Chapter 1: History
Sixty years ago, the colonists on the Dawning Star embarked on the greatest and most desperate undertaking in the history of humankind: Traveling to the stars in the hopes of surviving the destruction of Earth. These brave explorers and refugees found a home in the end, but not the one they were looking for. Settling far from where Earth once was, the Dawning Star and her crew set about making a new life on the planet Eos and were eventually joined by a second evacuation ship, the Evergreen, and the vast alien masses it now carried. The human condition has changed drastically over the last sixty years since the destruction of Earth and a new home found, and much has happened in that time. The old world of Earth is now only a memory held in the minds of the older colonists. Its stories will soon be myths of a faraway world, passed down through the generations. But in many ways, Eos is a lot like Earth.
The same people. The same problems. The same need for heroes.
As told by Edward Creech, formerly Chief Engineer of the Dawning Star and currently Professor of History of Technology at Dawning Star University. Recorded by the Eotian History Project, 2053.
I figure at this point most of the folks here on Eos wouldn’t even recognize what we had on Earth Before. We had everything and didn’t even know it. Everyone had their own nanofacturing setup, everyone had implants. Hell, we had even reversed global warming after trading out fossil fuels for laser driven fusion reactors. Really it was the closest thing I think humanity has had to a golden age; sure some people had less than others, but no one was going hungry and no one was dying of preventable diseases.
I think this is what let people be so comfortable in their denial when asteroid 2186D3 was first announced in 2189. We’d licked cancer, AIDs, hunger, and were a hair’s breadth from whipping old age too; surely one asteroid was something we could handle. We had stations in orbit around Earth and the Moon, colonies on Mars, and had been sending ships to the outer planets for a few decades, though we’d taken a break after the USS Washington blew up out near Pluto. Still not sure what that was about. Anyways, then 2186D3 came hurtling out of nowhere into the system at almost a perpendicular angle. It wasn’t part of the Oort cloud, or really part of our stellar neighborhood at all. Just some sort of cosmic drifter in from some other part of the Milky Way. Most folks think that’s why we didn’t see it sooner; our collision detection systems just weren’t pointed in the right direction.
The United Nations kept the whole thing quiet for a few years while they tried to deal with it, but no luck. The tried nuking it, deflecting it, drilling it; hell they even tried some cockamany plan to render it intangible but shifting it to another dimension, or at least that’s what some people say. Nothing worked. And it was heading right at Earth, so they had some hard choices to make.
The Evacuation Alliance
Once the threat of 2186D3 was verified an alliance of nations quickly developed to pool resources in the hopes of averting disaster. This group was primarily organized through the auspices of the United Nations Space Agency (UNSA), but as the threat grew more dire NATO, the Pacific Prosperity Alliance, and other regional alliances began mounting their own efforts since the UN effort seemed to be bearing little fruit. Sadly none of these efforts were successful in destroying or diverting the dark object.
The evacuation plan was originally put forth by United Korea and was quickly backed by many European and African nations, but was opposed initially by the United States, the People's Republic of China, and the Free Russian States. Much of the early work was done using European know how and the industrial might of Brazil and Korea using the resources of various African states, but as the collision came closer all the major nations signed onto the effort. The operation of the so called Evacuation Alliance was mostly conflict free, but there were numerous debates about who to save, what resources to carry, etc. None of these escalated to violence, but several came close. Indeed after the fleet launched there was a massive outbreak of violence as old ethnic, religious, and cultural conflicts flared up for one final vengeance fueled attack.
Unfortunately while we had off world colonies on the Moon and Mars, none of them were self sufficient. They could maybe go twenty years without resupply if they really pushed, but the terraforming efforts on Mars were at least four centuries from actually making it livable. And we didn’t have anything close to an FTL drive; we had some fusion burner drives and ion drives that could get up to about .2C with a few years of acceleration, but certainly nothing that could get us to another habitable world easily. This hadn’t stopped UNSA from cataloging all the neighboring planets they could. They never found anything easily habitable in our neighborhood, but they found some things that were close enough in a pinch. Once the evacuation plan was made it wasn’t hard to find a good candidate. Tau Ceti 3 and 4 were only about twelve light years off and we were pretty sure we could make at least one of them habitable within a few decades after arriving. We just needed the ships to get there.
By the time 2186D3 was public, the ships were already in progress. The powers that be knew they couldn’t keep a project that size secret for long, so they didn’t bother. Instead they roped in everyone they could to help. Every resource on the planet was thrown at building as many cold sleep evacuation ships as possible in order to transplant millions of us to Tau Ceti 3 with the means to terraform it. With the best drives we could build it would still be a eighty year trip to Tau Ceti 3, so it was going to be done with the crew asleep for most of the journey.
Despite the riots and protests, the ships got built, and were filled with people according to need, national support for the evacuation effort, and lottery. In the end we had twenty ships and saved upwards of forty million people, but on a planet of nine billion that left a lot of unhappy people. Obviously, I was one of the lucky ones.
The fleet left Earth orbit May 1, 2196, catching a slingshot around the sun and then Jupiter on the way out of the system. The Earth was destroyed by 2186D3 on May 25th. I couldn’t watch it. Others could. It’s a day we still remember, and is a national holiday in the Dawning Star Republic.
So then we started the long acceleration towards Tau Ceti; I was one of the few people assigned to be awake for the first few years of the voyage to make sure the acceleration procedure ran according to plan. The plan didn’t even make it out of the solar system. September 2, 2197, not that long after reached .02C and crossed Pluto’s orbit, we found a thing. A big metal thing; like big as in several kilometers across and obviously manufactured. Since we were already in acceleration phase there was no stopping to check it out, and any shuttle we launched would be unable to catch back up to us, so we scanned it as we went by. Whatever it was it was extremely old, extremely advanced, and shortly after we scanned it, it became extremely active. I’ve heard that some signal from the fleet turned it on, but whatever the cause, that thing opened some manner of wormhole in front of the fleet. We were already going fast enough after a few weeks of acceleration that stopping or changing course before we hit the wormholes was impossible, so we hit them. And then everything went weird.
The trip through the wormhole was instantaneous for us; if it wasn’t for the change in the star patterns, nebulae placement, galactic masses, and so on you would have never known we moved. But oh had we moved. In the blink of an eye we had moved approximately thirty two thousand light years to the other side of the galactic core, though it took us a good long while to figure that out. And by us I mean the evacuation ship Dawning Star, the destroyer Nebraska, and a handful of other support and military ships that were bolted onto the Dawning Star. The rest of the fleet, carrying the vast majority of the surviving mass of humanity, was gone and we would not find them again for some time. The Dawning Star was carrying the majority of the terraforming equipment for the mission, so our first reaction was to try to find the rest of the fleet as they were pretty much up shit creek without us. But it became apparent pretty fast we had bigger problems. .
The wormhole hadn’t reduced our velocity any, so we were shortly going to be entering the outer orbits of an unknown stellar system and a percentage of the speed of light; without deceleration we’d be through the system in a matter of weeks and out into deep space assuming we didn't run into something. So first order of business was getting the lay of the land. We found another station like the one that sent us through the wormhole, but it was behind us and there was no stopping to take a look at it. From what we could tell though it looked non-functional. Once we started looking ahead of us, things got really interesting.
The stellar system which we now call Helios, was a wonder. Seven worlds overall, it had three habitable worlds in the Goldilocks zone; the odds against that are astronomical. Whats more, two of them seemed to be producing electromagnetic signals; radio waves it looked like. As interesting as that was, given how little time we had to stop and our large but ultimately limited fuel supplies, our destination choices were restricted. If we wanted to reach one of these habitable worlds without running into anything or shooting through the system entirely, the second world was the only option, and even then it required some top notch navigating and braking maneuvers using the system’s gas giant to actually get into orbit at a low enough speed to not shoot right back out of orbit. We had years to plan our exit vector, and days to figure out a way to stop before we shot past the system and into deep space. And at .02C u-turns are a bitch. While we had only been in our acceleration burn for a year and change when we hit the wormhole, we only had so much fuel, so everything had to count.
The Escort Fleet
The fleet that accompanied the Dawning Star through the wormhole was made up of a dozen ships that were effectively bolted to the hull of the Dawning Star so they could make use of its fusion drive; none of the escort fleet ships had engines powerful enough to reach even .01C. This makeshift arrangement was made to expand the cargo capacity of the
various evacuation ships and provide smaller vessels for scout or security duties once the fleet arrived at Tau Ceti. While no one realistically expected to run into hostile aliens at Tau Ceti, it was not out of the realm of possibility.
The ships used in the various escort fleets were mostly military or state-owned exploration vessels, though many of the exploration vessels had extensive corporate stakeholders. Only one totally privately owned ship, the Last Resort owned by Maximillian Dagos, had the life support and structural integrity necessary to make the voyage and was attached to the Dawning Star.
The largest of the vessels assigned to the Dawning Star was the destroyer Nebraska, a moderate sized capital ship from the United States Orbital Navy that would have been decommissioned a few years after the detection of 2186D3 if spacecraft had not suddenly become such a valuable commodity. It is the cornerstone of the Dawning Star Republic's space forces, which is comprised of a handful of freighters, scout ships, and shuttles
Luckily we managed to reach Eos without crashing into anything and set ourselves up in high orbit. We spent a good many weeks scanning the planet before committing to a landing, knowing that once the Dawning Star entered the atmosphere it was never leaving again; any landing was designed to be a one way trip so we had to be sure. What we found was better than we had hoped; Eos was so close to Earth norms we thought the sensors were broken for awhile. What’s more it showed signs of habitation; not recent, but still. We could not believe our luck, so at the command of Captain Brandes Jonah, highest ranking officer left in the fleet, the Dawning Star and several escort ships made preparations to land August 30, 2198.