The Mineman Saga

Ellis: America's Colonial Heartland

Author's personal disclaimer: In my deriving the following article from the jumble of notes and ideas I've had on Ellis over the past 10 years, I realized I wouldn't do the place justice without mentioning the place religion, and specific faiths, has in the culture of America's only interstellar state in 2300AD.  In writing this, I have done my best to keep my personal philosophy in regards to faith out of the article, and I hope that I've treated the subject fairly and objectively.  I apologize in advance if anyone is offended by my representation of religion in Ellis, and if you have any specific complaints or comments, please email me.  However, I make no apology for my definition of 'conservative' in 2300; again, except in regards to religion. - Scott


"Captain Kirk was kind enough to allow a few of us reservists from Ellis the chance to visit the bridge while the USS Boorda returned from duty in the French Arm, defending the colony at Kie-Yuma from a potential Kafer threat.  She wouldn't let us stay too long, but as a reservist -- and Ellisian -- Christine Kirk understood our anticipation.  After all, we had been gone nearly ten months: Three weeks with only two supply stops en route to Kie-Yuma, and those stops only long enough to take on supplies and additional people, and not including the discharge stops we had to make.  Then seven months building up and remoting out the mines we brought along, and when those were exhausted, the weapons convoyed out to us irregularly- at times we were completely isolated out there.  I'll admit, we did pull into their orbital terminal every ten days or so to take on supplies, but only long enough to do that.  After that, the trip back.  We managed some liberty dirtside at Kie-Yuma and Tirania, but while the stops were great to relieve some stress and remember what full-time gravity felt like, it was all finally over.  We were going home....."

The State of Ellis, at the far end of the American Sub-Arm, consists of the entire AC+48 1595-89 system: the planet of the same name in the first orbit around AC+48 1595-89, and the two gas giants orbiting further out.  Subdivided into five counties, containing 18 time zones, and being 23.6 light years from the American capitol at Earth, Ellis is unique among American states.  The primary food producer for the entire American Arm, Ellis is proud of it's distinction as "Bread basket of the New Frontier", but agriculture is not the only factor in the state's economy.  Several petrochemical deposits have been found in the desert regions of the main world, and the trailing trojans of the two gas giants are home to several thousand prospectors seeking ores.  Additionally, Ellis competes well with other worlds in the American Arm for tourism revenues, as several of Mossburg County's wineries are building resorts on their properties for potential visitors.  Ellis' larger cities have convention centers which, while no match for those in Earth's cities, still attract groups from throughout America and the Australian colonies.

Space Presence

"We pulled into the naval station near Boise and were finally allowed off the Boorda after Admiral Garcia gave and Captain Kirk read the demobilization order over the 1MC, the ship's all-hands loudspeaker.  The active cadre would remain behind, but the rest of us were free to leave after processing: Aaron Meyerson, Kathy Chang, Jeff Michaels, Chief Rod Harris, Maria Rodriguez, and myself were all staying on Boise the next few days for it.  Chief Harris lived on the asteroid, and allowed us all to stay at his place instead of the billets at the naval station.  While not the quick homecoming we all expected, staying at the Chief's place was at least a step closer than the barracks tunnels would have been."

Boise County consists of the two gas giants of the AC+48 1595-89 system, their moons and trailing asteroids.  The main settlement, Boise, was carved out of a large asteroid in Oyster's orbit, and has nearly half of the county's 75,000 people.  Boise serves as Ellis' starport terminal and customs center, with shuttles leaving the asteroid nearly every thirty seconds to service and load/unload arriving starships.  Within the asteroid are several residential tunnels, offices for mining firms dealing with local prospectors, the county administration offices, and Spacer's Den, a rowdy entertainment area for residents and visitors alike.  Nearby are asteroids containing smaller settlements for miners and Boise Naval Station.

Also in the county, Carlton, one of Oysters' larger moons, hosts a major training facility for the United States Marine Corps, as well as the Naval Weapons Depot, where the missiles, mines, and other ordinance are stored before deployment.  Since the beginning of the Kafer War, these two facilities have been pushed to their limits, and Rear Admiral Brian Garcia, the commanding officer for US forces in the system, has been lobbying the Navy for funds to expand them.  He has of late been discussing the possibility of allowing the use of the facilities to train Ellis' state Colonial Guard troops in exchange for state funds for expansion.  The County's Board of Supervisors has come out in support for the proposal, and Governor Karen Weber is said to be considering it.  Carlton is also the home of Ellis' State Prison, where felons serving terms of two years or longer are housed.  Prisoners sent there are expected to work in the hydroponic farms, carving out more cells, or in other tasks in support of the prison's population.  Rumors of poor conditions and mistreatment at the prison among Ellis' population help keep the crime rate low, but the facility meets all Federal Department of Justice requirements.

Aside from the military presence in Boise County, other government facilities in the area include the federal customs station on the main asteroid, the state agricultural inspection area in the same tunnel, where biological items, including visitors and immigrants, are inspected to prevent the introduction or spread of disease before being allowed to the main world.  Plants and food items that show contamination are immediately disposed of, live animals and people are kept in quarantine for up to three weeks while they are being treated.  Approved immigrants to Ellis, whether US citizen or legal resident alien, receive this treatment and accommodation free as part of the overall immigration package, as do returning residents of Ellis.  Visitors, on the other hand, are required to pay for their quarantine time, and if funds are unavailable, will be placed on the next starship out of the system.

The State Capital

"After three days of demobilization processing, all of us but Chief Harris finally boarded the shuttle that would take us dirtside.  On the way down, Maria asked, 'Hey, Davis, are you going straight back to work or are you going to eat up your leave first?'  After reminding her that I'm 'Mike' now, I told her I was going to use both my leave and civilian job vacation time.  Mossburg County has plenty of microwave techs to maintain the El-Tel network towers in the county, and while I spent a lot of time seeing other worlds, it was time I got a good look at my own.  It was then that she invited me to stay with her and her family in Liberty.  While I had been to the state capitol while in high school, certainly in fifteen years it had to have changed some."

The Ellis state capitol, Liberty, is also Ellis' largest city and primary catapult hub.  With nearly 105,000 people in the city proper and half again that many in surrounding towns, Liberty and Liberty County is Ellis' oldest settlement, founded in 2229.  With many Christian denominations and other faiths represented, Liberty is also known as Ellis' City of Faith.  Over the past decade, the largest congregations have had a friendly competition over which can build the most attractive cathedral, church, mosque, synagogue, or temple.  This has contributed to Liberty's tourism income as well, with many visitors coming simply to see the religious architecture of the town.  The current favorite of visitors is the new Ellis Mosque, which has received permission from the Islamic 'Ulama of Arabia to be the focus of prayer for the entire planet.  Most of the newer religious buildings are on Freedom Drive, running parallel to the primary government buildings of Washington Street.  These two streets contain most of Liberty's centers for religion and government, and are less than two kilometers from the commercial center of town.

Between the commercial and government centers is Liberty's oldest neighborhood.  First Town, as it's come to be known, houses some of Ellis' oldest colonist families, and has a reputation of being the most expensive real estate on the planet.  However, several bed-and- breakfast-style outlets can be found in First Town, and many visitors stay there.  Liberty Hall, the main convention center, is also in First Town, and hosts several conventions a year for local and non-Ellisian groups.

In addition to government and tourism, agriculture and food processing are important industries in Liberty County.  While many of the farms are family-owned, the Earth-based agricorps run the processing centers, and conflicts between the corporations and individual farmers often arise over prices paid to the farmers.  Lately there have been rumors of the corporations attempting to buy up farmland, or bankrupt individual farms in order to seize the properties.  The state government is looking into the matter, but keeping with it's conservative philosophy, likely won't interfere with the situation or take sides either way.  Other industries include Ellis Telecommunications' ( El-Tel) primary information hub, the data center for the state weather and news service beamed into every home on the planet, and Ellis Agricultural and Engineering College.  The Alberta Farmer's Cooperative's Ellis headquarters is also here, and in addition to supporting the environment and the individual farmer both in Liberty and across the state, the AFC centers also act as Canadian consulates.  Also nearby is the U.S.  Army's Fort Patton, Ellis' main training center for the regular Army and the state Colonial Guard.

The residents of Liberty are among the most honest, forthright people in America.  Supporting the conservative ideas of a clean environment and the desire to mind one's own business, the streets of Liberty are clean and safe throughout the city, and all sorts of entertainments can be found in the commercial district.  Patronized by locals and visitors alike, these taverns, arcades, and hostess bars painlessly pull dollars from the pockets of their patrons, and, aside from the Ellis State Police patrols to keep things peaceful, no one will interfere.  "Provided no one else is hurt, and I don't have to pay for it, whatever happens between consenting adults behind closed doors is none of our business" is a phrase common among conservative Ellisians.

Zion County

"I stayed with Maria and the Rodriguez family for a few days at their bed-and-breakfast in First Town, and Maria and I checked out the town with Kathy Chang, who also lives in Liberty.  However, I was anxious to get back to Northbeach.  Jeff Michaels was staying with some of his family in Liberty as well, and the two of us met at the airfilm train terminal.  Since his hometown of Orem was en route to Northbeach, the two of us talked during the trip.  'Mike, you know I had a hard time this last trip.  I guess it's because I never knew that all those other places were so different.  I mean, I thought all of America was like Orem.  Or at least should be.'  I didn't know how to answer that, because in some ways, he's absolutely correct..."

Orem, the seat of Zion County, boasts the best planning of any city on Ellis, the finest education, and the most scenic location.  Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Bonneville, Orem is home to 91,000 residents stretched along the shoreline between the Barrier Hills and the lake.  Initially settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ( Mormons), Orem continues to be a predominantly Mormon city, with the Church having a major role in the culture of the town.  Ellis main Mormon Temple is here, in a kilometer-square park near the center of town, as is the Ellis campus of Brigham Young University.  However, many non-Mormons live here as well, drawn by the dynamic economy and the friendliness of the people.  The Church is the largest employer of Zion County, owning several farms, food processing centers, and the BYU campus.  Together with the local office of the Alberta Farmer's Cooperative, all of the farmers in the area, Mormon and otherwise, work hard to ensure that the area's environment and growing ability isn't ruined by overdevelopment or misuse of local resources.  Unique among counties of Ellis, Orem and Zion County strive to be self-sufficient in all economic aspects, in the unlikely event of the area being cut off from the rest of the state.

Aside from the farms and processing centers, Orem is also the home of many of Ellis' petrochemical companies, which use the city as a base for exploration operations in the surrounding area.  However, there is a great deal of opposition to the possibility of refineries and other petroleum processing centers opening in Orem, as the prevailing winds from the west will trap the smog from these refineries between the shoreline and the Barrier Hills, creating an environmental disaster which might affect the agriculture in the area.  One compromise suggested would be to place the refineries on the other side of the Barrier Hills, which might reduce the number of pollutants that reach the main habitated areas.  In addition to the petrochemical industry, information processing and related industries are also important to the local economy, with Bonneville Software leading the way in farm management software.  Ellis Telecommunications also has a hub here, serving all of Zion County.  In addition to the primary data feeds from Liberty, local information is also piped through the microwave network to the area's residents.

Faith and family are important to the people of Orem and Zion County, and the culture reflects it.  Several small theme parks and playgrounds dot the landscape of the city, and most days these will be filled with children and their parents.  As expected, attendance in the various churches of Orem is high, and on Sundays very little commercial business is done.  Visitors to Orem fear arriving on a Sunday, thinking they'll end up spending the night at the interface terminal or airfilm train station waiting for Monday morning.  However, an open mind and a sincere smile from any newcomer will win help from anyone in town, and the visitor will find Orem and Zion County to be as tolerant as any other place on Ellis, in keeping with the state's overall conservatism.

Milner County

"I said goodbye to Jeff at the airfilm station in Orem.  I thought about staying a day or two, but my funds were starting to get thin and I was anxious to get back home.  There was one more stop, however, at New Boston.  My alma mater, Ellis State University, is there, and many a night in my apartment there did I wish there was more in town.  However, Justice was nearby, and I suppose it's diversions made up for New Boston's quietness..."

Justice and New Boston are the two largest towns of Milner County, with 85,000 and 79,000 people respectively.  Less than 400km from each other, both are centered in Ellis' richest agricultural area, and each have their own catapults, although the total monthly tonnage sent up by these catapults is less than that launched by the catapult at Liberty.  Ellis State University ( El-You), at New Boston, is the largest center of higher learning in the state, and the Ellis State Department of Education ( El-Ed) is also based here, sharing facilities with the university.  The university has America's most renowned xenopalientology xenopaleontology college, and scholars from throughout America and the American Arm come to learn new techniques developed there, as well as catch up on the latest discovered about Ellis's prehistoric life.  New Boston is a quiet, orderly city despite the presence of many of Ellis' younger generation and transient scholars.  While many student-oriented diversions are available both on and off campus, many of the students go to the nearby city of Justice to let off steam.

Where New Boston is a quiet farm and college town, Justice, the older town, was Ellis' second settlement, and many of the farms and businesses of Justice reflect this age.  As with Ellis' other cities, Justice's economy is based on agriculture and food processing.  However, as part of the food processing industry, several breweries set up shop in Justice to serve the needs of the planet's inhabitants.  Over the years, these breweries opened open-air beer gardens, where their products can be enjoyed along with some of the best meals prepared on the planet.  These brewery-restaurants earned a reputation throughout the American Arm as some of the best in Human Space, and the Milner County Board of Supervisors took advantage of the awards being won by the local beer gardens.  Opening the Milner County Convention Center 10km from Brewery Road, the local authorities found a new outlet for business and tourism, and as a result of aggressive lobbying efforts, Ellis' State Fair ( you guessed it, the El-Fair) is held here every Earth year.  While the fair itself only lasts a month, the midway and entertainment arcades are open year-round, 24 hours a day.  Additionally, Justice has some of Ellis' most popular venues for theater, dance, and music, and with the building of several new casinos in the downtown area, Justice is poised to become Ellis' most visited city.

New Boston, 400km away, still has the feel of a small town in America, with a small food processing area near the catapult, Ellis State University, and several small retail outlets to serve the residents.  Many live here as a result of this atmosphere, and while El-You may occasionally get rowdy, especially on weekends, New Boston is normally a quiet, friendly town.  There isn't as much economic activity here as in other Ellisian cities, and over the past decade the population has started to decline, as those not interested in opening a new farm often move to one of the other cities.  This suits the people of New Boston just fine, as many are content to keep things just as they are.

Mossburg County

"Nearly fourteen hours of being on the airfilm and I was starting to get impatient.  After walking back to the lounge car for another beer the conductor announced that the train would arrive in Northbeach in thirty minutes, then asked us all to return to our seats, as deceleration would begin a lot sooner than that.  No sooner did I finish my beer and get buckled in did we start drastically slowing down.  Then I saw it, my home town out of my window.  Fairmont Shore's fishing piers, bars and restaurants along the harbor, the Mossburg County Administration Center and the rest of downtown behind it edging to the hills of the nearby suburbs.  I knew that to the west along the harbor about four kilometers from the docks was my parent's fish farm.  I couldn't see it as yet, we were coming in from the east, but I knew soon enough I'd get there...."

Mossburg County comprises of Northbeach, the county seat, all of the communities along the shores of Lake Mossburg, and much of the surrounding desert.  Northbeach itself is a city of nearly 100,000 people, with the most aggressively dynamic economy on Ellis.  Taking advantage of it's location on the northern shore of Ellis' largest body of water, Northbeach is a leader in aquaculture of many types.  Whether it be freshwater fish, shrimp, genetically modified seaweed or shellfish, if it was grown on Ellis, it came from Northbeach.  However, the main agricultural products of Northbeach and the rest of Mossburg County come from it's produce fields and associated products.  Where the other agricultural areas of Ellis focus on livestock, grain, and soybeans, Mossburg County's main agricultural offerings are seafood, fruits, and vegetables.  Many wineries operate in the area, and the wines of Ellis are regarded as some of the finest in Human Space.  On a per-unit basis, the wines of Ellis above all else earn the most money for the state's economy.  However, the wines are produced in such a quantity that for wine buyers on Ellis the price of a bottle of Morningstar Winery's Zinfandel is less than for a comparable wine bought on Earth, including the state excise tax.

In addition to the fine wines produced, the wineries have of late opened bed-and-breakfast inns, taking advantage of the natural beauty of the rolling hills and view of the lake.  Several lakeside resorts have also opened, and tourism plays a larger role in the economy of Northbeach than any other on Ellis.  Additionally, this is an R&R center for the Marines and Navy personnel stationed in Victory, 800km to the north by airfilm line.  As Northbeach doesn't lie on the equator of Ellis like Victory, New Boston, or Justice, a catapult wasn't built for it.  However, Ellis' main rail hub is based here, with lines running east to New Boston, west to Liberty, and north to Victory.  El-Tel also has a data hub here, and Ellis' largest technology firms are based in the city as well.  Ellis DataTech, the largest of these firms, specializes in a broad range of software products used throughout the American Arm, and has recently contracted with the federal government for a new software package to run unmanned probes further into space.  Also, with the influx of new Adams-DiFranco immigrants, Northbeach is becoming Ellis' most cosmopolitan city, with a vibrant, multi-ethnic culture and economic dynamism not seen anywhere else on Ellis.  The newcomers adapt quickly to Ellisian ways, and given Ellisian tolerance there is very little friction between the new arrivals and native residents.

The County Administration Center is the largest such building on Ellis, and houses not only Mossburg County's Board of Supervisors and the county bureaucracy, but also the city government, El-Tel's primary Northbeach data hub, the local office of the Alberta Farmer's co-operative, and several Federal agencies.  Some have raised concerns about all of Mossburg County's main government services being placed in one building, but it was designed to withstand all but a nuclear explosion, and is regarded as one of the most secure civilian buildings on Ellis.  The Ellis State Police, the primary police force of the entire state, has it's primary training facility nearby, keeping in line with the recent state policy of decentralizing state agencies.

Across the street from the County Center is Fairmont Shore, an entertainment and retail area boasting Ellis' freshest seafood restaurants.  A popular gathering area for locals and visitors alike, the bars and restaurants of Fairmont Shore are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  One of the most popular places there is O'Connell's Pub, a lively Irish bar and restaurant with a loyal clientele from the nearby County Center.  The Harbor Market is also on Fairmont Shore, selling all manner of Ellisian and off-world products at greatly reduced prices.

The surrounding hills to the north are home to many of Northbeach's residents, most with large yards and attractive gardens.  Images of Northbeach's hillsides are used to entice people on Earth to migrate there, as Ellis prides itself on being the home of the traditional American Dream.

Home At Last

"After a week with my folks I got my stuff out of storage and found a new apartment.  Returning to my job at the County Center was easier than I thought, and my boss, a former Marine, was more than understanding.  So why did he put ten months of work into my in box while I was gone? Oh, well, from the scuttlebutt I've been getting over the net from the other MOMADers, it appears we may be getting called back up for a little more mine work.  Seems somebody found a Back Door into Kafer space from our corner of space and Admiral Garcia wants a few mines laid out at the discharge points just in case the bugs try an invasion from that direction.  Never a dull moment in the mine force...."

The Mineman Saga