The year is 2067. Earth has survived,
its environment battered and bruised, and humans have muddled through, their few
shining moments eclipsed by tribal squabbles over resources and religion. Many diseases
have been conquered, but others have risen to take their place. The evolutionary
struggle between men and microbes is a stalemate. In an era of quantum computing,
bodies of people in the western world are patrolled and retooled by medical microbots.
Embedded intelligent agents ceaselessly draw on the vast web of information that
permeates the air.
It was a hundred years into the
space age before humans cracked the problem of interstellar travel. Fusion drives
now power all major commercial aircraft, and larger versions service tourism and
mining outposts throughout the solar system. Astronomers have honed their techniques
and routinely detect terrestrial planets as small as Mercury. Robot emissaries traveling
at half light speed have fanned out to hundreds of the nearest stars and a few Earth
“cousins” are known.
Twenty years earlier, in 2047, a
hundred people set out on a momentous journey. Fueled by the same urge that sent
humans migrating across continents tens of thousands of years before, and demoralized
by the loss of vision and the spiritual decay on Earth, they were the first to cut
the umbilical cord and attempt to homestead a new planet. The voyage was funded
by biotech entrepreneurs who filled the spaces with a worldwide lottery, adjusted
only to ensure enough genetic variation for a viable colony.
Public reaction to the venture was
varied and emotional. They were called fools, dreamers, and worse. Resentment was
tinged with jealousy. A hundred among ten billion were to give humanity the chance
for a fresh start.
For two decades the voyagers sailed
through the absolute void and silence of deep space, crammed into their little “Mayflower”
with pitifully few supplies to help them at the other end. Their suspended animation
was achieved with an experimental technology; nobody knows if they’ll be successfully
revived. All they know about their new home is that the gravity is 80% of Earth’s,
the atmosphere is breathable, there’s water, and the surface supports vegetation.
The voyager’s space ark used all its fuel to get to its destination; a distress
signal sent now would take twenty years to reach Earth and a rescue would take forty
years, by which time their children would be dead. This is a one-way trip.
The first traveler stirs as the
ark enters the Procyon group. At the center of an unfamiliar sky is an M dwarf with
five terrestrial planets in close proximity on tidally-locked orbits. One is larger
than the rest, with a creamy yellow atmosphere and twin outrigger moons. The planet
is both welcoming and strange as it swells to fill the ark’s windows. More people
stir and watch in silence as the surface comes into view…