Laputan Cullings
Laputa Habitat
Image from Steve Bowers

The events now known as the Laputan Cullings constitute one of the darkest chapters in Solsys history. The habitat responsible for this atrocity was a Bernal Sphere situated in Cislunar Orbit, named for an island described in the lost epic poem Travels by ancient satirist Gulliver Swift (fl. 3rd - 4th century B.T).

The Technocalypse saw Terragen machinery and infrastructure compromised on a scale once considered impossible. The Laputa Habitat took a particularly hardline stance on AIs, with all vec inhabitants being deported early on in the crisis. This meant that the habitat was forced to rely primarily on biont labor for continued maintenance - indeed, some sources suggest that Laputa's technology level was subpar even by the standards of the later Cislunar Bracelet Band. Despite numerous challenges, the colony weathered the storm largely intact, and for a brief period it seemed as though the worst was over. This illusion would be shattered with the Great Expulsion, as Earth's inhabitants were shipped offworld by the millions.

With construction of the Bracelet Band still underway, Laputa was forced to take in significant numbers of Terran refugees. These circumstances were not initially untenable, but conditions swiftly began to deteriorate: food shortages caused by remnant strains of Black Rot, coupled with the collapse of trade seen during the Moon Wars, threatened the colony's long-term stability. Stringent birth control measures had proven ineffective at curbing overpopulation, and resources such as water, medicine, and even air were in short supply. Laputa's governing body recognized this situation as unsustainable, and determined a high likelihood of societal collapse in the coming decades. If Laputa were to endure, the government decided, the number of inhabitants would have to be rapidly reduced. Thus, plans for the Cullings were set in motion.

The Cullings were, put simply, the systemic slaughter of those seen as incapable of contributing to Laputan society. The majority of victims were those who had become too old and frail for intensive labor, and were therefore seen as a burden on Laputa's dwindling resources. Other victims included those with untreatable medical conditions, as well as those suffering from severe mental health issues such as CIT (Collapse-Induced Trauma). While the Cullings were by no means a form of religious sacrifice, scholars have noted the somewhat ritualistic nature of the killings: one by one, victims were rounded up by security guards and transported to a specific airlock, before being killed by vacuum exposure. At the time, this method of execution was justified as a quick and painless alternative to the slow demise the victims would otherwise face.

Aside from the obvious ethical concerns, this method of disposal was not particularly economical: unlike Laputans that died from natural causes, Culling victims were not composted, their bodies instead being left to drift aimlessly in cis-lunar orbit. This execution method was also potentially hazardous to other colonies, the thousands of spaceborne corpses posing a collision risk. However, for the Laputan government, this method meant that victims could be forgotten almost immediately after they were killed, and none would be burdened with having to process their remains - in some ways, attitudes towards the Cullings were very much a case of "out of sight, out of mind". In any event, whatever meagre resources might be obtained from the victims' corpses were surely dwarfed by what would otherwise have been spent keeping them alive.

The airlock used during Cullings (known variously as "the Ledge", "the Dropoff" and "the Last Exit") was easily distinguished from other units by virtue of its diamondoid aperture being coated entirely in black: this was presumably to spare the soldiers from having to watch their victims die. Despite the barbarity of the government's actions, surviving documents suggest there was relatively little internal resistance: most of the victims were enfeebled and unable to defend themselves, while the general populace either felt powerless to prevent the killings, or simply accepted it as a tragic necessity for their own survival. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that loners, and people without close friends or family members were disproportionately likely to be targeted - in short, those who would not be missed.

Another notable facet of the Laputan Cullings was a policy known as the "Hangman's Lottery": to ensure that no single individual would have to carry the weight of mass murder on their shoulders, this burden would instead be distributed across the hab's entire populace. A Laputan citizen would be selected at random to release the airlock remotely from a control panel. They would not have to see or hear their victims (most of whom they would not have known personally), and would never know the exact number of lives they had taken. Executioners were afforded total anonymity (likely to prevent the buildup of grudges), and were offered a single black glove to wear during the proceedings. This was likely to instill a certain level of disconnect between the executioner and the victims: it was not their own hand that released the airlock, but rather the entire station's hand - if all Laputans were guilty, then none of them were guilty.

The Cullings persisted over a roughly fifteen year period between 650 and 665 a.t. (2619 - 2634 CE). The precise number of people killed in this fashion will likely never be known, though estimates range from at least 10,000 to as many as 40,000. While many of the victims' bodies were later destroyed in cleanup operations intended to lower the risk of collision, several thousand remained adrift well into the late Sundering Era. Such extreme methods of population reduction were thankfully becoming a relic of the past as more humane solutions became available, such as the establishment of the Vaults in 711 a.t., which allowed scores of the old and sickly to be placed in cryostasis. It is known that there was brief discussion among the Cislunar polities about retrieving the remaining bodies for more dignified interment on the lunar surface, accompanied by a small memorial to commerate the tragedy. While all of the victims' bodies were indeed recovered, the decision was instead made to have them loaded onto an automated vessel, which was then directed into the Sun.

At the time, this resolution was immensely controversial: the general consensus was that the Laputan populace, so traumatized by their past actions, were desperate to wash their hands of the atrocities, the destruction of the remains perhaps offering some form of collective closure. It is also known that there were attempts to ascribe the Cullings to one of the myriad disinhibition plagues running rampant at the time. However, there is no evidence for this, and it is generally regarded as a method of absolving the Laputan government of responsibility for the massacres. Although the Cullings were far from the worst atrocities seen during this period, they remain notorious due to their organized and ritualistic nature, as well as the Laputan government's refusal to confront their actions.

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Text by James Rogers
Initially published on 07 May 2024.