Writing Competition Submission - Frontier South

Frontier South
By RoadkillS
2022-02-04

Logline
As one galactic power rises and another falls, on a peripheral border planet individuals are forced to choose whether to fight to defend their historic way of life or acquiesce and profit from the new regime.

Story Summary
The remote world of Palulik has been for centuries blessed by its position on the frontier between the Daufine Federation and the Hasblak Empire, growing rich as a libertarian trading post and melting pot between the two cultures & governance systems.

Recognising the need for a neutral gateway for mutually beneficial trade, the two powers agreed centuries ago that Palulik would be nominally independent yet protected from pirates & warlords by the Daufine Federation, despite the presence of both Daufine & Hasblak settlers on the world. Left largely ungoverned, Palulik has developed a unique culture of its own, staunchly independent yet influenced by elements from both powers.

This prosperous peace is threatened however, by the growing might and power of the Hasblak Empire, and the desire of its leader Usnak Vedrik to remove this Daufine Federation outpost in Hasblak’s historical border territory. After millennia of Daufine dominance of the known galaxy, Hasblak culture has united behind a fanatical support for the newly-installed Vedrik dynasty, drawn by the promise of Hasblak supremacy and extraordinary wealth in this life, but above all by Tashka.

Tashka is at once both lifelong-companion, hive-mind, religious belief & set of principles that all Hasblak abide by that was developed by the founding leader of the Vedrik dynasty, Usnak’s ancestor Esnak Vedrik. Tashka works via a physiological communications network, with all Hasblaks at birth inserted with an implant that connects their externally-directed thoughts towards a supra-network to which all Hasblaks are connected. The Gasik are the esteemed priesthood of this network, being elite Hasblaks who alone are permitted wider network privileges, and to intermediate traffic. The network also contains Vestri, mirror-intelligences without physical form who solely exist on the Hasblik network - each Hasblak is assigned a Vestri at birth to guide their learning and spiritual development, & little is known about their origins. Tashka & Hasblak are inseparable from cradle to grave; it is inexorable, inescapable and ubiquitious. Tashka links are banned on Palulik by the terms of the original agreement between Daufine & Hasblak.

Tashka, with its unprecedented capacity for unity, motivation, and organization, has allowed the Usnak to rapidly economically develop from their historically backwards state. They increasingly grow as strong as the Daufine Federation, who have grown fat & complacent from their centuries of largely unchallenged galactic domination stemming from their superior technology. This technology, ironically, has been nurtured by encouraging concepts largely dismissed by the Usnak - independence, self-expression, self-discipline, creativity & wild, liberated experimentation.

Frontier South focuses on Hasblak efforts to capture Palulik and the resistance arising, charting how a group of individuals are drawn together to fight the insidious creep of power, and how they are betrayed by others seeking personal gain. It explores how a free populace can be gradually subordinated against their collective will, the dangers of complacency when defending freedoms, and how individuals and families are fractured by the pressures of difficult choices.

Main Character Descriptions

Delula Sarl

The hero of our story, Delula is a young, outdoorsy and attractive wealthy Palulik heiress. Initially self-centred and largely blind to outside cares, she experiences a political awakening that leads her to join the Resistance movement, against the will of her parents who’s mercantile wealth derives from trade between Hasblak & Daufine.

Gruyff Toskin
Gruyff is native Palulikian and leader of the resistance: hotheaded, impulsive and brave, he believes deeply in independence at any cost.

Shilba
Shilba is Delula’s hand-maid, and an insight into the ordinary populace’s view. Though she is content, she is bored by her work and lack of prospects, and is drawn to the idea of submitting to Hasblak and joining the Tashka and the inner peace it offers.

Governor Torton
An ambiguous anti-hero, the elderly Torton expects to see out the final post of his political career as Governor of Palulik with the ease and grace that has typified his career so far. However, he finds himself maneuvered into having to grant concessions to the Hasblak, for fear of losing greater freedoms. The protestors are initially distrustful of his motives and actions, before realising that behind the scenes he was doing all he could to preserve the planet’s unique freedoms.

Witsel
Witsel is the Hasblakian ambassador to Palulik. Duplicitous and cunning, he serves Usnak with complete faith, playing smoothly politics to achieve his goal.

Cassio
An ambitious Palulikian, Cassio is attracted to work for Witsel & Hasblak by the promises of riches and a prominent position in the Tashka network once it assimilates Palulik.

Usnak Vedrik
Leader of the Hasblakians, little is revealed beyond his thirst for power and expansion, driven by the need to live up to the destiny of his family.

Humbert & Friesa Sarl
Delula’s parents are prominent merchants of Palulik, conservative and opposed to anything that may interfere with their business interests by threatening trade between Hasblak and Delfine.

Setting

Palulik, where the action takes place, is a planet of contradictions: it is largely brilliant blue seas, sandbars, tropical reefs and whitesand beaches unsuitable for building, meaning that on the small spits of land suitable for construction life is dense, frenetic, futuristic and wild. The atmosphere reminiscent of Tangiers in its freewheeling heyday, or Hong Kong’s forbidden city - a blend of riotous, capitalistic life, in which the urban, cluttered cyber-punk existence of many is contrasted to the peaceful, tranquil coastal living of the elite. Delfine and Hasblak are glimpsed through interiors; Hasblak stark and fascist; Delphine opulent and garlanded like the declining Roman empire.

Tone

Whilst the dialogue is fast-paced, witty and action packed throughout, there is a deeper mournfulness as the impossibility of facing such an outside threat looms large. Think Foundation meets Blade Runner meets House of Cards with an elegiac melancholic twist of Brideshead Revisited.

Episodes:

1/ Pilot

After dressing with Shilba, at her parents’ behest Delula attends a party attended by the upper echelons of Palalik, amongst them Torton and Witsel. The party showcases the wealth and freedom of Palalik; Witsel and Torton discuss rumours of Usnak’s desires for Palalik and the current political situation.
Gruyff is at work as a spaceship mechanic, before heading to a local bar with his friends. There, Hasblak tourists lament their inability to connect to Tashka on the planet, leading to a heated argument with Gruyff & his friends.

2/ Chance Encounter

As Shilba returns home, she passes the bar, outside which a brawl has broken out. Gruyff tries to break it up & is wrongly arrested by arriving police; Delula, in a moment of heat, asks the speeder to stop and explains to the police they have the wrong man, explaining who she is and that he works for her and was waiting outside the bar. Gruyff plays along and they share a moment of understanding before departing. At home she complains to Shilba, and is surprised by her support for Hasblak & Tashka, which represents hope for her.

3/ Machinations

Witsel confers with an emissary from Usnak Vedrik, and is told to protest to Governor Torton that without Tashka on Palulik life is intolerable for the Hasblak.
Delula argues with her parents about their support for Tashka on Palulik, which they believe will help Palalik’s economic development and their business interests.
When Torton adeptly sidesteps the request for Tashka, Witsel is ordered to find a justification for an end to independent rule.

4/ Security

Witsel and Cassio plot and execute a false flag attack on a mining station on a proximate moon; this attack will be used as justification for a greater Hasblak security presence in Palulik as the declining Delfine empire can no longer guarantee security.

Torton is told by the Delfine Federation that they will not resist Hasblak expansion into Palulik, as Delfine’s economic ties with Hasblak are too important to sacrifice for a single planet. He tries & fails to negotiate a lengthy withdrawal plan for Delfine troops on Palulik.

5/ Suffocation

Hasblak troops land on Palulik, and are welcomed by Torton and a delegation including the Sarls.
Delula greets a general and realises that, against the agreed terms, his Tashka link is operational, despite being on Palulik. Her parents tell her to remain quiet; she impulsively speaks to Torton, but he obfuscates and says there are larger issues at hand. Shiba is excited when she hears Tashka is maybe coming; feeling alienated, Delula slips out alone to a local bar. She meets Gruyff again, and they feel out each other’s views on Hasblak & Tashka.

6/ Requiem

Gruyff & Delula now lead protests against Hasblak presence on Palulik; she is estranged from upper society as a result, whilst he loses his job as Hasblak ships are important to the Starship repair business he works at. Hasblak influence grows: troops now patrol Palulik, and the parents of newborns are strongly encouraged to implant Tashka in them. Torton meets Delula and explains he has little choice. Shilba is implanted; realising the futility of their mission and with little support, Delula & Gruyff tearfully abandon their home planet for the Delfine Federation and potential further fightback one day.

Themes

Though set across the vastness of space, Frontier South is at heart an examination of the pressures individuals and families face and the choices they must make as political upheaval threatens their ways of life and traditions. The inexorable gravity of the Hasblak empire, with its economic strength, groupthink, and inevitable expansion is too alluring for many to resist, leading to the splitting of those who are willing to gradually abandon their freedoms for riches, and those who will not submit at any cost. Realpolitik and youthful idealism, corruption and decay and the insidious nature of deals with the devil all collide, with a romantic liaison between the two doomed heroes and their nihilistic, liberatarian escape from the compromised society they previously belonged to presented ambiguously as either redemptive or a cowardly failure.

Contact

clamleflambeur@protonmail.com

I’d love to discuss this more or have any feedback if anyone has views :smile:

8 Likes

This is cool. I’m not sure I fully understand Tashka but I like the blend of matrix type control with a love/freedom story

Very strong world building and concepts. Evocative of certain works that probably resonate with this crowd, while still feeling like its own thing.

I can’t help but feel like the episode summaries work better as the early chapters of a novel than as a 6 episode limited series. Even with the potential for future works in the same world, a clear arc from 1 to 6 that cements it as a self-contained work would benefit. I think currently there is a rising action issue, since just as things look like they are about to get exciting, the heroes give up and leave and then the story ends at a point where it clearly doesn’t, really.

If there’s more you have in mind, I think you could include it. A few of these episodes could be joined together in a 22-minute runtime.

1 Like

Oh yeah. The setting alone is awesome, the writing is short & concise, while remaining eloquent. I fully second this proposal & would love to see it go further!

1 Like

Thanks for the comment.

I agree re: episode summaries - took me all day to boil them each down to 100 words as per the guidelines!

I also wasn’t sure whether runtime was 22 min / 30 min / 1 hour per episode - when planning I thought it was 1 hour, and then today saw the 22 minute limit - but as I also realised today that competition deadline was actually ongoing because of the likes/views being counted (favouring early people and meaning you can’t really submit last minute like I’d planned ) I had to frenetically cut material down

I like the the background story very much, good job!

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