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The Lost Colonies

{Excerpted from the Historical Artifacts Conglomerate annual retreat, standard year 3501.}

Thank you, thank you. And may I say, you’ve done a fine job with the apriquat? Excellent stuff. Remind me to get the name of your supplier.

So, let’s start with a toast, shall we? To the Firebreak! Yes, the Fire–damn, I knew I couldn’t keep a straight face when I said that. Let’s modify it a bit. To the illusion of the Firebreak!

Alright. So, as you know Historical Artifacts has had another good year — our sixth in a row. Not bad, but we want better. So we’re planning a major expansion. Instead of running just five Lost Colonies at a time, we’ll be running fifteen to twenty. I–

{background commotion}

What’s that? Right, right, I forgot. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Xingu Calavero, our latest investor. Ms. Calavero inherited her mother’s shares, and is, shall we say, unfamiliar with our business model? No, don’t laugh, she owns 15% of my company. So, let me take a moment to refresh you all on said model.

Most people assume that everyone outside the Firebreak died from the Tech Plague. Well, that’s far, very far, from the truth. Based on our field research, only about 20% of the colonies were hit by the Plague. Which leaves the other 80% for us.

Now, about half of the non-Plague worlds died out for other reasons, probably abandonment. This is a real tragedy. Because they died out fairly quickly, they didn’t leave much in the way of artifacts for us to retrieve. But the other half, now that’s where the real profit is. Those colonies survived, for all of the last thousand years. They still survive today. And because they’ve had a thousand years to develop on their own, they’ve created all number of unique artifacts. Artifacts that the elite of the Confederation will pay tidy sums to possess. And that’s where we come in.

Of course, we’re always careful. We extensively test every planet before we visit it, to make sure there’s no sign of Tech Plague. And our agents are experts at blending into the local culture and obtaining these artifacts without interfering with local culture. That’s no mean task. There’s a wide variety of cultures and technologies on these Lost Colonies, from Stone Age to 20th century industrialized, and each one requires careful study. That’s why we’re able to command such a high premium. Well that, plus the extra fees required to…facilitate…transfer of these goods through the Firebreak…