2234 Life Cycle of a Space Station

The evolution of Taromka Station, positioned at Lagrange Point 4 (L4), unfolds through its diverse phases of existence, as depicted in various forms of media. From its beginning, Taromka Station has been a focal point for numerous creative works, captivating a broad audience with its intriguing development. Initially celebrated as a pioneering symbol of solar system exploration, Taromka eventually gains notoriety for its decline and subsequent transformation into a hub for illicit activities – until its tragic end.

Constructed in 2150 by Chandra SpaceWorks for the Asteroid Collection & Extraction Syndicate (the ACES consortium), Taromka Station (from "Starry Station") serves as a supply depot for asteroid missions. This pivotal role in the early stages of space exploration and asteroid mining makes it a cornerstone of the burgeoning space economy. As a strategic support point, Taromka Station provides crucial services including refueling, restocking, and repairs for spacecraft engaged in extracting valuable minerals from asteroids. This establishes the station as an essential hub in the logistics and coordination of ambitious long range mining operations. Numerous scientific asteroid missions launch from Taromka, and it is also the operational base of the first commercial asteroid pushers. Later, Vincenza Boccaccia starts out from Taromka to found Stella Servizio Stazione in the asteroid belt – revolutionizing space travel.

These are works from the early years as a supply depot:

- The romantic VR-drama "Star-Crossed Orbits" tells the touching story of a deep love between an asteroid miner and an engineer on Taromka Station. Set against the backdrop of space exploration, with its long travel times fostering both closeness and separation, the drama highlights the unique challenges and beauty of a relationship formed in such a dynamic environment. Written by Chinwe Okafor for Deep Space VR (Gemini/L5).

- Anthology "Outpost of Tomorrow": A collection of short stories that delve into the lives and experiences of people working on Taromka Station in its early years, with each narrative encapsulating the grandeur of human exploration across the solar system. Multiple international authors.

Individually awarded stories of the anthology:

- "Echoes in the Vacuum": A suspenseful tale of a communications officer on Taromka Station who intercepts a mysterious signal from an uncharted asteroid, leading to a discovery that challenges the very nature of human existence in space. Nebula Wordsmiths (Collective of L4-Authors).

- "The Last Supply Run": This action-packed story follows a veteran pilot's final mission to Taromka Station, revealing a conspiracy that could destabilize the entire asteroid mining industry. Luna Rodríguez (Mexico).

- "Orbit's End": In this thriller, the crew of Taromka Station races against time to prevent a rogue asteroid from colliding with Earth. Chinwe Okafor (Nigeria).

In the 2180s, the station experiences a significant shift. Boccaccia's matter stream technology now allowing in-flight re-supply greatly reduces the need for supply depots, leading to Taromka's abandonment in its original role. This technological leap, while a milestone in space exploration, renders the services of the station less critical, pushing it towards a period of uncertainty and underutilization.

Works about the difficult times during the '80s:

- Interactive VR Experience "Abandonment and Adaptation": Puts players in decision-making roles to determine the future of Taromka amid technological shifts. The virtual environment is richly detailed, offering an authentic feel of life in space, and challenges players to weigh the impacts of their decisions on the station's crew and its evolving role in space exploration. Developed by Elena Rodriguez (Europe).

- Suspense Novel "Desolation at L4": In this gripping narrative, Liu Wei masterfully delves into the psychological and social ramifications experienced by the crew of Taromka Station as it confronts the harsh reality of obsolescence and decline. The novel intricately weaves a tale of suspense and emotion, capturing the tension and uncertainty that permeate the station. Liu Wei (China), Winner of the Outer Space Literature Award.

In the 2190s, the station is repurposed for housing workers involved in the construction of L4 habitats. The station, once bustling with asteroid miners, now accommodates engineers, technicians, and other personnel dedicated to expanding the human presence in the L4 region. The support infrastructure is transformed from industrial production, in-space manufacturing and fuel supply to accommodation and entertainment services for a wide range of economic needs. These include luxurious hotel-style housing and more economically priced, compact bunks.

A notable innovation during this period is the introduction of "Capsule Motels" by Taromka. These self-contained, live-support capsules are designed to be detachable from the main station. They can be deployed individually or in groups, providing on-site accommodation for engineers and technicians working on specific projects or workshops in space. After their temporary use, these capsules return to Taromka for restocking and necessary repairs.

Areas of the station previously dedicated to ship-part fabbing transform into facilities for food production and enhanced life support systems. Most importantly, they support the growing capsule motel economy, becoming a hallmark of Taromka's adaptation to its new role in space infrastructure development.

Works about the '90s transition to a profitable modular motel station:

- Interactive Novel "Life in Orbit": A choose-your-own-adventure interactive book allowing readers to explore various narratives and outcomes of life on the repurposed station with hundreds of hand-crafted story arcs as a strong statement against generated narratives. Written by Clara Johnson (USA).

- Strategy Simulation Game "Capsule Dreams": Players take on the role of managing Taromka's transition into a residential and commercial hub for space workers. The game intricately blends elements of resource allocation, architectural design, and social dynamics, requiring players to make strategic decisions that balance the needs of the station's inhabitants with the limitations and opportunities of space living. Players must oversee the construction of living quarters, manage life support systems, and ensure the wellbeing of a diverse community, all while adapting to the evolving economic landscape of space exploration. The game's immersive graphics and realistic scenarios make "Capsule Dreams" a must-play for fans of strategy and space exploration genres. Developed by Lena Schmidt, Raj Patel, Sofia Ríos (Germany/India/Mexico).

- Drama Series "New Horizons": This captivating series follows the daily lives and interpersonal dynamics of Taromka Station's new inhabitants. It dives deep into the emotional and practical challenges faced by these individuals. Each episode skillfully intertwines personal stories of ambition, conflict, and camaraderie in a highly technological but unforgivingly harsh environment. The series is infamous for killing off lead characters while introducing new ones all the time, giving rise to the term "being horizoned" meaning "being replaced unexpectedly" used in business and private contexts. Created by Vargas, Smith et al. (Argentina/Australia).

In 2215, Taromka changes once again when it becomes a refuge for survivors of the Cahaya Bintang incident. Approximately 250 individuals, having faced a catastrophic event, turn to the station for shelter. This influx of survivors transforms the station from its previous character of professionalism and purpose to a darker tone. These individuals, once part of various space missions and endeavors, find themselves abruptly thrust into a bleak and uncertain future. Bereft of funds, employment, and prospects, they arrive at Taromka not by choice but by sheer necessity, driven by the desperate need for shelter and safety in the aftermath of their ordeal.

The orderly bustle of workers is gone. In its place emerges a palpable sense of desperation and despair. Many of the survivors lack the means to rebuild their lives. They are without financial resources, job opportunities, and, most critically, a clear path forward. Unable to send the refugees to other L4 stations and lacking the funds to return them to Earth, the station management must split the station's resources between the space motel business and life support for the refugees, rapidly degrading its main business. The station, once a symbol of human advancement and cooperation in space, now echoes with the forlorn stories of those who have lost everything.

Works covering the influx of Cahaya Bintang survivors:

- Documentary Series in form of a Web Graphic Novel "Shadows at L4": Chronicles the real-life stories of survivors, their struggles, and the station’s adaptation to its new role as a refuge. This innovative documentary series offers a poignant and visually striking account of the lives of survivors masterfully blending narrative storytelling with graphic art to bring to life the harrowing yet inspiring stories of individuals who have faced unimaginable hardships. Simultaneously, it captures the station’s own transformation as it shifts from a hub of space development to a sanctuary for those in need. Each episode features a different survivor's story, illustrated in a compelling graphic format that enhances the emotional depth and realism of their experiences. Produced by Olga Ivanova (story) and Kwame Nkrumah Jr. (graphics) (Siberia/Ghana).

- Adventure Game "Survival in Space": Players help Cahaya Bintang survivors adapt to their new life on Taromka, facing challenges of resource management and community building. The game presents a realistic simulation of life on a space station, where every decision impacts the wellbeing of the player character and the overall functionality of the station. As players progress through the game, they encounter various obstacles, from limited supplies and malfunctioning equipment to the psychological stresses faced by the survivors. Balancing the immediate needs of the community with long-term sustainability goals is key. "Survival in Space" is a standout title in the adventure gaming genre winning many awards. Developed by Sarah Lee Simulations based on a professional space station simulation core (DNI, Decentralized Net Inc.).

- Drama Film/3D/VR "Beneath the Stars": This film offers a cinematic portrayal of the Cahaya Bintang incident, culminating in the survivors' arrival at Taromka. While it's known that approximately 250 people ultimately survive, the fate of the main characters remains uncertain throughout the film. Viewers are left guessing who will reach Taromka, who gets rescued, and who sacrifices themselves for the sake of others. This gripping tale weaves together themes of heroism and betrayal, love, and sacrifice, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. Directed by Carlos Mendoza (San Diego Megaplex, Mexico/California).

The survivors of the Cahaya Bintang incident, predominantly highly educated STEM professionals, find themselves in a dire situation. Stripped of their former lives and careers, some among them turn their expertise towards less scrupulous endeavors. Utilizing their advanced knowledge in science and technology, they begin to transform the station into a hub for the development and trade of illegal technologies. This transformation is marked by the emergence of unauthorized live slinks and harmful mesh technology.

Unauthorized slinks, or Sensory Links, represent a misuse of biotechnological implants that record and transmit real-time sensory experiences of individuals, often without their knowledge or consent. These devices, originally intended for benign purposes such as immersive private diaries or media feeds, are now being exploited to clandestinely gather and sell personal experiences. This unauthorized eavesdropping turns private moments into a commodity, catering to a black market hungry for intimate, unfiltered experiences.

Simultaneously, mesh technology begins to flourish in the underbelly of Taromka. This technology, based on distributed sensors, computation, and grokking, becomes a powerful tool in the hands of those willing to exploit its capabilities. Mesh technology, while not inherently harmful, represents an evolution of cloud technology that leverages local resources now so powerful that data centers become obsolete. Illegal mesh technology, known as Meshware, misappropriates external processing resources. It can override security systems, enabling hard- and software theft as well as wetware misuse. The harm inflicted by Meshware varies widely: it can be as basic as the theft of computational performance, but often escalates to more serious abuses, including invading privacy, stealing software, and manipulating diverse markets such as reputation, resources, and securities.

Meshware, enabling the full spectrum of network crimes, becomes a tool for unauthorized Slinks and other forms of cybercrimes. In the hands of those who misuse it for their own gain, Meshware is particularly potent. When integrated into neuroimplants, it not only enhances perception but also enables a kind of mind reading and significantly improves situational awareness by exploiting external sensors and inference. Many users become addicted to their enhanced abilities. In an environment where resources are scarce, and survival often means exploiting others, the use of Meshware for both power struggles and for survival becomes ubiquitous. Eventually, Taromka's underworld also begins to export Meshware across the entire near-Earth orbital space.

Works about the emergence of Taromka as a center of illegal activities:

- Thriller Novel "Slink and Shadow": Delves into the shadowy world of illegal tech on Taromka, weaving a story of intrigue and moral ambiguity. Created by The Orion Collective (delocalized). The VR drama series spin-off SnS-THN: "Slink and Shadow - The Hidden Network" gains a huge mainstream following.

- Investigative Documentary "Illegal Orbits": Explores the impact of illegal activities on the station. The documentary features a mix of in-depth interviews with those affected by the illegal activities, including station officials, residents, and even those involved in the unlawful acts. These personal accounts are complemented by rare undercover footage, providing a raw and unfiltered look into the underworld of the station. The director's cut includes controversial footage showing the capture of the camera drone operator and their eventual murder. Solar Investigations (L5).

- VR Action Game "Battlespace Tech Underworld": This dynamic game plunges players into Taromka Station's underground tech scene. In a VR environment, players navigate a web of alliances and rivalries while engaging in espionage and tech heists. The game's immersive world reacts to players' choices, offering a unique mix of action and strategy, where survival hinges on quick thinking and tactical decision-making. Developed by Pink Mars Gaming (Phobos)

Other highly acclaimed short stories:

- "The Last Transmission": An emotional tale of an astronaut who received the final transmission from Cahaya Bintang, grappling with survivor's guilt and their role in the new community. Authored by Hassan "Red Comet" Al-Bakri (Jordan/Califate).

- "The Unseen Scars": A story of a medical officer on Taromka who dedicates her life to helping survivors cope with their trauma, while confronting her own hidden wounds. Dr. Hikaru Takahashi (Japan).

- "Stellar Refuge": A heartwarming story of a refugee family finding a new beginning on Taromka Station, highlighting the themes of hope and salvation. Naledi "Star Weaver" Mokoena (South Africa).

In the year 2234, the once-prosperous hub, now crippled by declining business, resource shortages, and a damaged public image, finds itself at a critical crossroads. To remain functional, Taromka undergoes a significant transformation, becoming an exile station for convicts. This change is driven by the acute resource constraints of space habitats. Supporting a prison population in space, where every resource is vital, poses a formidable challenge. Habitats, struggling to balance the needs of their populations against the demands of housing criminals, view Taromka as a practical solution. The arrival of these exiled individuals marks a new chapter for Taromka. The station transforms into a melting pot of diverse and often conflicting backgrounds, with its existing population now interspersed with convicts.

The decision to repurpose Taromka as an exile station is not merely an economic move but also one laden with moral implications. Economically, it represents a pragmatic response to the pressing issue of resource allocation in space. Exiling convicts to Taromka relieves space habitats of the significant burden of maintaining a prison system. The presence of convicts, particularly those deemed dangerous, poses a threat to the stability and security of these communities. Exiling them to Taromka is viewed as a necessary step to protect the larger society. However, the term "exile" becomes a euphemism for what is, in reality, the abandonment of individuals in an environment devoid of security services and the rule of law. Taromka evolves into a Darwinian landscape where the strongest prevail, and the weak are left vulnerable. The lack of a governing structure leads to a brutal social order where new arrivals face a perilously short life expectancy, quickly stripped of their resources and left to fend for themselves in a hostile environment.

This transformation raises poignant questions about the value of individual lives and the lengths a society is willing to go to preserve its collective well-being. The choice to exile convicts, foregoing opportunities for rehabilitation or more humane containment, indicates a possible shift in priorities towards economic pragmatism over rehabilitative justice. It reflects the difficult choices and compromises that come with human expansion into the cosmos. The establishment of Taromka as an exile station presents a complex moral and economic dilemma: a place that is both a solution to a problem and a problem in itself.

Works featuring Taromka as an exile station:

- Documentary Film "Islands in the Sky": This documentary delves into the complex realities of managing an exile station. The film provides an unprecedented look at the logistical challenges involved in sustaining a station that has become a haven for those cast out from other space colonies. Through a series of interviews with station administrators, supply chain managers, and exiled individuals themselves, "Islands in the Sky" reveals the day-to-day struggles of maintaining basic necessities like food, water, and air. It also showcases the innovative solutions and compromises made to keep the station operational, offering viewers a rare glimpse into the operational complexities of a space habitat on the brink. In its second half, the documentary shifts focus to the moral and ethical implications of running an exile station raising questions about the nature of justice in space, the societal responsibility towards exiled individuals, and the human cost of such an endeavor. Assembled by Children of JimPanse (anonymous net collective).

- Sociological Study "Orbit of Morality": An in-depth analysis of space colonization, with a focus on exile stations. It addresses the broader moral implications of human settlements in space, including resource distribution and the governance of extraterrestrial communities. The study notably reveals confidential documents about the number of exiles on Taromka, coupled with shocking findings that the average life expectancy of these exiles is just three weeks. This alarming statistic effectively equates exile to Taromka with a death sentence, underscoring that exiles there face a shorter life expectancy than death row inmates in countries on Earth that still practice capital punishment. By Dr. Ravi Chandra (Indus Valley).

- Novel "Prisoner of the Void": The story centers around a protagonist named Aïcha, who initially struggles to survive in the unforgiving hierarchy of the station’s underworld. Starting her journey on Taromka with little more than her wit and will to survive, Aïcha faces a relentless series of trials and adversities. Through a blend of fortuitous circumstances, clever maneuvering, and sheer resilience, Aïcha gradually climbs the ranks of Taromka's shadowy power structure. The narrative is rich with unexpected twists, as she navigates complex alliances and confronts betrayals in her ascent to power. Amadou Diallo’s intricate storytelling and the nuanced development of Aïcha’s character create a novel that is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking, establishing "Prisoners of the Void" as a significant work in the realm of dramatic fiction. By Amadou Diallo (Senegal).

Short stories:

- "The Dark Side of the Moon": A mystery unravels when a Taromka Station crew member goes missing during a routine mission, revealing a web of secrets hidden in the station's shadowy corridors. The Quantum Storytellers (Toronto Writers Collective).

- "Survival's Edge": Explores the harrowing first week of a new arrival, struggling to navigate the brutal social hierarchy of the station. Anonymous.

- "The Exiled Mind": A psychological thriller about an exiled scientist using her knowledge to outwit rival factions, only to question her own moral compass. Ekaterina Volkova herself (Defiantly calling Taromka her home station).

- "Taromka's Tears": A poignant tale of a family separated by exile, depicting their struggles to reunite against all odds. Authored by Grace O'Connor (Ireland).

- "Rebellion in the Void": The story of a daring uprising against the ruthless leaders of Taromka, led by a charismatic but flawed revolutionary. Authored by Nia Jones (Wales).

- "The Last Sanctuary": A tale of hope in despair, following an elderly exile who becomes a beacon of wisdom and peace in a divided community. Written by Carlos Rivera (Greater Guyana).

In the year 2296, after decades of progressive deterioration, the life support systems of Taromka Station catastrophically fail. This decline has been ongoing, with frequent failures in various modules leading to resource depletion. On Christmas Eve 2295, the station's last fusion reactor ceases operation, emitting a burst of mildly radioactive plasma. The station is left reliant on solar cells and capacitors, plunging its interior into darkness. The atmospheric scrubbers, already struggling, begin to fail rapidly due to a lack of power for maintenance. The station's air becomes overly humid, promoting widespread mold and fungal growth. The oxygen recycling system is the next to fail. While the station's large volume is capable of holding a substantial oxygen reserve, this is quickly depleted due to its bad pre-condition. The most vulnerable inhabitants begin suffocating. Life on Taromka has always been a struggle for resources, but now, people are fighting for mere hours of oxygen… when relief arrives.

The neighboring L4 stations and the Space Patrol were closely monitoring the situation. Anticipating the need for a large-scale evacuation, they launch "Operation Fair Load" in early 2296. This coordinated effort successfully rescues 8,183 individuals from the failing station. In a lesson learned from the mishandling of the Cahaya Bintang incident, the survivors are distributed across a wide range of stations, lunar bases, and terrestrial states, ensuring a more balanced and humane approach to their resettlement.

Works about operation "Operation Fair Load":

- Immersive Slink "Breathless: The Last Days of Taromka". A heart-wrenching disaster movie. As Taromka Station's life support systems fail, its inhabitants are pushed to the brink. The story focuses on a group of survivors, including a seasoned astronaut, a resourceful botanist, and a courageous teacher, who must overcome personal conflicts and dwindling resources to keep each other alive. Their journey is a testament to human resilience, marked by moments of despair, bravery, and unexpected kindness.

- Report: "Neglected Space: The Avoidable Catastrophe of Taromka". This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the Taromka Station disaster, emphasizing that early intervention could have drastically reduced the death toll. It scrutinizes the policy of exiling convicts to an already deteriorating station, illustrating a systemic lack of foresight and responsibility. While the report acknowledges the logistical success of Operation Fair Load, it questions whether this action is enough to redeem the years of exploitation and inaction. The analysis concludes that the final heroic rescue, though commendable, does not absolve the authorities of their long-term neglect and the moral implications of their policies. By Space Patrol Research Group (HEO, High Earth Orbit Academy).