#8 Backstory: OWFI and Kennedy Jarod

The alien backstory added a lot of depth to the story for me and now the human backstory is doing the same. In fact, the opening of my story keeps moving backwards! Instead of starting with the landing on Mot, we are going to go back in time and start with Kennedy’s experience on her prior world reconfiguration – then on to Nate joining the OWFI – and even to dig into Nal’s backstory too.

Instead of just being backstories, the histories have forced themselves into the actual story. That’s pretty fun and unexpected. So, let’s now flesh out the human backstories and see where that leaves the overall concept and where we actually start it.

Backstory: O.W.F.I. (Other Worlds Food Initiative)

The ever-expanding human presence on Earth (as of this story the year would be 3887 – significantly in our future to allot for the massive expansion of our species) and now many other planets carries with it a food shortage. Most planets are not as habitable as FP117 (Farm Planet #117 - what the Haamrettle call “Mot”). Although genetically engineered plants and monstrous indoor food farms exist in every humanized planet, there are still critical shortages. In spite of limited resources, human population is exploding on all planets putting even more pressure on food production.

To fill the gap, a massive space shipping network exists with huge caches sent to and from planets using space elevators (wiki) – there are dozens of elevators per planet to spread out distribution. This allows efficient production of food product on one planet to be transported and received on another planet. The leading commercial company doing this is OWFI (Other World Food Initiative pronounced “ohh fee”). At the top of each space elevator is a huge space station for receiving caches and organizing the deliveries to and from the planet and the spaceway between planets is alive with freight ships carrying full caches to and empty ones from planets.

OWFI’s mission is to provide nutritious food to billions of humans on dozens of planets. OWFI has many planets for farming to provide the food product. Deliveries are made to planets via the elevators and local (non-OWFI) companies take care of distribution. This leads, of course, to local politics and much more shenanigans – but OWFI sticks to production and delivery only. It proved to be too complex to do more than that and be successful.

NOTE: In the year 3887 the lifespan of human beings is up to 250 years old. But there is a huge range of which humans can live that long from poverty stricken being under 30, to the middle class living to about 125 to the super rich lasting all the way. In terms of how we understand age, a person in their 60s who has means would be physically equivalent to our age 30. The main difference is that people have a lot more experience than we would, so it’s like having the memory and life experience of 60 at age 30.

OWFI is a noble organization with a strong mission. As with any huge corporation, there are many complexities in doing ethical and moral actions in a commercial environment. And you can even have competing noble missions such as maximizing food production and not destroying the local environment on farming planets.

NOTE: OWFI is not to be an “evil corporation” with malicious intent. This story is about how bad things happen even with the best of intentions – and to dig into the morality of doing bad things when you mean to do good. For one, avoiding the “alien movie” reference (boy, it beat that to death, eh?) and also because I have personal struggles that touch on this concept and obviously my psyche is working on it.

OWFI has had a political nightmare in the last few years due to species extinction on several farming planets. One planet (FP68 also known as “Karlee”) had an amazing species of dolphin-like creatures (the “Dolfee”) that created a popular tourist destination. However, a major incident occurs on Karlee (see Kennedy backstory below).

OWFI is now going to setup FP117 as a farming planet due to early tests of the intensely nutritious substrate. In fact, the substrate was at the top of food substances known in terms of efficient nutrition. As such, it is a high priority to study and understand the substrate, to increase the land mass that can grow it, and to bring it to other farming worlds to improve their efficiency. OWFI has some science to do bitches! Let’s go!

A complication, however, is that FP117 seems to have only a small ring of substrate around the planet, while most of FP117 looks inhospitable to food. In addition, although surveillance has been strong from space and FP117 atmosphere, when recon units get too close to the substrate they encounter unprecedented system malfunction. As such, only distance surveillance has been working. Of the species identified in surveillance, one seems “problematic” – a small race of primates. Closer study has been impossible, so a team must be sent in to investigate and analyze further.

OWFI has establishing a new operation down to a science. A small team of 20 goes onsite and analyzes everything from the food production capability to where to place space elevators to assessing the local ecosystem. Often changes such as removing predatory animals or vastly expanding irrigation will be required and the first team helps to shape how the planet will be adjusted to maximize food production.

However, FP117 is the furthest farming planet ever considered and there are many who think the distance will be prohibitive in making it effective. Still, the substrate has survived several test runs, so it looks like it is worth the risk.

Backstory: Kennedy Jarod (timeline: 15 years prior to our story)

Kennedy is a 59 (aka 30-ish in our terms)-year-old female lead scientist working for OWFI on the planet FP68/Karlee. She has been busy implementing a new floating farming algae that she created in the last few years. The new algae grows downward, establishing a huge network of root-like masses which create a large bio mass of floating food production and absorbs its nutrients directly from the ocean. Using this algae, Kennedy has been able to turn huge swaths of ocean space into highly effective “farmland.”

She has been on Karlee for fifteen years building the food resources. She and her colleagues often take trips below the ocean to see how the algae is grown, all the way to connecting with the seabed in massive organic towers. Karlee’s ocean life has changed radically over these fifteen years as the algae is aggressive to the local fish life. Most fish life has died anywhere near the algae, with the exception of the dolphin-like monstering creatures (the Dolfee). They have continued to be the dominant sea life on the planet, although their numbers are also shrinking considerably. But tourism on Karlee is vibrant with Dolfee-watching being the primary activity. They are abundant across the entire sea planet.

Kennedy is celebrated for her accomplishments by OWFI and enjoys a position of enormous importance and influence. She has been asked to move on to a new planet to do it all over again and has been delaying this inevitable change for a couple of years to relish in this accomplishment. But, in spite of all her refining and tinkering, even though effectively increasing food throughput 80%, the time to leave is coming and she knows it.

Suddenly Kennedy is told of an odd occurrence with the Dolfee, it appears they are beaching themselves on one of the largest algae farms. Kennedy travels there to see what is going on, and when se arrives hundreds of massive Dolfee have beached on the farm with thousands pushing to join them. In a panic Kennedy organizes her teams to push the creatures back into the sea and the struggle is long and fierce. She engages non-OWFI people in a weeks-long attempt to stop this occurrence, but the bodies continue to pile up. Thousands and thousands of Dolfee and beaching, and dying, right on the farm.

The event becomes known throughout the colonies and scientists from OWFI join Kennedy to try to understand and deal with this. Now it is not just one farm, it’s all of them, all over the planet. It is a mass extinction event for the Dolfee. It becomes a news phenomenon and has a nearly-cataclysmic effect on OWFI’s reputation. Billions of people watch the extinction event via their news feeds. Kennedy is seen as the face of OWFI and her futile struggle becomes part of the images people remember.

In the end, the Dolfee go extinct and it takes years to clean off the farms. Although the carcasses cause a huge pollution impact on the oceans, the algae eventually adapts and restores the oceans. Dolfee skeletons litter the ocean floor and Karlee becomes a tourist attraction because it is the tomb of the once majestic creatures.

Kennedy is devastated by this event but continues to work in OWFI and moves on to another planet to create the next farming infrastructure.

Next steps

The next blog will cover Nate Elm and Vanshini’s backgrounds. More soon.

Andrew Zar
July 11, 2018