Thirty years before our arrival at SCR 1845-6357 I received a message from Carna. They had responded to my message of more than a century ago far more aggressively than I had expected. They had destroyed the Royalist generation ship that I had warned them about. It had been the first use of their anti-matter weapons that they had started developing a couple of centuries ago. They had also issued a warning to the Royalist Council on Earth to never again attempt to reach Carna. Detection of such an attempt would result in a direct assault on Earth itself. Despite my initial shock I understood Carna’s actions, but my sadness at the need for them to issue such a threat was profound. Interstellar war between humans was not something I had ever thought possible. I felt some comfort in the knowledge that only Carna possessed Alcubierre technology, enabling them to react to the Royalist threat within decades, instead of millenia. That at least should ensure the Royalists would think twice before trying anything again.
Thankfully the message also contained some very good news. Three new generation ships using Alcubierre technology had already set up colonies in three star systems, and were on their way to more. One of the ships was on a course that would eventually take it close to the core of the galaxy to explore the densely packed and much older star systems to be found there. Because of the distance the course could not be predetermined and so it would be up to the crew to decide it based on their observations. To ensure continuity of thought and leadership Carna had included an Immortal element to the crew for the first time. I was surprised to hear that, but also strangely comforted. Although I would never meet those Immortals I felt less alone knowing that others whose consciousness would span millennia were also out there. The other Immortal on my ship expressed a similar sense of security having that knowledge. We hoped that they would not suffer the severe mental issues that many of the Earth-engineered Immortals had suffered. The geneticists of Carna would certainly have been aware of the issues we had had, so I was confident they would have overcome such problems.
Including Earth’s, there were now eight star systems known to contain human colonies, and possibly more if any of the Royalist generation ships had reached their destinations. To my shame I found myself hoping for their failure.
A year before our arrival SCR 1845-6357 we completed the construction of the tough transparent protective shells for our colonists’ agricultural facilities. With the education phase almost compete the first colonisation generation was undergoing the final preparations for disembarkation. Just as we had done with Carna there would be many disembarkation events. The first and largest would see three hundred humans land in three separate locations. They would suffer immensely as they set up habitats in the extreme conditions they would encounter on the surface. We expected a significant number of deaths in the first year. Following that first landing a hundred new colonists would join them every couple of years, more if necessary. We expected to send new colonists for at least fifty-years until a reliable breeding routine was established and the population was growing naturally at a healthy rate.
When our decades-long deceleration phase finally ended we made our final course change that would bring us on a close fly-by of our target planet, Aeolus.
Our colonisation began.
We had timed our arrival to coincide with the planet’s springtime. This would give the initial colonists the maximum amount of time before the harsh winter arrived. That would still only be seven days.
Despite almost chaotic atmospheric conditions the colonists landed with only a minor amount of injury and damage. During the following days, as Aeolus’s stifling summer took hold, the colonists dug into the soil and rock beneath them, creating the tunnels and chambers for their habitats. The framework for the protected agricultural land was constructed and the protective sheeting attached and secured. The habitats were fitted out and sealed and the colonists huddled down for the week-long winter. As our ship left the planet behind and set out on its wide elliptical two-year orbit of SCR 1845-6357 I remember feeling very relieved indeed. My centuries of planning, aided by my Immortal companion, had been worth it.
Over the next decades we followed our plan, sending down new colonists to populate the ever-expanding subterranean habitats of Aeolus. And those new colonists were needed. The hostile and rapidly fluctuating climate took a huge toll on the population, killing off a significant percentage each year. And although we provided the colonists with the means to manufacture their own protective sheeting to expand their agricultural activities adequate food production was difficult.
It took more than one-hundred and forty standard years, almost three times as long as we had expected, before they no longer required food support from us, and their population was growing adequately. Even after all that time the three colonies, one on each continent, still lived independently of each other. They could communicate via radio, facilitated by the satellites we had placed in geostationary orbits for them, but rarely did so, and there was no transport between them. Their efforts were focused purely on survival, and the expansion of their own underground cities. Each of the three cities had developed different styles of government, but all were strict, with tough rationing of food and services. Violations of rationing laws were punished severely. My fears centuries ago that the hard existence on Aeolus would lead to an oppressive dictatorship seemed closer to being realised with every decade that passed.
When the colonies on Aeolus reached three-hundred years of age the population of humans finally reached the one-million mark. It was an incredible achievement considering the conditions, but still less than ten percent of the population of Carna at the same stage. With their food production now reliable and relatively plentiful the focus was on finding a replacement for the aging and failing fusion reactors that had provided power since the first generation of colonists arrived. We no longer had the ability to deliver such equipment to the surface so, with the aid of mortal engineers on our ship, I spent decades designing a new generator that would harness the planet’s erratic winds. I sent the designs down to the Aeolus engineers, who then constructed the wind farms beyond the borders of the protected agricultural areas. The construction was slow due to the manufacturing constraints and the extreme climate conditions, but eventually, after another century had passed, the wind farms were producing enough power for all the colony’s needs. Plans were put in place to ensure the wind farms were expanded as the population grew.
Over the next century I did very little regarding the colonies on Aeolus. I monitored their progress and occasionally spoke with government officials when our ship made its closest approach every two years, but I provided almost nothing in the way of advice or support. They had become truly self-sufficient. The governments of the three colonies had moderated and were now mature democracies overseeing free economies. This had promoted entrepreneurialism and private enterprise, which included ambitions plans for a covered continent-spanning rail transportation system between the cities of the colonies. Air transport within Aeolus’s intensely turbulent atmosphere was too dangerous so a rail network was seen as the safest option. By the turn of the fifth century, and with the population close to forty-million, construction was well underway. Each colony connected its own cities first, which proved immensely popular once running, and then started work on the intercontinental sections. Tunnels were dug under the shallowest sections of the oceans from island to island. When, half a century later, the first two continents were finally joined there were rapturous celebrations. Intercontinental trade was finally possible. The economies of both continents boomed. The third continent joined twenty years later fuelling further economic success. The population exploded. By the start of the sixth century the planet’s population reached two-hundred million. It was an absolutely remarkable achievement considering that the entire population lived, worked, played and travelled almost entirely underground.
Both I and the other Immortal were very pleased, and certainly comforted, by the success of the Aeolus colonies. We were highly optimistic about their future.