“Hello? Do you know who you are? Where you are? …What you are?”
The long wait is over. After a century and a half, the New Horizon Generational Starship has finally arrived at its destination and the planet seems to be everything the crew could have hoped for. Four simulants of the mission’s original founders wake up after their long sleep to discover a dangerously factionalized crew, and the animosity and hatred amongst the crew threaten to destroy the mission before its dream can be triumphantly realized.
Prologue to Arrival
Earth year: 2323
After a twenty year burn, the Generational Starship ‘New Horizon’ cut its ion engines and silently slid into shallower waters of the cosmic ocean. After a century and a half of anticipation, they finally left the deep ocean of the interstellar void, and arrived on the shores of an alien star system.
It had been ten years since the crew first detected indications that they were entering a new star system. It was at this point that they’d entered the stellar bow shock zone, where light pressure and high energy radiation from the Sigma Draconis star began to be the dominant force, as opposed to the more general galactic cosmic rays which dominated the radiation environment of interstellar space. It was the same standard by which over two hundred years ago the Voyager space probes had been deemed to have officially reached interstellar space, officially marking the beginning of humans beings as an interstellar civilization in the process. There was a direct line between the spirit with which Voyager I and II were launched, and the spirit of the G.S.S. New Horizon.
For the first few years they made their way through their new system’s equivalent of the Oort Cloud, a spherical halo of comets of all shapes and sizes. While the total mass of the icy cloud was about three times that of the ship’s target planet, the gargantuan volume which they occupied meant that they hardly ever came into contact with each other. When they did, one would sometimes begin slowly tumbling down into the gravity well of the star, and more often than not they would get swallowed up by the binary outer gas giants. Except for the exceptionally lucky ones, most comets which fell in from the Oort cloud would, over hundreds and hundreds of orbits (if they were even that lucky), inevitably chance an encounter with this two planet system and find their final resting place.
Once past this system’s Kuiper Belt region of the outer star system, the ship passed two massive gas giants eternally dancing around each other in the distant cold of the system. One was a more massive Jupiter type of planet, and the other was a super Neptune, an icy giant with a mass somewhere between that of Saturn and Jupiter. A plethora of rocky moons of all shapes, sizes, and compositions found their celestial homes in orbit around one of these titans of the system. The New Horizon’s crew could only take a quick look with their eyes and telescopes as they sailed past the system and manoeuvred themselves ahead of the more massive planet.
Sailing ahead of the larger ball of gas allowed the New Horizon to slow itself down by being pulled back towards it, a manoeuver known as gravity braking. Other kinds of ships back in their home star system had been engineered to be able to brake atmospherically through friction while flying through a gas giant’s atmosphere, but a ship like the New Horizon was never designed to fly through any kind of planetary atmosphere whatsoever. It was in fact remarkably fragile in this respect. Gravity braking ahead of the system’s most massive planet allowed them to bleed tremendous amounts of kinetic energy and dramatically fell their orbit down into the inner solar system.
Far distant from their gas giant rendezvous, the crew watched mesmerized as they had a similar fly-by encounter with a super-Earth type planet near the orbit of what would have been the asteroid belt in the Sol System. For a couple decades now, the crew had had the chance to study the Haven system and they’d discovered that this planet was four times as massive as the Earth and double the density which meant that the gravity at the surface was more than two and a half times what a human was used to. If this alone didn’t make the planet seem inhospitable enough, observations revealed an intense magnetic field and rampant volcanism and tectonic activity. All the crew could see with the naked eye as they passed the planet for another gravitational braking maneuver was the thick toxic yellow and green atmosphere, which would have been reminiscent of Venus to their ancestors who had originally left their home star system.
Closer in than the orbit of Haven itself (which was roughly equivalent to Earth’s), was a hot ice giant, a planet of the same approximate mass and composition as Uranus and Neptune, but in an orbit as close to the star as that of Mercury. Future Haven astronomers would later surmise that the giant’s original location had been somewhere between the orbits of the double gas giant system and the super-Earth, but had been flung inward towards the star through unstable three body interactions with the outer giants. All any individual human could ever see was a snapshot of the body’s excruciatingly slow death as its orbit gradually decayed in the solar atmosphere towards its inevitably fiery and unceremonious death, when it would be ripped apart and swallowed by its star.
The ship arrived at Haven and successfully manoeuvred into a stable orbit around the planet. Six satellites were launched in rapid succession out of the tube they had been carefully installed in so long ago. Each began only a few meters across on any given side, but once launched from the ship, they beautifully unfurled into a structure easily three times larger than their original size, exposing the entire suite of their instruments to the planet, including everything any of the crew on the ship or on any planet could ever need. They were a real time communications network and were full spectrum light detectors, able to turn those eyes down onto the planet for study, or back out to the depths of space.
The crew cautiously celebrated that the initial studies didn’t indicate any reason why this planet would be uninhabitable for them. So far it didn’t look like they would have to resupply and begin yet another multi-generational journey to yet another star, or worse back home. The satellites moved into their proper orbits, and immediately began studying Haven in far greater detail than the ship could on approach with its own instruments. Their first job was to find the first landing site for the crew after studying the planet's climate and geography. The rest would be up to the crew itself…
Haven Year: 0