the symbolic face of Stanton is the Daymar incident – marred in shady collusion between the elites, and resulting in tragic death of ordinary people and destruction of communities.

It is morning on Daymar. Rays of sunlight are already warming up the remains in the wreckage following the cooler ambiance of the long night. Rolling down the hills in the background, they are reducing the complete blackness that enveloped the place a few hours ago to a few spots of shadows.

With my friend still asleep in our Reliant, I am back on the wreck once again, pacing inorderly on a large section while trying to imagine how the air outside my helmet would feel if I inhaled it. Did any of the Flyssa crew taste it, or were they all dead by the time their helmets disintegrated?

My accomplice is awake and is waving to me from a hill covering the landing spot of our little ship. I pick up my items, store the pen and notepad, and follow my own footsteps down.