Post Republic Year 579; Beldor Space Year 1

Captain Jon Velas was the obvious choice for the Chair Person of the Beldor Space Transit Authority. He approved of the plans and offered to market them, but did not wish to take the position. He suggested Vice-Captain Erin Raynard, his wife.

The BSTA Falcon was the first train put into service. It was ten years of hard labor to see it off the ground, and much of the planet was there at its launch. Based on ATS’s Hawk class, the train was a sight that put tears in many eyes on that day.

The most memorable experience for most of those gathered there that day, wasn’t the witnessing of the reopening of the main rail (the secondary had remained active throughout the interim), or that slow acceleration of the Falcon itself. The Governor-Elect, Mr. Jamis Tylor, gave his heartfelt and ad-libbed speech, which we now know as his Incredible Visions speech.


For all of us this is a momentous occasion, but little do we realize the significance of it… In this moment of great despair we seek hope. It is a decision that we shall not regret.


“Beldor IV Command, this is the BSTA Falcon requesting dock.”

The newly appointed head of Beldor IV’s Orbital Docking Facility, Humber Crantz smiled to the cameramen as his stomach pretzelized. “BSTA Falcon, this is the Orbital Docking Facility, all rail status indicators are green, docking clearance granted.”

The Falcon’s approach was a textbook deceleration, but Humber Crantz couldn’t watch it. His eyes were glued to the numbers on his display. The media-people behind Crantz clapped as the Falcon docked. To Crantz, the rail intensity numbers steadily decreased as the new stealth software on his board sent hundreds of signals down the main rail, shutting it down until it was to be used again. Although the system could be shut down immediately via an emergency protocol from AST’s software, such a derailing would have a dangerous effect on the train, which was still “inside” the rails.

The media saw the cerulean path fade until only a single weak blue strand was left connecting the two sister planets. A media person immediately asked the obvious question on why the secondary rail was left standing.

Humber, whose knots had left him moments ago, smiled. The new BSTA Software was his baby, which is why he had been given head of the Beldor IV ODF. “The reason is fairly simple, first, compared to the main rail, the secondary rail is nearly invisible. Second, we have gotten used to being able to send messages and communicate across the planets via RailNet. Data travel is bound by the speed of light the same way that the trains are, and so we have to make use of the rails to send it at decent speeds. Unlike a train, however, data takes up very little room, and so even with a single rail we still have much more bandwidth than we currently use.”


In the past ten years we have had the ardent task of rebuilding lost knowledge. One of the commitments we must make to ourselves is the commitment to public knowledge of the technologies that are our society’s backbone.


Jer Niotsky was the head curator for the newly established Beldor Spaceflight Museum. Previously the gentle Fireman[1] of the ATS Connecticut, he held his title with relish. The Museum, like some of the great archeology and xeno-archeology Museums the Republic had once had, was a combination research facility, showroom floor, and link to the past. As head curator, Jer was given free reign to wander from lab to lab, offering suggestions and just appreciating the speed of development.

The Museum was one of the first buildings set up by the then blue sky BSTA. Its first artifacts are still its most prized, the Charter Plaque and Name Plate of the ATS Connecticut, the Last Train to Beldor V. As Jer walked past the Connecticut exhibit (which still brought tears to his eyes after ten years), he noticed a couple of kids, no more than fifteen, arguing.

“My mom says it was dismantled because it contained alien slime that might kill us all!”

“Yeah, well my dad says that’s not true.”

“Well then why?”

Jer coughed and the boys turned around to face him. They recognized his face almost immediately. “Hello boys. Mind if I tell you why?”

They both were really excited by this idea. “Sure, Jet Man, tell us!”

He motioned to the bench against the far wall and they all sat down.

“So, you all know the story about how the Connecticut was the Last Train to Beldor V. The Connecticut was a huge train. It was one of the biggest trains in use. It was useless just floating in space, and its systems were just going to fall apart over time. There aren’t enough people or money in the whole system to keep a train that big going or even necessary, so it was decided to dismantle her. There was a second important reason. The fleet of Intra-Solar trains, the ones like our BSTA Falcon, was taken by AST before the Connecticut docked. We used the systems we salvaged to help us build the Falcon.”

“You didn’t know how they worked?” asked one of the pair.

“No, Automated Train Systems kept most of the information secret.”



It was decided by the People of this State, The Great Solar System of Beldor, that BSTA is to formally be given control of the entirety of AST’s estate here in this system. They have done a stupendous job thus far, and I personally wish them good luck.


“Admiral Raynard?”

She still had a hard time dealing with the honorary title. It took seconds to realize that people were talking to her and not about her Grandfather. “Yes, what can I do for you?”

The reporter hesitated, slightly nervous. “Well, the paper wanted me to… and the Governor said… and I just wanted to…”

She had a disarming chuckle that helped calm the reporter’s nerves. “Let me guess, you want a tour of BSTA for a write up in your…”

He smiled, “The Doyton [MJB1] Observer. I’m a science columnist and the paper wanted to see how the people’s money is being spent.”

“Do you have a name, or should I just call you Mr. Science Columnist?”

He blushed, “I’m Mat Carrin.”

“Well Mat, what you call BSTA is broken into two corporations. The first and most important one is the BSTA Foundation. This is a non-profit spaceflight organization led by my husband, Captain Velas, and includes the BSTA Academy, the Spaceflight Museum, and all of BSTA’s Research and Development. The other corporation, the one that pays my salary, is BSTA CMC[2], which exists much as ATS was run. It will be the travel, cargo, and mining arms of our operation. Each of these, however, are run as separate BSCs[3], unlike ATS.”

Mat had been nodding through much of the explanation; all of this was in the brochure packets. “How do the Foundation and Meta-Corporation interact?”

Erin shrugged, “For the most part they don’t. As Chair Person of BSTA, I oversee both companies for the moment. Beyond that, we, BSTA CMC, donate to the Foundation a yearly grant, donate their land property here in the BSTA Complex, and pay their staff. They do all of the R&D, and when they discover something interesting, they hand it to us on a silver platter. The problem is, they will also hand it to anyone else who asks. If we feel it is a necessary competitive advantage and the Foundation decides it is not of importance to the field as a whole, we can purchase an Exclusivity contract to be renewed annually. They also train our staff, as well as anyone else who wants trained train engineers.”

Mat laughed, “So they have you by the collar, don’t they?”


Today we come to share in an incredible vision. We hope to bridge the legacy of the past with the knowledge of the present and adaptations for the future. This is a hard struggle, but one that we do every day of our lives.


“So, Jet, how do you become a Captain?”

Jer smiled at the youngster, “Well I became an honorary Captain by choosing to be the curator here at the museum. But the real way takes a lot of hard work. First, you start as a Sloyder[MJB2] . As a Sloyder you must know the internals of the Rail System as well as your own internals. My first post out of the Academy was as a Sloyder on our own Beldor V Orbital Docking Facility. There I was the Assistant in Charge of The Board. I got to watch the blinking lights until I could still see them after I closed my eyes. Then you get promoted to Fireman. My post as a Fireman was the Connecticut. A Fireman is an assistant engineer on a train, and a Fireman runs a Docking Facility. We stoke the fires of the rails. The Engineer is the train’s doppelganger of the Docking Facility Chief, but an Engineer has the added responsibility of doing something about those numbers. After that is Vice-Captain, second in command on the train. Then there is Captain, Vice-Admiral, and Admiral.[MJB3] Ã¢â‚¬Â

Both kids grinned at Jer and told him, “We hope to be Captains someday.”

Jer chuckled, “Maybe you will. Maybe you will.” He reached into a pocket and dug out a couple of cards. He presented these to the kids, “In a couple of years, when you two are old enough, come to the new Academy and we’ll be sure to find you some good sloyd.”

Jer left the kids and continued on his wanderings. Soon he came into the building of the BSTA Academy, which adjoined the Museum. As he walked towards the training hall he heard his name from behind him. “Jon? I was just looking for you.”

Captain Jon Velas smiled. “The Docking Simulator is nearly finished. I’ve been playing with the thing and seems almost as buggy as the old Academy’s was.”

“I remember that bucket of bolts. What year was it made again, 16 PR? I remember when I got to ODF here and kept waiting for the orange ‘simulation failed to start’ light.”

They sat in the empty auditorium and smiled. Jon spread his arms towards the rest of the room, “Someday, this will all be filled. Hard to imagine how long this auditorium might hold strong young minds. Do you think that the builders of ATS Academy ever thought about that building lasting nigh on 500 years?”

Jer laughed, “If I was them I wouldn’t have even imagined ten years. Military construction has no imagination. That’s why the buildings were so unfriendly. This will be a much better place of learning.”


Where the ATS Connecticut was the last train to Beldor V, the BSTA Falcon shall be the first train from Beldor V. Hopefully, it will be the first of a long line, and we, the people of this State, shall help to rebuild the Republic.


The new BSTA Train Yard was an impressive sight. Even from Beldor V’s surface, the Train Yard could be seen to take up half of the Second Moon’s face. Having been built during the disassembly of the Connecticut, it was technically a few months older than the Museum, but the Museum got top billing because the Train Yard was not functional until a year later. The Train Yard was larger than any single Yard that ATS had owned because ATS had had to compete with the colonies on the various moons during Sol’s largest population era. The Train Yard could handle up to twelve ATS Statesman class trains.

The Chief Foreman of the Yard, Mr. Robert “Belt” Sander, was a tough and capable man hired out of Beldor’s small but lucrative “antiques” industry[4]. He had already taken to the job like a fish to water and the “sloydoids” loved him. He was currently overseeing the production of three more Falcon class ships for Charter. A couple of the sloydoids smiled as he walked near the production area. They paused their welding to give him a short sharp salute. Sloyder Menarques and Fireman Stelfry, his supervisors, were already in the production area.

Stelfry’s semi-permanent scowl became worse when he noticed Sander approach. “We are behind schedule by four days.” It wasn’t a question, and it wasn’t a mere statement. In seven words Stelfry had delivered an accusation, a court trial, and a corporal punishment. Menarques merely looked blank.

”Well,” Sander began, “I’ve been telling the boys that they won’t get their slop buckets if they don’t pick up the pace.”

One of the sloydoids laughed. Another sounded like he had fatal case of cough. Menarques cracked a slight smile. Stelfry merely scowled on. “Enough with the jokes Sander. We promised the Board that we would have full service to the entire system by the end of the year.”

“Come on, Fireman, lighten up. I don’t tell you how to scowl and you don’t tell me how to run my boys. We’ve still got 12 more milestones to pick up the slack, and we’ve been having a tough job of engine installation. Another couple of hours and we’ll be two days ahead of schedule. I promise. Go back to bed or whatever pleasure reading you brought.”

Sander truly hated Stelfry. Stelfry had spent one afternoon on a field trip to the Titan Train Yard at the old Academy and thought he knew how things worked on the Floor. Sure they had the ATS milestone documents to work from, but knowing the milestones, and knowing how to pass the milestones were completely different concepts. Ironically, the production of the BSTA Falcon had gone without a hitch in its five-year design and production. However, they could certainly expect hiccups as they ramped up from five-years and one under production to five-months and three under production. ATS, after all, had 500 years to get things streamlined!

Menarques was what frightened Sander, though. Stelfry was the “Old Hand”, a stereotype repeated many times throughout history. Menarques was as young as most of Sander’s sloydoids. He was also as new to this as Sander was, having gone through the same BSTA “Boot Camp”, as it had been called, a three-week-long class that tried to cram down 3-years of Academy study. Sander wasn’t even trusted with the title of Sloyder due to his past, and Foremen were rarely Academy-trained anyway, but Menarques already had that air of self-importance around him that the “Old Hands” had without the experience.

After that conversation, a distressed Sander walked to his room. He fell onto his bed and ruminated until a railgram came through. He read through the document, titled “Charter Plans” and gave a loud belly laugh. Fireman Stelfry was to be given active duty on one of the as yet unnamed ships on the Floor. Even better, the Board had been watching things here and had decided that Sander was a better man for the position of Train Yard Fireman than Sloyder Menarques. Although the position changes weren’t to take place until after the Charter, he was allowed to tell his men immediately. He jumped up and ran all the way to production floor.

When his sloydoids saw him huffing and puffing towards them they immediately stopped what they were doing, afraid of bad news. He caught his breath and began, “I’m sorry boys, but after the Charter I won’t be your Foreman anymore. They gave me the ‘i’.”

While the gang pondered this, one of the slower ones yelled, “But Chief, they can’t sack you, you’re the best they have.”

When one of the others guys clapped Sander on the back, the speaker said, “What? Why’s it such a good thing?” “Sander is going to be Yard Fireman!”


Now did I hear something about a luncheon planned by the BSTA? I’m starved.


Not all speeches have great endings.

[1] Assistant Engineer, term borrowed from old Steam Railroads

[2] Complex Meta-Corporation

[3] BSTA Sub Company

[4] It wasn’t hard to blackmail him into the position.

 [MJB1] From “doytin – to walk about stupidly”. Appropriate name for a city?

 [MJB2] From “sloyd – skilled work that requires dexterous use of tools”

 [MJB3] A Latin translation should probably grace a Fireman seal/logo.