Author : Philip Berry
“Just see what you can do with it Tak, if you’d be so good. No great urgency.” muttered Johnson, Alec Tak’s immediate superior in the Office of Colonies (First Wave). The buff folder landed on Alec’s desk with a slap and lay there like an unclaimed corpse. He opened it, lay the deep-pages out in a line, and spent the rest of the morning swimming through the data, leaping archives, extracting sub-files and learning all there was to know about the Range.
The discovery of countless habitable worlds just two years’ hyper-flight time from Earth had changed history. There were so many, each offering a healthy balance of fertile land and clean sea, with broad temperate zones awash with renewables. A hastily convened Pan-National Partitioning Committee found itself redundant, for there were no arguments. There was no competition. There were worlds enough for everyone. Many problems on the home planet just ceased to exist.
A third of a billion years ago two giant planets of near equal mass had collided. By virtue of their equivalent mass and opposing but similar rotational frequencies, the energy released by the impact was evenly distributed throughout each globe, and resulted in countless daughter planets. These were harnessed by the ancient sun’s mass and strung along an eccentric orbital loop, a priceless necklace of granite. Their barren surfaces grew lush and Earth-like, pristine until the first pioneers arrived.
All it took for a group of travelers to claim one of these exoplanets was a common philosophy, enthusiasm, and the financial means to charter a transport. Thousands, then millions departed for an improved future. This was four thousand years ago.
Alec surfaced from the records for a moment. He was confused. What exactly was the problem that he had been asked to solve?
A previously disregarded deep-page, relating to the central star’s attributes, caught his attention. He dived back in.
The astrophysicists and planetologists were clear from the start; Nascen III was an old sun, and actually quite interesting. An asymptotic-giant-branch star, subject to periodic ‘dredge-ups’, whereby oxygen was created by fission at the core and transported by convection to the surface where it burned, creating an ultra-high energy pulse… in the case of Nascen III every two hundred thousand years. The next pulse was due in three thousand years. No human could survive it.
They knew it at the time. They were told. All the travelers. But it was 7000 years away; why worry. Did they consider their children, or their childrens’ children?
Alec could barely believe this was the problem Johnson wanted him to manage. Where to start? How to start? Engage the civic leaders, the royal houses, the heritable presidents… and initiate relocation planning. Contemplate the massive logistics, agree on an evacuation sequence… imagine the debates. In fact, now Alec thought about it, he would have to commission observatories with the sole purpose of finding a metal-rich asteroid to mine for the materials required to create the largest fleet of transports ever constructed.
Would anyone living now be interested in such a distant apocalypse?
Alec surfaced and sat back in his chair. Sweat lay on his brow. He squared up the deep-pages, put them back on the folder and pushed it away, under a pile of more urgent matters. There it would stay, until the day of his retirement twenty years later.
And the funny thing was, Johnson never once asked him for an update.