Uncover the reasons behind Humanity's cosmic exodus of Earth in our inaugural lore piece.

a year ago

Latest Post Infoslate #8 - April update by Kirk Bushell public
Hey there, Directors of the Cosmos!

Welcome to our lore series, exclusively crafted for visionary leaders like you in Halcyon Online. Our goal is to create captivating narratives, intriguing factions, and monumental events that shape the game of Halcyon Online whilst introducing you to the universe that you find yourself in.

We'd also love to hear any feedback you may have regarding these, so please leave your comments below, or discuss the lore over at our Discord.

Nick took off his headset, frowned, and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had checked every academic box as it came up – he was the star student of his undergraduate astrophysics department, he had won prizes and published minor results at an early age, he had graduated with honors and been admitted with full funding to his top choice Ph.D program – but now he was dealing with much more novel territory and it was considerably harder to know what he should do next.

The Brahe Interstellar Survey had promised to be the most advanced and comprehensive study of nearby star systems and extrasolar planets to date, and unlike some megaprojects it had lived up to its promise. Using the latest AI-assisted telescopes and sensor arrays both on Earth and the fledgling moon colony, humanity’s astronomers had found a wealth of knowledge – the most exciting of which had been the data pertaining to nearby habitable exoplanets. The feed headlines had practically written themselves for weeks:


Nick’s focus wasn’t on exoplanets, though, but rather on predicting what signs led up to stars going nova. Even though this had been rather secondary to the Brahe Survey’s aims, that project had still provided a wealth of data for the graduate student’s models. Nick had run the numbers again and again, but he couldn’t escape his conclusion – these results were not a cause for celebration but rather one for fear.

“Dr. Langman?” he asked, “Can you take a look at this?

Langman came over, tapping at her infoslate to bring up the data Nick had been working with. “What seems to be the problem?”

The graduate student swallowed. “I’ve analyzed the Brahe data, and if my new predictive model is correct… we might be in trouble.” Langman smiled – in her decades researching supernovas and hypernovas, she’d seen a few scares before, mostly brought on by media sensationalism or early projections that proved to be wrong. “Show me?”

As Langman browsed through the infoslate, her smile faded. Nick had lived up to his reputation – there was no mistake.

Two months later, Langman was briefing delegations from several governments.

“Recent advances in modeling of nova events based on data from the Brahe project have alerted us to a deadly threat. We believe that WR 104, a star system about 8,400 light-years away, has likely gone supernova and done so with our solar system directly aligned with its rotational axis. If our calculations are correct, an extraordinarily powerful and focused gamma-ray burst is now on its way to us and will strike this system directly, leading to catastrophic results for Earth.”

“Our model of what exactly will take place is not entirely definite. There are a range of things that could happen. Best case – near-complete destruction of the ozone layer, mass extinctions, all or almost all life on land destroyed, surface irradiated and unlivable for decades or centuries, perhaps some life survives in deep water but the ecosystem as we know it is fundamentally altered.”

Someone let out a shrill, shocked laugh.

“That’s the best case? Are you…”

Langman forged onward over the interruption. “We want to stress that this is well outside normal models of these sorts of events. Things could be much worse than I just described. A few years after impact the Earth might be a barren rock. We do not have a solution. Drastic action must be taken to preserve humanity.” She paused. Another audience member seized the opportunity.

“You mentioned this is a new model. How confident are you in its predictions?”

“Extremely. This model was the key to solving several open problems in astrophysics. We have shared this data with several labs and governments and they – unfortunately – corroborate our projections. In fact, I’m given to understand that our model has been quite strengthened by some of the non-public data certain governments were able to provide.”

Langman paused. “Usually one hopes one’s findings pass peer review, but in this case I was rather wishing for the reverse.” Nobody laughed.

“Will we have any advance warning? Can we wait until the star goes nova to confirm the model?”

“Barely any warning – remember that the star has likely already gone nova, we just haven’t seen it yet. Given our new understanding, we believe the burst will travel at almost the speed of light but very slightly slower, 99.998 to 99.999% of the speed of light. We will see the supernova before the gamma ray burst hits, but the burst will follow very shortly behind it, even given the astronomical distances involved. Once we actually see it we have perhaps one or two months, not enough time to mount a response.”

A white-faced doctor rose to ask the next question. “How can we shelter from this? Can we go underground? Underwater? Armored shelters?”

Langman shrugged. “In principle, perhaps? But what do you do with them? We can’t grow anywhere near enough food, even in a best-case scenario the atmosphere will be greatly disrupted. The moon and Mars colonies will be affected too and even if they weren’t they’re reliant on supply shipments from Earth – perhaps we could move people there, but in some ways that would simply trade one form of atmospheric destruction for another.”

Another questioner stood, a woman who looked grim-faced and resolute. “If humanity is to survive, the stars may be our best hope. This interstellar survey was intended to find new frontiers for mankind among the stars – with this, we now also know just how urgent the task really is. We should prepare colonization efforts at once.”

“Hear, hear!” someone shouted.

Langman nodded emphatically, attempting to regain control of the presentation. “While the Brahe survey has given bad news here, it’s worth noting that it did succeed in its original objective – to identify several exoplanets that are potentially suitable for human colonization. Dozens in the most promising tier, hundreds in total – and the most promising of these planets have much more favorable conditions than those found on Mars or Venus. Given the large number of people we will have to move and the lack of time for terraforming efforts, sending ships in those directions may be our only hope.”

“A forlorn hope!” interjected a detractor. “The survey may project good conditions, but we don’t have enough details – and you want us to stake the future of humanity on one of these unknown planets?”

“No,” replied Langman. “I want us to stake the future of humanity on many of these unknown planets. As you say, we don’t have enough details, so the best chance will be to split up and send colonists to as many livable planets as possible so that all our eggs aren’t in one basket. Yes, some of the colonies may fail – but others may succeed.”

A military commander rose to his feet, red-faced. Langman didn’t recognize the uniform, but knew the stars on his shoulders meant he was a general or admiral of some kind.

“This is preposterous! We don’t have time for these space efforts at all – better to save a small population underground!”

Another member of the audience, this one a distinguished clergyman, jumped in before Langman could formulate a reply.

“How dare you! I for one am not ready to give up on the vast majority of humanity!”

“With respect, Bishop, we have to face facts!”

More and more people started clamoring to speak. Langman shook her head as the meeting devolved into chaos.

Several years later, Langman was lying out on her roof, watching the stars. Ever since she was a little girl she had loved stargazing, and now there were several new lights in the sky – the engines from the first four colony ships were still visible as they sped away from Earth. In two weeks, a fifth such light was to blossom in the skies with another ship of the initial wave, and by the end of the month there’d be a sixth, with more still to come in turn – they were launching them almost like clockwork. Langman sighed wistfully – she had tried to use her role in the discovery to get a place as one of the explorers on those first starships, but while prospects had looked hopeful at first, the government had eventually put its foot down – she was simply too old to be in the first wave of colony ships that would establish the initial bases for those who would follow behind them. Her former student Nick was out there on the third ship, but Langman’s own place had been relegated to one of the later refugee vessels that would carry the vast majority of Earth’s population to the stars in the next few years. That carried much less excitement for her – she had always preferred doing novel work, and the prospect of being just another one of the masses made her feel old.

Langman glanced over at WR 104 and froze. Suddenly, the refugee ship she’d disdained moments before seemed almost like an impossible dream, for there was another new light in the sky, brighter than the others – the supernova had come early.

Kirk Bushell

Published a year ago