Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Looks like it used to be a nice destination.”
“It was. Had forests in more shades of green than you’d believe possible.”
“The usual problems?”
“Yes and no.”
“Do tell. We’re here until we finish checking the place. Got to make sure there’s nothing that’ll hinder it’s regeneration or anything that could affect the next indigenes. Once that’s done, it should make a decent colony world after another couple of hundred revolutions round the star.”
“If it comes back like it was, I’ll petition to be allowed a home here.”
“Tell me about them.”
“They called themselves humans. Primate origin from saurian splice.”
“Another experimental world?”
“That’s why I first came here. Got assigned to investigate. Turns out this was a world jumped forward by renegades. No purpose but to give the locals a head start.”
“Unusual. So, they got kicked into sentience early. How did that work out?”
“About as you’d expect, but with some notable exceptions. Getting intelligence before they worked through their tribal urges gave them some unique advantages, along with the usual problems.”
“Hierarchal societies, either declared or concealed. Constant warfare underpinned by varying forms of fanaticism and greed. Stagnation of societies between changes forced by non-combatant adaptations to conflict. Further friction caused by attempts to return to pre-war societal structures after each of the bigger conflicts. I presume they added rampant technology to the mix?”
“They did. Quite stunningly, I have to add. Went from grounders to spacers very quickly.”
“I’m guessing their societies didn’t evenly reflect those advances?”
“Correct. Poverty and treadmill lower tiers overseen by a minority that eventually held wealth beyond imagining.”
“I can see where this is headed. Exploitation, pollution, and planetary exhaustion. But why did they not head to the stars? You said they rapidly developed space flight.”
“My investigations indicate some repressive factions amongst those with wealth determined that the cost/benefit ratio could erode their accrual rates. So they stifled it using political manipulation.”
“What we’re finding below doesn’t show a slow decline.”
“Something changed. For all that they still carried the detracting factors of their forced evolution, they had moments of selfless glory and vision. Towards the end of their time, a great war occurred. It ruined whole sections of the planet and left the survivors facing starvation. One of those glorious moments happened. Surviving nations forgot their squabbles and started to collectively build giant spaceships. The ships were intended to take as many humans as possible out into the universe. Initially to the next furthest planet from the star, then onwards if necessary.”
“Workable. We’ve seen it done before.”
“The colony ships were marvels of ingenuity. Everything they had came together to create fully landscaped environments within five great spaceships.”
“What went wrong?”
“Some of the wealthy recruited armies of the fanatical to protect the havens they’d already built on the next planet out.”
“Those tiny ruins on that red planet back there?”
“The very same.”
“They didn’t look self-sufficient. Were they?”
“Only in their deluded belief. Similarly, for gene pool size and continued existence, they had specialists claiming that cloning and genetic manipulation would save them all.”
“The colony ships, built to save the race, were sabotaged by servants of those who only wanted to save parts of the race? So, as the ships failed, unconstrained war broke out over access to the surviving ships?”
“Yes and yes.”
“What about the one embedded in their moon?”
“Crashed attempting to get behind it to evade attack. There were no trained pilots amongst the faction on board.”
“A sad coda.”
“To a spectacularly stupid extinction.”