So, here’s something a bit special for you today. I have a long work in mind and butcher-paper progress right now, and by that I don’t just mean on the scale of The Core War, I mean an actual novel, belike. Covering one of those interesting historical periods in the development of the ‘verse that we see “today”.
What I have for you is a prologue I may or may not consider including at the start of the book, depending on how well I think dropping in in media res works without any of this background – but for y’all seeing it now, consider it an interest-building preview, m’kay?
It is the year 2361 from the founding of the Empire, 311 years after Phoenix Zero first rose to space. Since that time, the eldrae have moved into the Spacefaring Age with enthusiasm. Orbital habitats have blossomed in the space around Eliéra, and colonies founded upon both its moons. More habitats have sprung up in the bustling e’Luminiarien Belt, supporting mining and homesteading operations. Science missions and small outposts have pushed beyond the Belt into the outer system, reaching the moons of Melíeré, Inlétanós, and Iälessá, and even to the nearer bodies of Senna’s Belt. In the inner system, solar power facilities flourish in the space around tide-locked Eurymir, and mining outposts upon Toramir. Seething, acid-washed Sialhaith remains the domain of science for now, but speculation as to its future is common.
And then there is Talentar.
114 years ago, in 2247, Copperfall Two established the first orbital base for eldrae expeditions to Talentar on its middle moon, Víërtal, and shortly thereafter established the first planetary landing site, Orbitfall, near the equator in the Ashen Planitia region.
At first, the Orbitfall colony – although intended to be permanent – was only a base for scientific research. Expeditions investigated many of the sites previously explored by robotic probes, going north into the Five Valles and Xanpén Altiplanum, south and west to the Kirinal Planum, and even east to the summit of Talarí Mons. Reports of these expeditions set off “Talentar fever” home on Eliéra, and Orbitfall quickly found itself building infrastructure for additional colonists, soon to arrive from Eliéra. Townships and outposts soon spread across the region of the Ashen Planitia south of the Five Valles and Quinjano Tablelands. By no means all of these were Imperial – other polities on Eliéra found themselves stirred into action by the popular enthusiasm for colonization, and secondary colonies of several powers soon joined the Empire’s domes.
Meanwhile, the confirmation that Talentar was currently empty of any life, and the increasing numbers of permanent colonists brought the question of ecopoesis to the forefront of everyone’s mind as colonial expansion moved on.
Project Redblossom, begun in 2272, was the result. A compromise between “fast-burn” ecotects, pantropists, and preservationists – although one reached with very little consultation of the non-Imperial powers or their Talentarian colonies – Redblossom was a long-term ecopoesis program intended to run for over a millennium, creating open-air territories in the Talentarian bottomlands, while leaving much of the primordial terrain at high altitudes, especially in the mountainous north, untouched. Construction of orbital mirrors and planning for the import of ice asteroids began almost immediately, along with the first releases of tailored microorganisms.
Most notably, as the temperature rose, a cooperative effort between the Empire’s colonies and other colonists of the southern lowlands arose to create Talentar’s first body of open water – albeit open and iceberg-ridden water – along a natural depression running east-to-west south of Orbitfall. While it took years to relocate all of the potentially affected habitats, the project was completed successfully in 2296, with local habitats constructing dams and locks at narrow points of the depression, and the Imperial ecotects in Estaroë Tal contributing the orbital mirrors under their control to, first, open a number of buried aquifers to create the sea, and to then keep its overall temperature steady. Lyricen Lacus was born.
(Sadly, this was one of the last major cooperative projects for some time, since with changing geopolitical conditions on Eliéra, including the formation of the Cerenaith Alliance to oppose the Empire’s imperial ambitions and consolidation, tensions – although matters remained relatively quiet on Talentar, where colonies had too much work to do and fundamental interdependency to indulge in infighting – throughout the System remained high through the early 2300s.)
In the last two decades, the pace of change has only increased. With the population in planet climbing through the millions, the towns of the northern lowlands of the Five Valles, sprawling Quinjano on its mesa where the valley mouths converge, the informal planetary capital – for the Empire – of Estaroë Tal in the central Estaravé Vallis, and others, have grown into true cities. An orbital elevator now descends from Talentar’s repositioned outer moon, Avétal, to the new city of Talarí High Dome in the caldera atop Talarí Mons, linking the planet to the few orbital habitats using its well as their anchor, and to the busy habitats of the e’Luminiarien Belt. And most recently of all, the new interplanetary cyclers, full stations built to the scale of orbital habitats in themselves, Wanderer Station and Meanderer Station, now traverse the space between Talentar and Eliéra, bringing goods and hundreds of thousands of new colonists with each orbital pass. All observers recognize that the System’s fifth planet is on the verge of a phase-change, from dusty experimental colony to something else entirely.
And as is so often the case, not everyone is happy about that.