This is what we know so far.
In 1882, Sergei Veksler is born outside the northern Ukrainian city of Berdychiv. A loner, he spends his childhood roaming the forests and devising science experiments. He shows no interest in the Workers and Students demonstrations of 1895, nor he does not involve himself with the uprisings that lead to the establishment of the Eurasian Confederated Socialist States (ECSS) three years later.
His first significant encounter with the new government comes in 1901. While studying engineering, he is arrested for conducting illegal tests of a homemade aerostat (balloon). Birds in Boxes He spends two weeks in jail. As a condition for continuing his education, he is put under the supervision of a professor tied to a federal aeronautics program. He distinguishes himself, graduates, and moves to the capital city of Zhytomyr where he joins a fledgling laboratory developing rockets.
In 1912, Sergei wins approval and funding for a protocol to put humans in space. He establishes his own laboratory 3 miles west of the city. Needing test subjects, Sergei personally recruits four physically appropriate vagrants from the streets of Zhytomyr. A fifth subject, the son of a low-ranking oblast administrator, begs his way into the program as well. One subject, pseudonymously referred to as Albert II, is killed in training (centrifuge accident).
Two rockets depart in 1918. In each, Sergei and his team monitor the physical, psychological, and spiritual effects of the voyage on its pair of subjects. The rockets do not return to earth. Alberts I-V
Simultaneously encouraged by the success of the test voyages, frustrated by political unrest, and troubled by the flourishing of Jewish communities throughout the country, the leaders of the ECSS launch an ambitious expansion of the space program. They set their sights on Comet P41, expected to pass close to earth in 1928, as the intended location of their first extraterrestrial settlement for lishenets (enemies of the people).
Missions to the comet commence in 1927: mining explorations, the ECSS tells suspicious nations around the world. By early 1929, they have prepared the comet’s surface and carved subterranean areas sufficient for inhabitation by 700 people. The Committee for the Deployment of Working Jews, with funds secured through private donations and its popular public lotteries, begins relocating the first generation of “pioneers” on March 6, providing them with building materials and farming equipment, livestock and crop seedlings as well as a variety of other flora and fauna, and cultural products for the education and edification of this new society. You’re Going
On March 23, ECSS celebrates the official dedication of the Collective Sphere OZET. While it is not intended to return to Earth, it is expected to cross a band of stars emanating from cluster 310 (as defined in the New General Catalogue) in roughly 360 years, at which point it will be considered a completely autonomous oblast, under the independent governance of the Sixteenth Generation of OZET Pioneers.”
The First Generations
The pioneers establish twenty collective farming communities, naming them after their home villages. Conditions are harsh and resources are scarce. Between them, however, the villages are capable of producing the food, textiles, shelter, water and air required to sustain the whole population.
Children are born that have never set foot on the Earth, but the oldest pioneers maintain many traditions: they read sacred texts, eat and drink as they used to, and perpetuate the family structures they knew before. They sing Earth songs and teach the children how to whistle the songs of birds they will never hear. Affiliations that began on Earth shape the distinct character of the different villages. Tamaz’s Song .
There are innovations, too. Turbines produce artificial currents for rivers that flow between villages and winds necessary for the self-propagation of plants. Liberated by the low gravity of their new home, pioneers craft small wing-like gliders that waft them from place to place on a network of artificial breezes. Spider’s Egg .
Eighty years on, at the dawn of the fifth generation, a city rises. It dominates a vast but formerly incomplete and uncultivated cavern called The Desert, where villagers from across the OZET gathered for periodic markets and festivals. The City quickly becomes the central hub for exchanging goods, making obsolete the routes that regularly took distributors from each village through every other. As these particular relationships between individual villages fade, a new shared OZET identity emerges. “The Golden Age” Chauvinism feeds the pioneers’ newfound sense of unity. As the last pioneers born on Earth die, the children of the fourth generation swear not to reenact the failures of the society which exiled them to space. They enshrine equality and justice as supreme virtues. Women and men, they declaire, should enjoy equal rights and share all responsibilities. Marriage should be replaced by free, uncommitted love. Private ownership, already at odds with collective village life, should be abolished completely.
Encouraging and shaping this identity is The Council, a new body with legal jurisdiction over the entire OZET. It is an evolution and expansion of the village councils which resolved disputes between neighbors. Representatives from each village serve on The Council, but even at the beginning it is clear that not every village is equally well served by its rulings.
The Council promulgates the new cultural norms. The Pioneers’ Creed (TK) Within a generation, nuclear and extended families have largely dissolved. The pioneers, who now commonly refer to each other as “cousin” (ironically, sentimentally), live together in dormitories. So called “common halls” become the centers of village social life. Children are raised in common with no particular ties to their parents. (Two generations later, newborns will be sent from the villages of their birth to be raised elsewhere: destination hidden from the parents, origin unknown to the child.) For a time, society tolerates exceptions. A few couples choose to marry; some even raise their own children. A Different Man .
Music flourishes. Composers across OZET give expression to the values and aspirations of their new society. Generation 6 Infinity Song no.2714 Craftspeople and scientists develop novel instruments. OZET Presents: original research on the (Augmented) Periodic Infinity Organ Communal singing becomes central to an ever-expanding calendar of celebrations, particularly the OZET-wide Festivals of the Generations that mark the beginning of each successive generation of pioneers. An Ode to Our Travellers of the Constellations
The Middle Generations
Two-hundred years after OZET’s departure, in the early 22nd Century, corruption begins to tarnish the idealism of the Golden Age. Individual councilors gather power. They grant and enjoy favors. Village councils mirror these perversions. “Justice” increasingly serves personal ends. The Council establishes imprisonment and a legitimate form of punishment and necessary instrument of law enforcement. The Milk Cow Song .
Folks songs emerge as a new form of popular culture, giving pioneers relief from Golden Age music’s relentless patriotism. These songs depict sucker heros and baffled villains, jealousy, powerlessness, and loss. The Ballad of Yana and Gigi (You Drunken Fuck) . Most embellish on real events, like the case of a stranger, found dead, in a Village 20 kitchen: a double mystery in a world where there are no strangers. Koba .
In the 12th Generation, thirty prisoners coordinate a breakout. They tear down the prison fences, rampage through nearby Village 5, and head for the city. The constabulary meets them on the way. Nine prisoners and two officers die; twelve are recaptured; the rest disappear into the villages. (All will eventually be found.) It is the deadliest and most destructive conflict in OZET’s history.
The Council enlists young pioneers from every village to create a new prison, hewn away from the narrow end of the comet and dragged behind OZET at a distance of 6895 meters, tethered by an enormous chain. Hold the Chain (Katorga, Sc. 2) . Katorga inmates live in camps and labor together in dim mushroom fields.
Once each year, winches draw the katorga back into contact with OZET. Newly convicted criminals are transferred to the colony, and those who have completed their sentences return home. They bring with them the annual mushroom harvest: a penitent gesture, a symbol of their redemption. Katorga Retraction Film . Turmoil In the late 14th Generation, catastrophic crop failures shock villages across OZET. The Council, trying to avert widespread panic, isolates the villages from one another, telling each that it is the only village facing a crisis. A quarantine, they say, will protect the village’s reputation and the wellfare of its neighbors.
On the eve of the Festival of the Fifteenth Generation, however, a group of subversives interrupts the central festival broadcast to reveal The Council’s lies. They claim to have confederates in every village and declare the beginning of a resistance against The Council. The Council abruptly cancels the celebration and orders its officers in the villages to hunt for the subversives. Common Hall Village 20 . That night, in the city, Senior Councilor Dzaglika is assassinated at his home.
The Council blames The New Horizon, a secret, putschist organization thought to be behind the festival disruptions. Several presumed members are arrested. Nadezdha Abkhazi, a clerk in The City’s Agricultural Resources Department, is convicted of planting the bomb that killed Dzaglika. She is sent to the katorga.
Near the end of her first year, Abkhazi assaults the Chief Jailor, then swallows poison to avoid corporal punishment. Katorga . Abkhazi’s confederates smuggle out and disseminate her own account of her ordeal in the prison, sparking widespread outrage, protest and calls for reform.
The harvest does not improve. Villagers defy the quarantines. During the third year of the 15th generation, the constabulary dissolves in a matter of days. City workers desert their posts and return to their villages. Without administrative machinery or the muscle to enforce its rulings, the Council begins to wither.
Decline and OoRT
The 16th Generation arrives without celebrations. A new parochialism takes hold: the pioneers struggle to rebuild community close to home while farmers try to save the crops that defined their villages. Scientists, done with the city, focus on irrigation and soil health.
There are some good years, but they don’t last. First goes the rye then, to the surprise of all, the dill. A few pioneers pilfer and horde, cultivating a new black market. The Smuggler .
Undernourished mothers miscarry week after week. Women who chose to become “generators” decide against it. The birth rate declines and so does the total population. Heartbreak grass (Gelsemium elegans), once grown for its pretty flowers, has somehow survived the crop failures. Pioneers over the ripe age of 45 begin a custom of drinking “heartbreak tea”; it takes about half an hour for them to stop breathing.
Barren villages empty out. Some villages welcome newcomers, others construct fences.
In the 18th Generation, with the OZET growing colder, relations between the villages begin to thaw slightly. Pioneers long for the foodstuffs and products their own villages can not make. They begin reserving a part of each harvest to share with other villages. These practices evolve over time into an elaborate new economy: villages spend years preparing extravagant gifts and waiting as patiently as they can for these gifts to be reciprocated. They write and sing communal songs the first time in generations; music accompanies the presentation and acceptance of every gift.
Not every promise, however, is kept.
OZET enters the Oort cloud.