Off the main spaceways, on the Solward side of the asteroid belt
With thanks to Masterweaver!
Part zoo, part ark, part conservatory, Amazon Station is a drifting menagerie of rare and otherwise extinct creatures…and its vector population is pretty exotic, too.
Following the destruction of Earth, human and vector scientists looked over their genetic databases and came to a grim realization: Terra was a big, diverse, ecosystem, and the number of species that were lost to the Terran apocalypse before being analyzed and preserved made a very long list. With the information they had, Vector scientists created a successful ecology on Mars, but some creatures were intentionally left in storage, too difficult to fit in or just too extraneous for the system. And even when genetic profiles were available in many cases the files languished, called up only for a few exotic pets or blips here and there, for almost three hundred years.
For a brief period, some 200 years AE, Terra seemed open for exploration and colonization. The radiation had died down enough that scholars and archaeologists could finally search through the rubble of their precursors and, maybe, find some new information. For many, it was an eager and optimistic time. Human artifacts came into vogue, and a movement to document and even recreate and build habitats for the forgotten and rediscovered creatures sprang up. Of course, this Terran renaissance only lasted a scant few years before ending in slaughter, but by then a Bluesky had been recommissioned to house Terra’s lost children, and the advertisements had already been sent out. There simply wasn’t any going back.
Amazon Station, named after the most abundant ecosystem of old earth, suffered from backlash during its first two decades. Building a menagerie of fancy animals seemed to spit on the tragedy of the Earth expedition. The station’s CEO made a few devil’s deals to keep the whole station above water. The station struggled through these dark ages until the rise and deification of Progenitus. The Progenitus whistleblowers rose to power as a newer, more progressive kind of megacorp. Amazon Station’s CEO made a pitch to Progenitus, painting Amazon as a refuge to all that had suffered and lost, a place where the unusual were cherished and protected. The public ate it up like candy, Progenitus pledged its support for both the station and a new clinic for unusual and challenging morphisms, and the station thrived.
In the centuries since, Amazon Station has changed hands more than a few times, but its celebration of the exotic has never been dropped. The station’s main attraction is the Zoo: five enclosed environments where normally rare plants and animals have free reign. Transparent transit tubes pass through jungle, ocean, arctic, and desert chambers, allowing visitors to see the creatures that even humanity rarely encountered. The station’s visitors can also rent Safari Pods, see-through spheres that the riders can use to explore the environments at their own pace and direction. The plains chamber, twice as large as any other, supplements the Pods with scheduled tours, featuring old-fashioned jeeps and nature guides. Outside of the Zoo are places where guests can find one-on-one interaction with the animals, themed hotels, all manner of gift shops, and the famous Progenitus multi-morphism hospital and its staff of helpful doctors and advisers. The places between the public chambers, however, are employees-only access, off limits to other visitors
Amazon Station sports some of Sol’s most exotic creatures, and that includes the vectors. Less than half the staff fit the standard assumptions about body types, and Taurs, micros, laterals, hybrids, exotic blips, and so on make their homes on the station…including Sol’s largest population of “followed” vectors, unless rumors of a Europa colony are true. They’re uncomfortable with attention, though, and tend to stick to the “oceans” chamber.
Need to Know (Before you go)
Stare, but try not to gawk. Even “normal” vectors tend toward unusual clothing and appearances. Just remember, they’re the locals, not the exhibits.
What is intelligence?
Long before the GeoMat, humanity was wrestling with this question; creatures like dolphins raised awkward questions about sentience, particularly when they were slowly driven out of Terra’s oceans by climate change. Amazon Station had this question in mind since its earliest days.
During the decades after the destruction of the Earth expedition, the station’s CEO cut a deal with a Spyglass subsidiary. She would use the bioprinters tailored biological constructs for them (the word “bioprobe” wouldn’t be coined for a hundred years yet), ordinary-looking birds that could serve as spies, and they would give her the funds to keep the station running. Ravens were chosen because they were common and already intelligent… and, in fact, required so little modification that some people wouldn’t call them artificial at all. This led to other research into non-vector intelligence.
Dolphins, of course, were the best-known nonhuman species to demonstrate intelligence. But digging through what files she could, Amazon’s CEO found evidence of others—some of the great apes, a number of macaws and corvids, larger cephalopods, elephants… their minds were very different from vector and cog minds, but there was enough there to suggest maybe humans weren’t the only dead civilization…or at least that there were once other models for sentience in Sol.
Amazon Station’s Sophant Initiative was set up to explore this possibility, not only recreating already potentially intelligent life forms but also experimenting with genetic modification to see if others could be uplifted. Parallels between this and the original uplifted pets are obvious, so the whole thing is tightly monitored and kept under wraps. Still, some of the more self-aware bioprobes drifting around Sol around can trace their origin the Sophant Initiative’s research
Sophant Initiative is also carefully researching advanced evolution and biotechnologies through nonsterile blips. Bloodlines, as they’re called by those in the know, are common on Amazon Station; they can be noted by the colored collars they wear, with each collar signaling how many generations removed the Blip is from the original modification. The collar also serves a secondary purpose as a tracking beacon and remote termination device; Bloodlines are not allowed to leave the station until they are ten or more generations removed, and they’re not allowed to breed with other Bloodlines. Despite the strict restrictions, the Bloodlines are respected by their fellows for what they represent; the intent is to find out if unique modifications can survive the shuffling of real-life genetics. Thusfar only three modifications have passed the “ten generation” test so far. As this represents the creation of an illegal life form at best and slavery at worst, the bloodline project is kept under wraps. There’s more than a few steamy stories of exotic, vector-like creatures on Amazon with a taste for off-station, shall we say, genetic diversity…Nothing documented, though.
♃ Animal Escape: It happens sometimes in every zoo. An animal manages to get out of its exhibit and wander around. On Amazon station, the situation is a touch more touchy–the number of unusual body types means animals might go unnoticed among the crowd, and since the whole place is in space a snake in the tubes could cause more trouble than it’s worth…
♃ Poachers: Amazon Station is billed as a refuge for exotic animals. Some people ignore the refuge part and come in itching for a hunt. That causes issues, especially if the poachers run their hunts during the night cycle and keep their guns well hidden. Hunting down hunters can be a dangerous game all on its own.
♃ Hiding in plain sight: Playing spot the lateral is hard enough when there’s only one hiding in a group of animals. When there’s a good dozen, and most of them are just ‘acting’ to keep actual animals in line, and it’s considered rude to point that out, things become much more difficult.
♃ It can think: Animals are supposed to be, well, animals. Maybe clever, but run primarily by their instincts. When an animal starts doing things like hot-wiring your chase vehicle or constructing dummies of themselves, people can get suspicious. Especially when such behavior suddenly leads to the staff’s attention and attempts to ensure silence…
♃ “You’re not allowed back here!” Everyone has their secrets, and every secret has its layers. There are locked doors behind locked doors behind hidden panels in the Zoo that host the most damning of truths. The staff keeps the Sophant Initiative close to the chest, and any who find the experiments might just become the next experiment themselves.
♃ Refugee: There’s a better life out there, or so everyone dreams. Some Bloodlines are fed up with staying locked in a station for their whole life and just want out. Of course, there’s a very good reason Blips aren’t allowed to breed in the first place, and Amazon Station can easily manufacture evidence that any who do run are criminals of the worst sort.
♃ Cerulea Kallikore: A dreamy rat, Cerulea spends much of her time in the lush jungles and gardens of Amazon Station, “looking for inspiration.” She doesn’t advertise herself as such, but she’s the artistic director for MarsCo’s Bluesky Division, and encounters with her may seem like an encounter with a secret mystic master, as she has unusually deep access to the old Bluesky’s admin menu.