This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Toivenen 898BB7 Finnish/Romanian female
Age: 34; Citizen: Homesteader, Rank 3
Homeworld: Joi (New Cornwall), 1.05G (Normal)
Body Type: Normal, 176cm, 69kg
Frontier Background: Vehicle – Hoverjeep, Sensory Impaired (Touch – synaesthesia)
Focus: Spades: Internal Map (+4 DM to Navigation checks), Luck/1, Manic
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR -2
Skills: Drive (Hovercraft)-2, Language-2, Survival-1, Mechanic-1, Computers-1, Persuade-1, Steward-0, Athletics (Co-ordination)-1, Trade (Fishing)-1, Gun Combat (Handgun)-2, Art (Drawing)-0, Melee (Unarmed Combat)-0, Navigation-0
Equipment: Lv3800, 1 Ship Share, Stracher Modell 6
Between two palm trees a fine filament of spider thread glints in the afternoon sun. A tanned figure sits taking in the view down the beach to the waves, smelling the salt in the air, and listening to the occasional cry of seabirds. A mock-turtle is crawling slowly across the sand not a dozen metres away. Estė sketches the scene with an untutored hand and her stylus makes rapid strokes across an artist’s pad. She’s not quite happy with the results, and, with an impatient swipe, clears the image from the pad.
Estė Toivenen was born of a Lunar helium-3 miner from the Scandinavian Union and a mother from Romania who were first generation colonists to Joi. They built up a small fish farming business on a tropical island off the west coast of New Cornwall and bequeathed it to their only daughter. They died when she was just 20—her mother of a wasting illness and her father of a heart attack (some would say a broken heart)—some four months later. Estė now runs the place alone with some hired help at busy times of the year. She’s not only fluent in her mother tongue, but speaks several Romance languages to varying degrees and can also speak Finnish. Her father named her for a goddess-like being from a favourite drama trilogy’s creation back-story.
Estė packs up her gear, folds up her stool and walks a short distance down the beach. As she passes the mock-turtle she takes her leave of it with the slightest of casual salutes. Just before an outcrop of rocks her hoverjeep is just emerging from the palm shadows she parked it in. It’s the work of a moment to jump on, fire her up, and head inshore along a rough trail across some dunes and into the trees.
Back in ’87 Estė had fallen for the charms of a resident teacher from New Cornwall based in Weyland and for a couple of years they’d been close. There was talk of him giving up his science classes and moving out to the island to help with the farming, but a reorganisation of the school had brought promotion and a small population surge of new colonists left too much need for it to ever happen. The relationship drifted apart and Estė threw herself into work and also a study of how the coastal environment was being affected by oceanic salt compounds being deposited on the north eastern shore.
Further along the island the trail emerges at the beach once again, and the hoverjeep comes to rest beside boardwalks that lead out over the water in an extended cross hatching of jetties. Estė leaves everything behind but a portacomp which she takes with her. Glinting in the sunlight the occasional silver flash can be seen in the water between the piers.
Twelve years ago Estė began surveying fish sizes, sand deposition and erosion, reef growth and a host of other factors. Not just around her farms but all over the five mile long island of Vanyanta. As well as selling her fish in the harbour market, she’s become a regular feature of island life checking sensors, taking readings, monitoring change and flow and movement. There’s no one on the island who isn’t familiar with her and the sound of the hoverjeep’s fans often draws excited children and Estė usually has some nuts or fruit with her for just such occasions. At other more isolated spots, lone denizens of Vanyanta may turn out to catch up on the latest news or just to welcome a friendly face and pass the time of day. Along the interior island paths, Estė drives relatively cautiously following a serious accident in which her hoverjeep turned over after hitting a fallen palm hidden by a blind corner. A similar accident some five years later has produced a certain hesitancy in her driving. Along the open stretches of beach, however, she’s more willing to drive at speed.
Out on a jetty, Estė moves with an agile grace as the fauxwood planks jostle quietly against their pylons. Looking down at one of the side nets of the pens that the walkways enclose, she sees some damage that she marks for repair. A gull alights on a pylon top but is soon frightened off by the scareshark sounds of a nearby monitoring unit.
Five years back the Pottsdam Corporation—possibly bankrolled by Niyazawa International—attempted to gain control of the colony on Joi. They’d spent some years planting agents in various vital positions and at the key moment of their coup, a Thursday in spring Estė always remembers, managed to topple the government briefly. Estė—with her contacts all over the island of Vanyanta was able to persuade the islanders to unite behind their chief representative and talk him into leading a popular protest against Pottsdam. Using peaceful means the groundswell of public opinion across Joi meant that after some three weeks the corporation backed down and backed out of the world, realising that if they cut their losses before any serious damage was done, on either side, they could save face to some extent.
Satisfied that all is well at the fish pens, Estė takes the hoverjeep further along the beach some distance and then heads out to sea for a few minutes. Three VAWTs, or vertical axis wind turbines, turn lazily and the slap of water at their bases makes a counterpoint to the blades’ rhythmic swish. Once again, all appears to be in order and with a now lowering sun, the hoverjeep and its single occupant heads back to shore.
Three years ago, Estė received a Squire’s Accolade award for the diligence of her work keeping the community informed about the measurements she was taking and what they might mean for the future. But of more delight to her personally was a first prize she picked up at the annual Vanyanta Fayre in the hard fought category of ‘Best Fish Soup’. A modest volume of local recipes has also enhanced her reputation.
It’s not long before the hoverjeep is pulling up beside the main farm building and Estė hops out; her portacomp polls some final readings from a weather station set up in the yard out front. As the light finally begins to fail, the farmhouse begins to glow with the warmth of a natural light that reflects its owner. Tomorrow there’s the larval drainage to supervise and the palm spider traps to set, but for now, a quiet evening of reading and perhaps some Sole soup call.
With a political interest awakened by the incident with Pottsam, Estė has become more aware of the fragility of the colony’s independence. Getting advice from a couple of her neighbours, she decided to start training with a small Stracher handgun which she is becoming relatively proficient with. Interestingly, Estė suffers from—although she sees it as a blessing rather than a hindrance—the rather unusual synaesthesia and says that holding the Stracher gives her the taste of apple crumble.
Estė has some small amount of savings, a great zest for life and an interest in the spiritual. She has the basic skills required to fix the hoverjeep if need be but is also on good terms with an island mechanic who lives just down the road from her farm.
Shutting down the homestead at the end of the day, Estė listens to the sound of a breeze in the nearby palms. A scrubfowl scratches at the earth somewhere out the back and the white disc of Blanche is high in the sky just now. Estė watches for a while and then retires.