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The New Days

Two hundred years after the Declaration of Nallin, the historian Letan summarized the perfection of Orion civilization:

On a thousand worlds, Orion cities and Orion marketplaces rise, holden to none. Out of Orion ports fly Orion ships laden with the commerce of a Galaxy. Orion Captains probe the Outer Dark, Orion rhadamanen fill Orion coffers, and Orion poets sing their praises to the start. On all sides, Inward and Outward, Horsh to Ku'Kresh, Uign to Payn, Syrenya to Rhinate, Spinward and Coreward, there is blessed peace. Prosperity lives and breaths like a Presence between the worlds.

50 years of warfare had exhausted the Orion Arm of everything but animosity toward the Orions. For most cultures, the Nine Worlds included, the very idea of treating the Orions as equals was loathsome. Many civilizations began taking steps to cut the Orions off completely.

The BPC decided that the best way to defuse the embargo of Orion trade was to conduct trade as inconspiciously as possible. Orion ships and crews visited only their own settlements, but many corporations and families hired alien ships and crews to haul for them, quietly, preserving the illusion of no Orion involvement. Not that the Orions had any goods to spare; they were as exhausted as any other race. Nevertheless, they understood that economic interdependence built strength, and thus trade had to be re-established at almost any cost. Freedom did not end the Orions' underhanded dealings with its neighbors.

As for their former masters, this peasce was fraught with suspicion and mortification. To admit how much their societies rested on the Orions galled everyone. Even when the Orions were accepted as part of the natural order, they were relegated to the lower, or at least the less-visible reaches of society. Only the nastiest, dirtiest, most drudgery-laden jobs that no one else would do were open to the Orions.

To everyone's surprise-including the Orions-rigel was rebuilt quickly and the transition from slavery to freedom was almost painless. Fes civilized worlds did not harbor an Orion settlement somewhere on it, busily restoring its economy. No one wanted to look worse off than the Orions, and so almost everyone found dodges and schemes to make use of Orion goods and services. Once the flood started, there fwas no stopping it, particularly as there was no real detriment to doing so. Business went on as it did before the war, right down to the use of Orion slaves-though the Orion rhadamanen renting them out were quick to use the term "contract laborer". In 20 years, no visible trace of the war remained; in a half a century, only bittersweet memories were left in a galaxy grown much, much richer.

The sheer magnitude of the richness and energy of the newly freed Orion Colonies (worlds populated by Orions outside the Rigel system) can scarcely be imagined today. Orion artisans and craftsmen tried to outdo each other to build larger, grander, and more ornate cities, towns, and markets-the more and the faster, the better for everyone. Now that Orions could build ships, they opened dozens of shipyards and rapidly constructed a massive, highly advanced merchant fleet. Overnight, entire schools of design theory sprang into existence, and music, literature, and dance enjoyed a veritable explosion of talent no less great than the 'harder' disciplines. What had been folk art, gypsy culture now bloomed into hundreds of forms; from song to ballets to holovision and beyond. The Orion culture of today harkens back to the proudest themes and traditions of this golden age-the strength, the grace, the majesty of a puissant race come into its own. Having spent ages creating an enduring, resillent civilization, the Orions were determined to enjoy the fruits of it to the fullest.

Under the loose authority of the Botchok Planetary Congress, the Orions and their trading partners enjoyed a thousand years of unparalleled luxury. Excess wealth actually became a major social problem for many races, including the Orions (though to a lesser extent). Over time, self-indulgence took its toll on the Nine Worlds and most of the other races of the Orion Arm so that they became not merely dependent on the Orion economy, but were utterly absorbed into their way of life. Losing their culture and heritage, a few races withered away completely. Even after the contraction of Orion space, many of these peoples would never regain their own civilization, but lived as if they were Orions and always had been. A few of these 'swallowed' races are the non-Ruddy/non-Green element seen among Orion populations today. Gradually, the populations of the worlds nearest Botchok became almost wholly Orion.

Thus was the pattern set for all Orion Colonies. Spaceports sprang up in Orion neighborhoods, where pure Orion was spoken when there was no one else to hear. The bazaars, cantinas, markets, and clubs greatly resembled those of Botchok, with fluted and spiraled towers, bulged onion-domes, and knurled blocks of apartments rich with balconies and riotous in colored stone and cloth hangings.

For all their fondness for space and exploration, the Orions were never a great setttling people. Space was to be exploited and used. Unlike the Federation races, they had no drive to plant a seedling settlement on an uninhabited world. Unlike the Klingons or Romulans, they had no desire to force the natives to their will or to wipe them out. Orions wanted an inhabited world so that they could worm their way into the local economy and ingratiate themselves with their 'new business partners'.

Nevertheless, that was slow in coming. For more than a century after the Orion War, the Orion Colonies had their hands full re-establishing themselves and building a laster prosperity. Pirates and traders worked the Outer Dark, but they were adventurers and scarcely civilized about business; a sensible Orion stayed close to home and made his pile there. Only when population pressure began to build did Orions begin to carve the new Colonies outside frequented space.

Not every venture was successful; not every world wanted a permanent Orion Colony in its midst. Knowing this to be the case, the original Orion Colonies carefully studied their intended new Colonies to ensure maximum survivability and sent rhadamanen and the necessary funds to make a successful go at a new world. Colonial expansion was slow; an existing Colony might mount a colonizing effort every two or three generations. The interval could well be longer, especially if the last venture had failed.

Ahead of the slow wave of expansion rode the pirates, making things more difficult for those who followed. Behind the wave were worlds whose living standards had been markedly improved, linked by a dense web of Orion merchant shipping carrying the riches of literally hundreds of Orion Colonies. By the grace and with the permission of their hosts, clusters of Orions lived among alien populations often many hundreds of times their size.

At its greatest extent, Orion Space was a full 150 parsecs in radius, covering more than half the distance from Rigel to Terra. The patterns of colonization and exploration varied widely; close to Rigel, the proportion of Orions to natives was much higher than it was toward the Outer Dark. Before the Reverse, some planets had populations fully 50 percent Orion and growing. The more typical percentage was closer to 10 percent, and on the Coreward and Spinward frontiers it was often less than a few percent. Regulus and Alphose enjoyed large Orion Colonies, where beautiful cities still mirror that lost classical age of Orion architecture.

Exactly how many planets there were and what wonders they held are now lost in history. Records are scanty, and the ruins are not very helpful. However, it has been confirmed that at least one Orion explorer ventured as far as Terra and Tellar without, alas, leaving any trace but his ships log.