(A Tale of Erin Starfox)

Introduction to KARTHO

Copyright © 2012 1 Picture 1000 Words Publishing. All rights reserved.

Ambassador Erin Starfox holds a position of great respect among the hundred eighty-seven worlds of the United Systems. It is a position she earned through many long and hard years in the diplomatic service. Sometime’s she learned her lessons the hard way.

The locals call it “the city”, though Kartho has less than a dozen dwellings. They are boxy, ramshackle blocks, put up without thought for grace or style. Construction was clearly a rush job, and if there have been repairs since, they were similarly hurried and rough. The tin roofs are rusty and full of holes. The walls hardly keep out the wind-whipped sand. The structural timbers, so tenuously roped together in the first place, squeal and squeak beneath the unrelenting suns. The place is a sigh away from collapse.

Yet it is also the largest single settlement on all of Ttugia, and the obvious place for any kind of large-scale gathering. Large-scale in the Ttugian sense, anyway. The planet might be vast, but its population barely crests five thousand – far fewer than live on Embassy One, the flagship of the Unites Systems diplomatic fleet. Dry, desolate, and a dead-end of The Cluster, it’s a wonder there are even that many of them here.

Nomads, they gamble after herds of ochrebeasts searching for the next sparse grazing. There’s little sustenance – or flavor – in an ochrebeast, so each group of nomads is always small, never more than an extended family. It’s why Ttugia’s reputation is parochial, insular, backward.

And yet the people Ambassador Starfox has met so far are unceasingly welcoming, eagerly offering her what morsels they have, and hanging off anything she says, like that’s a fair exchange. They don’t keep up with life off-world, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Erin has spent all her time answering questions. Politics, fashion, any tidbit she can offer is snatched up hungrily. They don’t stand on ceremony here.

She suggested getting a receiver set up, just so they could stay more in touch. But they smiled and shook their heads. They’re fiercely proud of this desperate existence, endowed with an almost religious glee that their’s is the good life. Denial – of comforts, of an interesting diet, of news – is good for the soul. You can see it in them. Watching them working all together now, getting everything ready for tonight’s big event, Erin finds she’s envious of them. They won’t allow her to help them – she’s their guest after all, and a highly revered and welcome one. What’s more, her currently pale skin to them means fragility. Indeed, even Chief of Staff Mryiss made her promise never to be out in direct sunlight until her normal rich, tan pigmentation returned. Dark matter can only shield so much. So she stands just inside the doorway, watching the activity and feeling left out.

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